As we near the depths of the August offseason (albeit with the distraction of the summer Olympics to help see us through this time around) and still await the news of the rumored goalie trades, it's also a good time to start planning ahead. Not just for this fall, though Tyler Seguin seems to be getting back into the Biosteel training regimen according to social media, but to next summer any beyond.
Because the marquee move of this Dallas Stars offseason, at least so far, is not the addition of a shiny new scoring forward but the massive contract extension to a home-grown one. Jamie Benn's about to get paid.
Of course, he obviously deserves it. Benn's eight-year, $9.5 million cap hit per season contract puts him in the top 10 players in the league, which his where his play has been the past three seasons. It's the longest contract on the team (only Klingberg's six remaining years comes close), but it won't kick in until next summer.
That will leave the Stars in a very different type of summer. While they could stand to hold the fort this year, adding or retaining a few depth pieces and having only one major piece to worry about in restricted free agency (hello, Valeri Nichushkin), Benn's extension kicks in during a very busy summer for Jim Nill when it comes to the forward group.
Here's what the Stars contract forward contract situation looks like, barring trades and interim extensions, as of July 1 of 2017.
|Player||Position||Cap Hit (mil)||Movement clause|
That's a fair bit of money to spend on just five players, but Benn, Seguin and Spezza could conceivably earn that combined as trio if each were up for bidding on the open market. It's a big number but understandable given the players included.
It's also notable that the Stars are quite set down the center (and isn't that something we never thought we'd say again back in 2012), with definitely the top two options and perhaps the top three, depending on your view of Eakin, locked up
It also feels like lot of holes, with just five of 13-14 forwards under contract. The good news is that four pieces are RFAs that summer - Radek Faksa, Mattias Janmark, Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie - and that Nichushkin should theoretically also get locked up by some sort of 2-3 year bridge deal this summer.
It's impossible to say that the total cap hit might be - Faksa and Janmark had extremely impressive rookie seasons, but this season is still up in the air, and both seem primed for bridge deals at relatively reasonable prices given their age and roles. Ritchie will be in a bit of a "prove it" year this season, and McKenzie must prove he can produce above the lower lines or potentially go the way of Colton Sceviour.
Three current forwards (okay, four if you count Adam Cracknell) will be unrestricted, and that's where it gets interesting. Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky and Patrick Eaves will be on the open market, and you'd have to expect only one, with a very outside shot of two, will be back. Hemsky in particular stands out because, as a player primarily used in a third-line role on this roster, he is potentially replaceable by a young player on an early contract or a bargain UFA acquisition. That role is where the cap money for Benn's extension, will most likely come from.
Because even if Sharp gets a large contract from another team, top six wingers who can play top power play minutes don't tend to come at cheap cap hits. The Stars will have to either put out some sort of significant dollars for a replacement (or retention) or hope a young, cost-controlled player breaks out in a big way. Still, they will have the money to do it.
The defense was what was in flux this offseason, with three notable departures, but it's much more predictable next offseason.
|Player||Position||Cap Hit (mil)||Movement Clause|
Doesn't that Klingberg contract just make you happy inside? And four solid defensemen for $10 million total, three of whom could legitimately play top four minutes, is a pretty ridiculous bargain.
Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak will once again be RFAs, as it seems they are every summer, as will presumed rookie Esa Lindell. Johnny Oduya will likely hit the UFA market.
The progression here will obviously be dictated by Johns ability to handle a full season with a penalty killing role and Hamhuis' quick adjustment to the Stars fairly frenetic system. If three of those top four roles really are solidified, the Stars are in fantastic shape here.
Then, of course, there is the two-headed goalie monster. Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi will be in the final seasons of their contracts, Lehtonen still with his no-trade clause in place. They are on the books for $10.4 million.
In total, the Stars have 11 players under contract for $49.5 million (though that should go up in both aspects once Nichushkin signs) but only two high-dollar roles to fill under best-case scenarios. They also have seven more players who are RFAs and therefore fairly controllable costs. The cap management will be interesting - will the Stars trade for a winger, develop one from within or try to hit the market? - but definitely manageable even if the cap stays fairly stagnant.
Nill has shrewdly managed the Stars cap situation to this point - it was no secret that Benn (and eventually Seguin) extensions were going to be extremely high dollar, and the Stars are in prime position to manage it even once those start next summer.