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10 Free Agents That Can Help Dallas in 2017-18

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Stars can make some noise at the trade deadline and in the offseason with plenty of cap space

NHL: Dallas Stars at Buffalo Sabres
Will Patrick Sharp be among the veterans sent packing at the March 1 trade deadline?
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

No, the 2016-17 season has not gone how anyone thought it would.

Although Dallas is still (amazingly) just six points back of Los Angeles for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, their play doesn't give anyone confidence they can make a run.

That doesn't mean the Stars can’t make a push and grab that final spot. But even if that was to happen, what could we expect from an eight-seed Stars team? Pushing the No. 1 seed to six games, maybe?

The March 1 trade deadline is rapidly approaching, and what Dallas will do remains a mystery. Sell and look to next season? Or depending on their standing, make a last-ditch effort to make the postseason?

Whatever happens in the next few weeks one thing is for certain - Dallas will be clearing cap space over the summer.

Dallas currently has a total cap of $70.57 million. The total maximum cap set by the NHL is $73 million, leaving just $2.4 million to play with for general manager Jim Nill and company.

Among those with the biggest cap hits are Kari Lehtonen ($5.9 million), Patrick Sharp ($5.9 million), Antti Niemi ($4.5 million), Johnny Oduya ($3.75 million) and Ales Hemsky ($4 million).

However, Dallas will clear 12 free agents off the books for the 2017-18 season, including the contracts for Sharp, Hemsky, Oduya, Jiri Hudler and Patrick Eaves.

Dallas will go into the 2017-18 offseason with $26 million of cap space, assuming the ceiling stays at $73 million. Dallas’ projected payroll of $49.6 million is among the five lowest entering next season.

That type of money will allow Nill to get creative and reshape this roster.


Defense

Keven Shattenkirk: Among the biggest assests available (maybe) at the deadline will be St. Louis’ Shattenkirk.

Shattenkirk, 28, is having one his finest offensive seasons in St. Louis with 11 goals and 28 assists in 56 games. He had 44 points all season in 2015-16.

A draw back to Shattenkirk, though, is his plus-minus. He is minus-10 on the season and was minus-14 last year, which was a long fall from being a plus-19 in 2014-15.

His 18 power play points would be a welcome sight in Dallas.

He is in his final year of a 4-year, $17 million deal and is poised to make serious money in free agency.

He has made it clear that if he was to be traded he would prefer to go to the Eastern Conference. However, once free agency hits, would he consider a return trip to the Central Division?

Dennis Wideman: At 33, Wideman is in his 14th NHL season and fifth with Calgary.

A veteran of more than 800 games, he is in he final year of a 5-year, $26.2 million contract.

While not known for his offensive prowess (16 points in 50 games), Wideman would be a strong veteran presence on a what-could-be a young defense, again, next year in Dallas.

With Wideman getting his big-money deal several years ago, Dallas could be able to steal him at a bargain price (2 years for $8 million?) and have him be an anchor in the defensive zone and shorthanded.

Kris Russell - Russell played 23 games in Dallas last season after being acquired at the deadline from Calgary.

While undersized, Russell played strong during his tenure in Dallas, being sound in his own zone, blocking shots and eating minutes. He is still averaging around 20 minutes a night in Edmonton.

Russell, 29, signed a 1-year, $3.1 million contract in the offseason after his run in Dallas. He would join Esa Lindell, Dan Hamhuis, Jordie Benn, Patrick Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak as a left-handed defenseman.

In 47 games he has just 5 assists, but offense was never Russell’s strong suit. Russell’s defensive positioning, puck movement and assignment in the defensive zone would be key for Dallas.

Karl Alzner: Alsner, 28, is another defensman who is strong in his own zone. He is a plus-20 on the season and has 11 points (3 goals and 8 assists) in 56 games.

Alzner is entering free agency after his 4-year, $11.2 million deal expires. While he may not dazzle, Nill would be smart to target defenseman who are defense first, and offense second.

The biggest issue with Stars the past two years has been 15 feet in front of Lehtonen and Niemi. Too often does Dallas give up premium scoring chances.

Alzner and his 6-foot, 3-inch frame would go a long way in curing that.

Forwards

Alexander Radulov: Radulov, who has split time between the NHL and KHL over the past 10 years, returned to the NHL with Montreal this season.

His 1-year, $5.75 million deal looks like a bargain as he has racked up 14 goals, 42 points and is a plus-6 in 56 games. He also has 6 goals and 15 points on the power play.

Radulov, 30, would be an ideal power forward alongside Jamie Benn or Radek Faksa. Even better, he would be another option on a maligned, but improved, power play.

Radulov, may come at a price. His last full NHL season came way back in 2007-08, where he scored 26 goals. He played in just 9 games the next season before heading to Russia.

The talent is there, but what would it take for Nill to lure the talented forward to Dallas?

T.J. Oshie: This one may be fantasy, but could you imagine a power play with Benn, Tyler Seguin and Oshie? With proper coaching that could be lethal.

While he most likely will stay in Washington, he is in the final year of a 5-year, $20.8 million deal given to him by St. Louis before he was dealt to the Caps before the 2015-16 season.

His offensive production has declined since arriving in Washington. Oshie has 42 goals the past two yeas with Washington. He had 75 the two years prior in St. Louis.

Sharing the puck with a guy named Alex Ovechkin (perhaps you’ve heard if him), no doubt has taken shots away from him.

It would take serious cash to lure him from Washington. Dallas has the cap space and a mixture of Benn, Seguin and Oshie along with Faksa, Mattias Janmark, Devin Shore and Jason Spezza would be quite a top-seven.

Martin Hanzal: Nill has stressed the importance of being strong down the middle of the rink.

Possibly the best center available at both the trade deadline, and in free agency, is Hanzal.

At 6-feet, 6-inches and 226 pounds, he would be a massize presence in any lineup. Playing his entire 10-year career in the desert, he is in the last year of a 5-year, $15 million contract.

Hanzal has 13 goals and 22 points on a struggling Arizona team. Surround him with talent and those numbers could explode.

At 29, he could be looking for a big money deal, and would be an improvement up the middle over Cody Eakin.

Brian Boyle: Boyle, 32, is your prototype third or fourth center. Standing at 6-feet, 7-inches, his presence shorthanded and blocking shots would be more than enough.

His offensive numbers skyrockted once joinging Tamp Bay in 2014-15. After scoring 21 goals in 2010-11 with the New York Rangers, he scored a total of 19 in his final three years in New York.

He has 41 goals in three years with Tampa Bay.

He will enter free agency after his 3-year, $6 million deal expires at the end of the season. Pairing him with Antoine Rousell and Adam Cracknell would be a line that could cause havoc.

Boyle’s presence shorthanded and his defensive responsibility would be much appreciated.

Goalie

Scott Darling: Darling is seemingly the hottest backup goalie in hockey.

Playing behind Corey Crawford in Chicago, he has a 13-5-2 record in 23 games, with a GAA of 2.24 and a save percentage of .927.

Darling is in his final year of a 2-year, $1.175 million contract.

Just entering his prime at 28-years-old, Darling would relish the opportunity to start full time and know the job is his.

Would he get that in Dallas? The situation between the pipes is as clear as mud, with reports saying that Dallas and Pittsburgh have at least talked about a deal for Marc-Andre Fleury.

Ben Bishop: The one name on the tip of every Stars’ fan tongue over the past few months has been Bishop.

Ever since Lehtonen’s game 7 implosion against St. Louis in last year’s playoffs, fans have clamored for Bishop.

Bishop, 30, is finishing a 2-year, $11.9 million contract in Tampa Bay.

Both Bishop and Tampa Bay have been disappointing to this point, but have since righted the ship - 3-2 in their last five and playing their best hockey of the season.

In 30 games, Bishop is 14-12-3 and has a GAA of 2.63.

Much like Darling, he would want to be the No. 1 guy, though.


Now, all of this is dependent on many factors - the trade deadline and the remaining 25 games most importantly.

Also, what does Nill do at the deadline? Will a goalie be dealt? Will the veterans be sent packing? What new players will be wearing Victory Green in March? Will anything happen at all?

Whatever happens, Dallas has a chance to right the ship heading into 2017-18. A season, once again, that will be met with high expectations.