Today marked the deadline for NHL clubs to extend qualifying offers to restricted free agents and retain their negotiating rights. All the offer does is ensure that the player doesn’t flip to unrestricted free agent status, free to sign with anyone. It does not mean that said players have to agree to the term of the offer extended to them, allowing clubs to go through free agency and sign new additions before negotiating with the RFA class for that season.
The Dallas Stars today qualified six such players: defensemen Julius Honka, Gavin Bayreuther, Niklas Hansson, and Dillon Heatherington; forward Jason Dickinson; and goaltender Landon Bow. Among those not receiving qualifying offers were forwards Brett Ritchie and Ryan Hartman, defenseman Chris Martenet, and goaltender Philippe Desrosiers.
What’s surprising is seeing Hartman’s name in the unqualified list. Local media reported that the Stars intend to negotiate with the forward they acquired in a trade yesterday from the Philadelphia Flyers that saw center Tyler Pitlick shipped the other way. He’s 24, so still a young guy, that could help provide some speed and a touch of depth scoring for the bottom six, if signed. The speculation is that the Stars were concerned about what arbitration could have awarded Hartman in terms of a contract, as he was eligible to go that route, and decided to risk losing him on the chance that they could negotiate a cheaper contract with him instead.
Ritchie’s exclusion from qualification may be surprising, but actually is something I speculated that Dallas could do just this morning. Because his qualifying offer would have to be nearly $2 million, Ritchie would be an expensive bottom six/potential 14th forward. Ritchie, in my mind, doesn’t fit into the more up-tempo offensive systems head coach Jim Montgomery was known for prior to his first season in Dallas. Could this be the first step towards trying to get younger and faster for Dallas? Possibly, but then again, that wouldn’t explain Roman Polak’s re-signing would it? I think the picture will become clearer once free agency opens up and we see where Dallas settles out in terms of roster construction after July 1.
What Ritchie and Hartman’s exclusion from qualifying offers could do as well is open up some competition for the bottom six of the roster from some of the forwards down in the AHL. Could this be Denis Gurianov’s chance to grab a NHL spot? It’s possible. Dallas has 11 forwards signed and/or expected to be signed (Dickinson still needs a new contract but was qualified earlier today) before they head into free agency:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Jason Dickinson/??? - Roope Hintz
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Valeri Nichushkin - Justin Dowling - ???
Honka’s qualification is not surprising either, though the expectation is that the Stars could potentially be looking at trade options to provide the young blueliner a fresh start with another organization, as it has become apparent he does not fit here in Dallas. Based on some of what was seen and heard over the draft weekend, a cost-controlled puck-moving blueliner still has value around the league, so Dallas retaining his rights in order to be able to get some return for him was wholly expected today.