Dallas Stars Near Cap Ceiling with Brenden Dillon, Antoine Roussel and Cody Eakin Still to Sign

The salary cap... ceiling? We're talking about that now?

Do you remember the internal budget, Dallas Stars fans? Do you remember the 42 financial entities the Stars had to petition collectively, somehow, to consider roster moves? Do you remember that Sean Avery buyout number sitting at the bottom of every salary cap chart, annoyingly assisting them in reaching the cap floor without bringing any on-ice value?

Do you remember what the cap ceiling is?

The Stars probably do. They're getting quite familiar with it now as, with the addition of two years more for Vern Fiddler, the cap ceiling approaches rapidly. It's like... bizarro world. Or, the world where Mr. Tom Gaglardi is the gracious owner making all of this possible.

Let's take a peek...

All numbers from the incomparable Capgeek.com

Player 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19
Forwards (12)
Spezza, Jason " $7,000,000 UFA
Seguin, Tyler " $5,750,000 $5,750,000 $5,750,000 $5,750,000 $5,750,000
Horcoff, Shawn " $5,500,000 UFA
Benn, Jamie " $5,250,000 $5,250,000 $5,250,000 UFA
Cole, Erik " $4,500,000 UFA
Hemsky, Ales " $4,000,000 $4,000,000 $4,000,000
Peverley, Rich " $3,250,000 UFA
Garbutt, Ryan " $1,800,000 $1,800,000 $1,800,000
Fiddler, Vernon " $1,250,000 $1,250,000 UFA
Nichushkin, V. " EL $925,000 $925,000 RFA
Eaves, Patrick " $650,000 UFA
Sceviour, Colton " $650,000 $650,000 UFA
Eakin, Cody " RFA
Roussel, Antoine " RFA
Defensemen (5)
Gonchar, Sergei " 35+ $5,000,000
Goligoski, Alex " $4,600,000 $4,600,000
Daley, Trevor " $3,300,000 $3,300,000 $3,300,000
Benn, Jordie " $700,000 $700,000
Connauton, Kevin " $683,333 $683,333
Dillon, Brenden " RFA
Goaltenders (2)
Lehtonen, Kari " $5,900,000 $5,900,000 $5,900,000 $5,900,000
Lindback, Anders " $925,000

Let's add Patrik Nemeth's $763,333 to that. It give us about $62.39 million in cap hits (not actual salary, mind you) and leaves the Stars with $6.6 million in cap room.

Which is great. Except they have to sign Brenden Dillon, Antoine Roussel and Cody Eakin- And they're not likely to care for being right up against the cap without wiggle room. Not with a group like this -- a group you might actually want to add to as February turns to March rather than the other way around, as has been the norm.

I can't believe I just typed that.

Brenden Dillon figures to be the one that will get paid most handsomely, and why shouldn't he be? Scoring is as sexy as it ever was, but defensemen continue to be the most precious resources around, as a couple of outlandish contracts signed July 1 demonstrated.

Mike Heika pointed out on Twitter last night that the Stars could play some hard ball here. Sure, they gave Ryan Garbutt the somewhat surprising sum of $1.8M per season in an extension, but he was a pending UFA and that changes things. The Stars hold the cards with the younger players, not to mention they now possess some pretty fabulous depth at the NHL and AHL levels that would love to "fill in".

That is certainly the case with Cody Eakin and Antoine Roussel, though no one wants to see it go that way. It's an interesting juxtaposition, though. If things had gone differently and Nill were unable to acquire a 2C (easily could have been the case)- Then Fiddler isn't as enticed to come back and Cody Eakin is in a far, far stronger bargaining position. Now he isn't.

Brenden Dillon, however, still holds a pretty decent number of cards given the unchanged back end, but this approaching cap ceiling could add a little suspense as the summer wears on.

There are a few unknowns to consider as well.

One being the status of contracts like Erik Cole's or Sergei Gonchar. In Mike Heika's words...

"The Stars will likely try to trade the 40-year-old defenseman at some point and might even eat some of his $5 million salary if necessary."

I don't know how likely that is, but if Mike is printing it he has good reason to believe it's within the realm of possibility.

Another is the status of Rich Peverley. His $3.25 million cap hit looks pretty large now when you consider the club's overall position. The Stars have been patient with that situation and they're not going to hand out anything other than the most generic of answers about Rich anytime soon. Understandable. This is a human, a friend, a husband, a father. They want him to get better- Whatever that means, and leave the other stuff out of it.

Can he play hockey, however? Unfortunate though it may be, there is a business side to what's otherwise a very compassionate, human story. If he cannot play then that cap hit might be susceptible to some kind of nebulous manipulation, Mike Heika says.

"If he can't, then his $3.25 million cap hit can be adjusted to create room."

Fiddler brings a certain version of the things that Peverley does well to the table, perhaps without the offensive punch- But important things all the same. Is it an insurance policy? Is it an indication of what they think they need? The moves made certainly seem to indicate that they're preparing for life without Pevs- We can only wait and see.

Either way, there are signings to report yet this off-season. Maybe even another trade. How can the Stars fit three pretty large cogs of their current core into a fairly small (cap) space?

We're kind of done doubting Jim Nill at this point. We just wait, and we see...