Dallas Stars' Unrestricted Free Agents: The Skaters
With all the trade rumors and excitement about the draft, the Stars' class of skaters entering Unrestricted Free Agency can get lost in the shuffle. What should the team do about Rich Peverley and Patrick Eaves?
The Dallas Stars have a full roster of players under contract for the 2015-2016 NHL Season. On Tuesday, Erin wrote about the roster situation that can be seen here, and how it relates to the Stars' ability to dabble in the unrestricted free agent pool.
Since that time, Jack Campbell and Patrik Nemeth both signed two-year extensions. With the Stars beginning the process of locking up their Restricted Free Agents, it is time to look at the skaters they have entering the UFA market.
There is no question that Rich Peverley would be a perfect fit with the Stars. His penalty killing, efficiency on the dot, and ability to play up and down the lineup make him a valuable commodity for a team looking for glue. The problem is no one, including Peverley, knows if he will ever play hockey again. One week there are reports he is trying to return, then there is no news for months. To put it kindly, his future is uncertain. Does anyone have a dart board?
His reasonable salary before his "injury" indicates that were he to return, it would be at a number favorable to the team. However, it is difficult at best to assign a value to a guy like Peverley. Likely, the Stars or whoever signs him won't be sure of his ability to play until after rosters have been finalized.
The truth is, it is probable that the Stars have removed Rich Peverley from their plans. The fans would love to have him back and he would certainly add something to the team, but only Peverley and his doctors can decide his fate. We continue to wish him a speedy recovery, and perhaps one day he will suit up in Victory Green again.
The elder statesman of the Dallas Stars proved to be a valuable mentor to the kids Brett Ritchie and Curtis McKenzie. His line cycled teams to death in the latter part of the year, and Horcoff instilled a hunger and work ethic in his kid linemates.
While his production has was modest in Dallas, that never seemed to be the goal when the Stars acquired him in 2013. His 29 points (11G 18A) last season were about what can be expected from a 36-year-old fourth liner. However, there is only so much space for beloved "grumpy old men" on young teams trying to make the leap.
On Friday, Stars general manager Jim Nill said Horcoff would not be back for exactly those reasons.
"I’ve known Shawn for some time, and I know he wants to have a big role in the team, and that probably wasn’t possible here," Nill told Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. "We’re moving toward a younger lineup, and I know Shawn will find the right fit on another team."
He adds some value to a team but at what cost? In terms of the salary cap, his cap hit would be nominal. The most "expensive" part of re-signing Horcoff is his roster spot. And that, ultimately, is why the Stars chose to move on.
Eaves spent meaningful time in almost every area of the Dallas Stars' team. He rode shotgun with Benn and Seguin, he did his best Corey Perry impersonation between the dots on the power play, he killed a few penalties, spent some time on the IR, and logged time on the third and fourth lines. Patrick Eaves contributed 27 points (14G 13A) in 47 games and was generally a reliable feature of the team when he wasn't hurt.
Like the other two UFA skaters, Eaves is a supporting cast member. He can play in any role with any set of linemates and his game won't change. Stanley Cup winning teams always have 5-7 elite level talents, but they win the Cup with players 8-12. Eaves will always fall in the 8-12 range, but those players are important.
The question with Eaves is not about his ability to hockey the puck around; it is his health. In 12 NHL seasons, Eaves has averaged 41 games played per year. Admittedly, this stat is skewed a bit by a 5 game season in 2013-2014, but the point still stands. He has battled concussions which seem to occur easier as time goes on.
Eaves is in the prime of his career at 31 years old. He contributed meaningfully in the games he was able to play. Of the Stars' UFAs, he is the one most likely to impact the team's fate next season. His one-year deal for $650,000 looks like a steal, and if the Stars can get him on another short term deal for a similar dollar figure they should bring him back.
Jim Nill will be active in the days leading up to July 1st (opening day of NHL free agency), and the Stars' draft will likely impact the future of all of these players. As the team stands today, with so many roster spots spoken for, the Dallas Stars' class of UFAs are dealing with uncertainty. Which of these UFAs should the Stars' re-sign? Should they re-sign any of them?
All images courtesy of USA Today and Getty images.