After a season that saw the Dallas Stars lead the Western Conference with 109 points, and be one of only two teams to record 50 wins, they have a long offseason in front of them if they’re to keep the strong core in tact. On the backs of superstars Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, they easily led the NHL in goals, hitting the twine 267 times in 2015-16. Here is a look at their upcoming offseason:
Key Restricted Free Agent: RW Valeri Nichushkin – Unfortunately for the Stars, it’s not the restricted free agents that are going to cause them headaches this summer it’s the eight UFAs they’ll see leave them. They do, however have one very important RFA in Valeri Nichushkin, the Russian powerhouse selected in the first round (10th overall) of the 2013 entry draft.
After putting up 14 goals and 34 points as an 18-year old after being drafted, the winger missed almost all of 2014-15 with a hip injury that needed corrective surgery. This season the now 21-year old was back on a strong development path, putting up 29 points coming off injury. His 6’4″, 205 pound frame is a scout’s dream when it comes with at least average skating ability, and Nichushkin has shown he can keep up in the NHL. While the idea of him hitting the ice alongside Benn and Seguin might still be another year away, he played well when paired with Jason Spezza this season, and will look to continue his development into a top-flight power forward in the league.
Other RFAs: Jamie Oleksiak
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: D Alex Goligoski, D Jason Demers, D Kris Russell – Somehow the Stars have three excellent defenders 30 or under hitting free agency this offseason, and are expected to lose at least two of them if not all three. They still have John Klingberg and Johnny Oduya under contract for next season at $4.25MM and $3.75MM respectively, but might not be able to keep up with the bidding war that the trio will command. Other than Keith Yandle in New York, these three represent the best young defense options on the market this summer.
With Jamie Benn set to become a UFA in 2017, the Stars will be trying to keep some room under the cap to extend him long-term. He’ll be looking to jump from his current $5.25MM salary to somewhere around $10MM, and with Patrick Sharp and Ales Hemsky becoming UFAs at the same time, the Stars might not have the room to commit long term to more than one of the d-men.
Projected Cap Space: $13.75MM, 16 players under contract.
Overall, the Stars have a little bit of money to play with but have to be very careful where they put it, as the mentioned names are coming up next season. With Jason Spezza earning $7.5MM a season over the next three years, the team will have over $20 million locked into three players if they indeed extend Benn. With the cap looking like it will hold steady for at least a couple of seasons, putting almost a third of your budget in three players is a risky proposition – just ask the Chicago Blackhawks who had to give up Teuvo Teravainen earlier today because of their cap mismanagement.