With free agency now just a couple weeks away, teams are looking ahead to when it opens up. There will be several prominent players set to hit the open market while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign. Fresh off of a heart-breaking loss in the Stanley Cup Final, the Dallas Stars will have to evaluate the cost of bringing back the veteran UFA’s that contributed to their playoff run while also maintaining enough space to extend several core RFA forwards.
Key Restricted Free Agents
F Roope Hintz – Hintz came out strong as a rookie in 2018-19 with 22 points in 58 games only to top that this year with 19 goals and 33 points in 60 games. The 23-year-old is still trending upward and projects to be a core piece for a long time for the Stars. Coming off of his entry-level contract, Hintz is in for a major raise, especially on a long-term deal. And with so many of their top forwards on the wrong side of 30, Dallas will likely aim for a lengthy deal to make sure Hintz is around to help take over.
F Denis Gurianov – Gurianov is part of that next wave of core forwards in Dallas as well. The 2015 first-round pick took some time to arrive on the NHL stage, but in his first full season with the Stars this season shook off any doubts about his potential. With a team-leading 20 goals and 29 points in 64 games, backed up by 17 points in 27 playoff games, Gurianov proved himself to be a dangerous scoring threat. With his entry-level contract expiring, Gurianov is in for a payday, perhaps even more so than Hintz, due to the possibility that he could be Dallas’ top goal-scorer for years to come.
F Radek Faksa – Faksa’s future with the Stars may be a bit more uncertain than his fellow RFA forwards. The 26-year-old center, who is owed at least a $2.2MM qualifying offer, declined this season and his role moving forward in Dallas is unclear. Faksa snapped a three-year streak of 30+ points with just 20 on the year, his lowest per-game rate since his rookie season. He also finished outside the top nine scoring forwards for the Stars and saw his ice time slashed as a result. A good two-way player, Faksa is best suited for a bottom-six role but Dallas may question how much that role is worth to them. Faksa could sign a short-term deal, especially given the current flat cap conundrum, with the chance to prove himself worthy of an extension before he reaches unrestricted free agency.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents
G Anton Khudobin – Has Khudobin priced himself out of Dallas? After outplaying Ben Bishop this season and then taking over for the injured starter in the playoffs and marching the team to the Stanley Cup Final, Khudobin’s stock has never been higher. Which is saying a lot about a player who has been considered one of the top backups in the league for many years. With so many teams looking for a shake-up in net this off-season, including several teams with young netminders who would love a reliable veteran to share starts, Khudobin should draw a ton of interest on the open market. With a solid starter in Bishop and a promising young option in Jake Oettinger pushing for opportunities, will the Stars keep up with the top bidders to retain Khudobin? It seems unlikely.
F Corey Perry – Perry is another player whose stock soared this postseason. A former superstar now past his prime, Perry was still clutch in the playoffs and showed over the course of the whole year that he can still be an effective player. An intense physical presence and a smart offensive mind, Perry can still make a difference even if his 21 points this season is more reflective of his new ceiling. In fact, while Perry may be limited to another one-year deal this off-season, he might be able to command more than his $1.5MM “show me” salary from this season. As the price goes up on the open market, it becomes less likely that Perry returns to Dallas. However, if he’s seeking consistency in his older age, Dallas was a good fit and a return makes sense.
D Andrej Sekera – Dallas has everything you could want in a defense corps: high-end talent, depth, size, experience in the minors, and budding young prospects. However, sometimes a respected veteran and leader is the finishing touch that a contender needs. Sekera is not the player he once was -not really even close – but was a great fit on the bottom pair in Dallas. Sekera can still play meaningful minutes, provides solid defense, blocks shots, and can contribute on offense from time to time. An experienced asset who can help bring along the Stars’ young defenders while playing a reliable role, Sekera fits well in Dallas and should return on another minimal deal as long as he wants to keep playing.
Projected Cap Space
CapFriendly projects the Stars to have about $15.5MM in current cap space. However, that projection includes two-way players whose roster spots are not necessarily secure, such as forward Justin Dowling and defensemen Taylor Fedun and Ryan Shea. It also seems likely that forward Joel Kiviranta and defenseman Joel Hanley have earned roster spots next season with strong playoff performances, but are not included in the current projection. All things considered, the Stars should have at least $16.2MM in flexible cap space heading into the off-season. This will be plenty to extend Faksa, Hintz, and Gurianov while leaving room to explore the free agent market.