With the suspension of the NHL season due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we here at Stars Nation hope that you are staying safe and finding things to occupy your time during this hockey void.
The very smart people at evolving-hockey.com recently came out with their projections for off-season free-agent signings and there are a few interesting things to note for Stars fans.
The first thing of note is that they project that Roman Polak and Anders Sekera will not return to the Dallas Stars, which probably doesn’t come as a great surprise to many Stars fans (or, given the Stars tendency to sign aging depth defense players, perhaps it does).
This means that the Stars may be looking to trade for some depth defense or promote a player or two from the development system. One name that jumps out is Thomas Harley, should the young first-rounder make the roster next year it could inject some much-needed youth to the Stars third pairing.
The Stars have 6 forwards who are either restricted or unrestricted free agents this off-season. Corey Perry, again unsurprisingly, is projected not to return to the Dallas Stars, while the veteran forward has shown flashes of his old self this season it’s probably not enough to justify re-signing the 35-year-old. More debatable is Matthias Janmark, Evolving Hockey has him signing on a 4-year contract at $3.5m AAV but they do not believe that contract will be with the Stars.
Janmark in many ways has been a frustrating player the last couple of seasons, he has all the toolkit to be an elite player but seems to lack any ability to finish, one could imagine that much like Val Nichushkin a fresh start with a different team may be of benefit for Janmark and the Stars.
The biggest re-signing of the off-season for the Stars is projected to be Radek Faksa at around a 4 year $4m contract. Faksa is 26 years old and as the linchpin of the Stars bottom six, this seems like a reasonable kind of signing. They also have both Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov projected to sign 2-year bridge deals, Hintz at around $3m a year (which seems reasonable) and Gurianov at around $2m a year (my feeling is that might be slightly higher – I wouldn’t be surprised to see a deal around $2.5m AAV for Gurianov). Finally, they project the Stars re-signing Joel L’Esperance on a 1-year deal at around league minimum, which makes sense on a two-way contract for a depth forward.
This does leave the Stars with gaps in their forward lines, the good news is that they do have depth here in their development system; L’Esperance, Caamano, Kiviranta, and Robertson have all made good showings at the NHL level and Ty Dellandrea has put up impressive numbers on an unimpressive junior team and has a real shot at making the roster next year. Should one or more of these young players make the NHL roster, it will free up a decent level of cap-space for the next season or two.
One of the biggest questions for Stars fans is whether or not the Stars manage to re-sign Anton Khudobin. He has been putting up spectacular numbers this season, is a huge fan favorite, and frankly, the current Stars system is heavily dependent on having two top tier goalies. While the Stars may have some flexibility in terms of cap hit, the question of whether they re-sign Dobby may come down to term. Bishop is signed for 3 more years and is going nowhere and Jake Oettinger seems to be rapidly developing into a real NHL caliber goalie in the AHL.
The Stars may be willing to give Dobby a similar or slightly larger contract in the off-season but it seems unlikely they’d be willing to sign the 33-year old for more than a 1 or 2-year term, if he can obtain a longer contract elsewhere he may take it, alternatively the Stars may bet on the 2021 Seattle expansion draft to solve their problem for them.
The Stars off-season cap issues aren’t, on the face of it, as severe as many teams, and with some creative GM’ing they could be in great shape come a (hopefully COVID free) 2020-2021 season. Now may be the time to give some of their younger players a chance to shine and spend some money trading for or re-signing key pieces.
Stars fans will be wary given the front office’s tendency to trade for aging depth pieces on over-priced contracts, however, one can hope that the current interlude and quite possibly extended off-season gives them time to thoroughly assess their assets (GM and Head Coach included).
Featured Image: Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports