With minimal roster moves this offseason, the Dallas Stars have an interesting path ahead of them. Dallas will struggle to meet the NHL’s salary cap for the 2022-23 season, with just over $6 million of space remaining, but has yet to sign top tier winger Jason Robertson. The remaining money will be used to re-sign Robertson, but that will likely be a short deal based on his performance over the past two seasons.
Regardless of the length of Robertson’s new contract, the Stars have eleven players, including Robertson, out of contract for the 2023-24 season. Dallas’ projected cap for next year is already approaching $55 million, or 65% of the projected salary cap of $84.5 million. That leaves general manager Jim Nill about $29.5 million to fill nearly half of his NHL roster. Nill will have a hard time lining up a playoff slate with a team like that, so here’s how the Stars can “fix” their messy cap situation.
Dallas Stars salary cap situation needs attention
Get rid of bad contracts
Of the players who are signed through next season, deals with Ryan Suter and Radek Faska appear to be doing more harm than good. The Stars added Suter last offseason after the Minnesota Wild bought him out. Suter had the 8th most points on Dallas last season, but his 25 points fell short of his cap of $3.65 million. Suter averaged second in minutes on the ice, but was fourth in penalty minutes. John Klingberg, who the Stars lost in free agency, outplayed Suter while playing eight fewer games. Klingberg became publicly frustrated with Nill and the Stars’ front office after contract extension talks broke down. Klingberg saw Suter and Miro Heiskanen sign long-term, which likely forced him out of Dallas when his contract expired.
Radek Faska is a difficult player to interpret. His biggest assets are puck control, shorthanded ability and game wins. However, Faska lost ice time and face-off work in 2021-22. Nill brought in Luke Glendening in free agency, then former coach Rick Bowness used Benn as a center on the third line. Glendenning and Benn took advantage of Faska’s time in the face-off spot. Faska faces a new challenge for the 2022-23 season as he must earn a role with new coach Peter DeBoer. With a cap of $3.25 million and a reduced role, Faska’s contract has become one of the worst on the current roster.
Suter and Faska will struggle to move. Both are signed for the next three seasons and have no-trade clauses attached to their contracts. In terms of production, the money spent on Suter and Faska would be essential for next year’s turnover. While Suter has a clear role in defense, Faska may struggle to stay dressed from game to game. If Nill has a chance to cancel either contract next season, he must take the opportunity to free the room from the caps.
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Finding good depth value in free agency
While the signings of Suter and Faska fell short of expectations, Nill found great depth in free agency last year. Michael Raffl and Glendening have become excellent recruits for the Stars. Glendening was reliable on face-offs, winning around 59% of their draws, while Raffl contributed two shorthanded goals. Any production from the final six will be necessary for a successful season. The Stars’ first line of Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson accounted for 36% of the team’s points total last year. Glendening and Raffl were at least consistent, providing leadership and filling in the holes in the lineup well.
Over the past two seasons, the Stars have lacked the depth needed to be a legitimate contender. Jacob Peterson, Denis Gurianov and Joel Kiviranta rotated in and out of the lineup due to inconsistent play. The Stars have trusted some of their young players too much, which shows with these three. The trio were expected to take a step forward in production last season, but none of them did. Glendenning and Raffl scored roughly the same points as Peterson and Gurianov and were arguably more effective. 2022-23 will be a breakthrough season for Peterson, Gurianov and Kiviranta as all three need new contacts at the end of the season. If the inefficiencies persist, Nill could find better options in free agency for likely a lower price.
Decide on a direction for the stars
Star management must commit to creating a playoff slate. Signing Mason Marchment this offseason was a great move, but Nill can’t stop there. At last year’s deadline, Nill traded a 2024 fourth-round pick for Vladislav Namesnikov and a 2023 third-round pick for Scott Wedgewood. Dallas also added Marian Studenic on waivers. Wedgewood was the best acquisition of the three, but still largely ineffective come playoff time.
Nill also doesn’t need to hunt for the most valuable asset when it comes to trade deadlines. The problem is on the third and fourth rows, which seem easier to fill out. Jake DeBrusk openly asked for a trade from the Boston Bruins last season. DeBrusk would have been a big contributor for the Stars, and he enjoyed a resurgence late in the season and finished with 25 goals and 42 points. Considering Dallas gave up a third-round pick for Wedgewood, DeBrusk, even for a second-round pick, isn’t too high a price. DeBrusk eventually re-signed with Boston on a two-year, $8 million contract. Being a CEO is complex, but management’s approach of waiting for a miracle is not justifiable. Too much has to happen for the current squad to be considered a dark horse for the Cup. Nill can take whatever action is necessary to keep the team competitive, close roster gaps, and keep player salaries low.
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There’s no easy solution to the Dallas Stars’ salary cap problem. Two bad contracts seem irremovable, and eleven players will need contracts next season. General manager Jim Nill needs to free up space and improve the depth of the team. Dallas is an above average team and still in a playoff window. The salary cap and possible major roster turnover threaten the Stars’ future. However, these fears cannot deter Nill from acting as the general manager of a competitive hockey team. While making the playoffs is an achievable goal, the Stars must look to another Cup run or the not-so-distant future.
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