The Dallas Stars went big at this year’s NHL draft, quite literally. After having what I considered a great weekend via the draft, the spirits of the fanbase seemed to be rising. The Stars and GM Joe didn’t just go after some of the types of players that this team lacks right now, they went after some size and potential with picks like first rounder Jamieson Oleksiak and second round winger Brett Ritchie. So it is only right for Stars fans to be happy to see the team take some young defensemen and wingers that have some serious size for a bunch of kids that are just 17 & 18 years-old.
But while things looked great this last weekend, fans should not expect the sunshine and daffodils to shine so brightly this weekend as free agency kicks off. While Joe Nieuwendyk did say this week that the Stars budget will be a little higher then the self-imposed cap of $48 million from last season, the Stars don’t really have to ability to go crazy and spend tons of money. Yes they are currently a good $12 million from probably hitting the budget at $50 million, but the Stars can’t just go out there and give some stud a long-term deal for a lot of cash. If they could, Brad Richards would not be heading presumably (and hopefully) east. While the Stars have the room and actually the necessity to add on cap with the floor for this upcoming season being about $48 million, they will probably have to stick to short term deals because of the ownership situation. Very few top players would actually sign a big, long deal with a team that might be under a change in philosophy and structure next year. Maybe new ownership does want to come in and spend $64 million and be right up near the cap ceiling, but maybe also whoever takes over ownership doesn’t want a high budget right away and wants to take things at a certain pace. Where this puts the Stars is in a place where they can offer plenty of free agents a deal come Friday when free agency starts, but the Stars are not only going to be looking for players that they like and think will fit, but also players that are probably okay with taking a short-term deal this summer. There might be some who are okay with that, and certainly the team will be looking to add on. But fans need to be prepared if Dallas doesn’t go so big this weekend.
It will be a process, just like this annoying sale process. But in it, I trust that Joe will find good players that he thinks can fit in and be great here while also fitting them into the current situation of the franchise. And while this is turning out to be a really weak free agency class after Brad Richards, that might be a good thing for the Stars. Because by this time next year ownership should be in place, and by the time another year of free agency kicks off, the Stars just might be there to be one of the biggest buyers next summer. But don’t be surprised if this summer, that filling of $10-12 million comes in signing a few depth and mid-level guys and not signing 2-3 big names.