In the first of a series of posts here at Blackout Dallas focusing on free agency, we’ll begin looking at some prospective targets for the Dallas Stars. These are the kind of players who might be flying under most people’s radars, but could be a valuable addition of the Stars. With a new owner and deeper pockets, Joe Nieuwendyk has significantly more freedom to wheel and deal and attract the right players to Dallas for the right price. A couple things were taken into account in creating this post. First, I will only be listing Unrestricted Free Agents, not Restricted Free Agents. Trying to sign another team’s RFA is all but non-existent these days and it’s not even worth the speculation. Second, this isn’t a “fantasy team” post where I try and prove that the Stars can throw money at every talented player and build a Stanley Cup team, cap limitations (for both current and prospective teams) and common sense were considered and applied to each and every player listed. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Brad Boyes (F):
Brad Boyes’ story is a bewildering tale of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was originally drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs 24th overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Before ever suiting up for the Leafs, he was shipped to the San Jose Sharks where he would reside for a year, spending most of his time in the AHL with just one NHL appearance. He was again traded, this time to the Boston Bruins, and it was here when Boyes got his first legitimate chance. He spent the entire 2005-2006 season playing in the NHL with the Bruins (he was 23 at this time), and amassed an impressive stat line of 26-43-69 in 82 games played. He began the 2006-2007 campaign with the Bruins, but (you guessed it) was traded at the trade deadline to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for defenseman Dennis Wideman. His numbers dropped from his rookie campaign, but still put up a respectable 17-29-46 in the time spent with both the Bruins and the Blues. For the first time in his career, Boyes enjoyed the luxury of remaining with one team for an extended period of time. He spent three full seasons with the Blues from 2007-2010, and put up a 43-goal effort in that 2007-2008 season. But when it came to the 2010-2011 season, Boyes was again traded at the deadline. He was acquired by the Buffalo Sabres, and that’s where things seemingly fell apart. In his 86 total games played in a Buffalo sweater, he has produced just 37 points. It’s no secret that Buffalo is actively looking to trade him at the Entry Draft in June, or release him to the free agency waters come July 1st. He has simply not performed in the Sabres system and with the cap room at a premium for Buffalo, resigning Boyes is simply not going to be an option. Why should the Stars take notice? Boyes is about to turn 30 years old, he has been a consistent proven goal scorer throughout most of his career and is an incredible talent. Could his lowly performance in Buffalo simply be indicative of Boyes losing his touch? Possibly, but it sure looks similar to a situation of a man named Michael Ryder. Similarly to Ryder, Boyes’ disappointing performance will bring down his price. Keep in mind Joe Nieuwendyk signed Ryder, now a 35-goal scorer, to a two-year deal worth just $3.5 million per year after two disappointing seasons in Boston. Boyes has put up impressive numbers despite what must have been maddening inconsistency with his constant relocating. He’s scored more than 30 goals twice, more than 50 points four times. Maybe I’m just an optimist, but I see another cheap diamond in the rough in Brad Boyes. Wherever he ends up, he’s going to be a player to keep track of.
Matt Carle (D):
If I had created this post a month ago, I don’t think Matt Carle, the 27 year old Flyers defenseman, would be on this list. He began his career with the San Jose Sharks, emerging as a talented two way defender with a significant offensive punch. He was briefly a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning after being traded for Dan Boyle, among other assets, but was quickly moved to the Flyers just four months later. In his three seasons in Philadelphia, he was produced at least 35 points each season, with a total of 113 points (11 goals and 102 assists). For comparison, the Dallas Stars’ leading defensive scorer is Alex Goligoski, who has put up 30 points this season. I think it goes without saying that a young, talented defenseman with a penchant for being a play maker would be welcomed with open arms here in Dallas. Now, why has he suddenly become a much more attainable player? He is one of Philadelphia’s better (and younger) defenseman, but he might not be very high on their list of players that they’re looking to resign. In a tiny bit of a circularity, the Flyers just signed former Dallas Star Nicklas Grossmann (who the Flyers traded for prior to the deadline) to a four year, $14 million extension. With Chris Pronger’s career in jeopardy, the Flyers went ahead and signed a proven crease-clearing defender to shore up any doubts. The other players that will be given priority over Carle are young stars like forward Jakub Voracek and defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon. Voracek and Bourdon are both RFAs at the end of the year, and will be almost certainly in for a significant raise. On the other side of the coin, there’s the ever lingering legend that is Jaromir Jagr, he has exceeded expectation in Philadelphia this year and since he is a UFA at the end of the season, the question is whether or not the Flyers will resign him. In all of this, Matt Carle could very easily get lost, and simply might not fit under the cap. The Flyers have a tough decision to make with Carle, if they let him walk he will turn into a hot commodity, and with the Stars defense currently stocked with aging veterans like Sheldon Souray and Stephane Robidas, another proven young puck mover should be an easy target for the Stars. Of course, many other teams will feel the same way.
Jiri Hudler (F):
Jiri Hudler is in the midst of a career year as an NHL player, the 28-year old forward has set a career high in goals with 25, and has established himself as a fixture in the Red Wings top six after a disappointing 2010-2011 campaign that was hampered by injury. Along with linemates Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula, Hudler has become a consistent offensive threat for the Red Wings. But he’s also a UFA come July 1st, and it looks like Hudler will be a commanding a significant raise from the $3 million he is currently making for his services. In contrast to the previous teams mentioned, the Red Wings will have plenty of cap room to make the moves they need to, but that top six of the Detroit Red Wings is a tough nut to crack and with youngsters like Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader improving each and every year, and commanding more and more playing time, one has to wonder if Hudler becomes an expense that the Red Wings could do without. He’s one of the more speculative players of the bunch, because he could easily be a July 1st signing for the Red Wings. Detroit has a tendency to lock players up for long contracts at a fair rate, offering players a consistent home without ruining their cap space (see: Johan Franzen at 11 years/$43.5 million, Pavel Datsyuk at 7 years/$46.9 million, and Henrik Zetterberg at 12 years/$73 million). I’m sure they’d love to sign Hudler to one of those massive deals, but not every player is looking for that and many things will come in to account. Among them being his asking price, his desire to remain in Detroit, and who can pony up the money he’s looking for. He’s been an effective play maker and a consistent scorer, should Detroit choose to pass, or should Hudler choose to explore his options, Dallas will surely be amongst the suitors.