The deadline for NHL teams to qualify their restricted free agents was on Tuesday afternoon. And while the Dallas Stars had ten different RFAs in need of a qualifying offer, they made some interesting decisions.
Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill has been known for qualifying the majority of his restricted free agents in any given summer. Whether they are an NHL option, AHL prospect, or are even planning on going overseas to play and continue to develop, qualifying a player gives the Stars a solidified edge in negotiating rights as well as in determining a player’s future.
And as the 2019 offseason got rolling for Dallas, it looked as though Nill was trying to get an early jump on negotiations.
The Stars had 11 pending RFAs in their system, including NHL starters all the way down to ECHL projects. There was plenty of negotiating to be done, and Nill quickly got to work.
He signed defenseman Esa Lindell to a six-year extension after the 25-year-old put together a career year and proved to be a cornerstone of the Dallas blue line. A few weeks later, Nill inked Mattias Janmark to a one-year, $2.3 million extension to bring the RFA count down to nine.
And while there were talks about Nill meeting with Jason Dickinson‘s agent last week at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and the Stars traded for another RFA in Ryan Hartman on Monday night, that’s where the signings stopped. As a result, Nill had 10 restricted free agents in need of qualifying offers on Tuesday afternoon as the deadline approached.
But this time around, he took a bit of a different approach than in years past. Nill qualified six of the RFAs while passing on the other four, meaning that they will become UFAs on July 1.
Jason Dickinson, Julius Honka, Gavin Bayreuther, Dillon Heatherington, Niklas Hansson, and Landon Bow were all tendered qualifying offers, giving the Dallas Stars an extended chance to negotiate new contracts with each player.
On the other hand, Brett Ritchie, Ryan Hartman, Chris Martenet, and Philippe Desrosiers did not receive qualifying offers and will become unrestricted free agents and have the right to sign with any organization on July 1.
Now, let’s break this down for a moment.
Dickinson is the most likely candidate for an extension after putting together a strong 2018-19 campaign. Nill has been in contact with his representatives and, considering he is eligible for arbitration, he is likely in store for a bridge deal with an AAV between $1.5 million and $2 million.
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Honka was being shopped at the draft, but he never found a suitable deal. Even so, qualifying Honka (considering he isn’t eligible for arbitration) retains his negotiating rights and gives the Dallas Stars the ability to continue looking for a trade partner.
Bayreuther and Heatherington are solid prospects that played major roles with the Texas Stars while also making a handful of appearances in Dallas during the 2018-19 regular season and postseason. Both will be re-signed.
Hansson spent the past two seasons with Texas in the AHL and signed an SHL contract in Sweden for 2019-20, but keeping his rights is a smart move.
And finally, Landon Bow is only 23 and served as the Stars’ no. 3 goaltender on the organization’s depth chart this past season. Along with Jake Oettinger and Colton Point, the trio are expected to battle for the two goaltending spots in Cedar Park next year. So, he’ll get a new deal also.
On the other side, Martenet has gone backwards in his development and ended near the bottom of the defensive depth chart. Desrosiers followed a similar path and had fallen below Point, Bow, and Oettinger by the end of the 2018-19 year.
Hartman was acquired by Dallas on Monday afternoon in exchange for Tyler Pitlick. Considering he still reportedly has not been informed of the trade (he’s currently vacationing and is away from his phone) and is arbitration eligible, Nill could be planning to negotiate with the forward as a UFA instead of an RFA so he has more control over the salary and term.
And finally, Ritchie had been cast into healthy scratch territory for much of the 2018-19 season after scoring four goals in 53 starts and being unable to cement his spot in the starting lineup. He’s a big, physical winger that turned heads during his rookie year in 2016-17 after scoring 16 goals and tallying 24 points. In the past two seasons, however, he has only combined for 11 goals. He seemed to be a potential trade piece down the stretch and there was uncertainty as to whether he would be in Dallas next season. Now we know.
All in all, the 2019 RFA class set Nill up for some easy decisions and a handful of tough ones. And now that the qualifying deadline has passed, it’s time to take the next step.