July 1, 2019 came and went, and the Dallas Stars found a way to once again stay busy through it all. With the first day of Free Agency and plenty of signings and acquisitions now behind them, let’s look back at the recap.
“Happy 50th birthday to me. Honestly, an unreal job by Jim Nill and everybody associated that helps him. You look at the type of people we’re adding: leadership qualities, veteran presence, and people that know how to score goals, go to the tough areas, and hopefully draw more penalties next year. A lot of positives.”
In many ways, that’s all you could ever hope to hear from the head coach of your favorite team. And while their reaction to decisions made by management will more often than not be positive in front of the camera, Montgomery made his excitement clear throughout the rest of his nine-minute chat with the media.
“We’re getting pros and we’re getting hockey players. I think the best description you can get is that if someone is an elite hockey player on the ice but that also carries over to their attitude on the ice. We got tougher mentally, we got tougher in the dressing room, and we have more voices that are going to talk in the dressing room. There’s going to be more people to hold each other accountable. Like I said, Jim Nill did a great job.” –Montgomery on the newest additions
And he had every right to be excited. After all, the Dallas Stars were one of the busier teams in the league when day one of Free Agency opened on July 1. But if you’ve been following the team for more than one or two seasons, you already know that Nill’s July 1 activity is nothing out of the ordinary.
Since taking over as GM in 2013, Nill has made a habit of staying consistently active in the weeks leading up to the opening of free agency, which usually gives him the ability to make a sizable splash on day one. Whether that’s landing one or two big superstar names on the market or via trade or signing a number of depth players to round out weak spots on the roster, he’s always busy when it comes to July 1.
But on July 1, 2019, he morphed his two Free Agency “paths” together by reeling in one or two big names that should both round out the roster and help solidify the team as a contender. It’s how he managed accomplish it, though, that might be the most impressive part.
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After dealing with a bit of a cap space dilemma (the Stars had around $10 million in space a little over one week ago), Nill began making moves. He traded Tyler Pitlick to the Philadelphia Flyers for RFA Ryan Hartman and decided to not qualify or re-sign the RFA. He also didn’t qualify RFA Brett Ritchie and left the forward for free agency.
A few days later, he bought out Valeri Nichushkin’s contract and effectively purged out half of the Stars’ bottom six on offense in a matter of days. That opened up almost $4 million in cap space (more if you add in what it would have cost to bring Ritchie back) and gave Dallas the flexibility to make multiple moves on the free agent market.
And when July 1 rolled around, Nill cashed in by signing Joe Pavelski, Corey Perry, and Andrej Sekera. Each move was substantial in its own regard and helped beef up different areas of the organization. In addition, he made a handful of depth signings for the farm system and hired John Stevens to replace Stu Barnes as the newest assistant coach.
With all of these moves compiled together, the Dallas Stars feel like they have formed a contender. You could see it in Jim Montgomery’s expressions on Monday afternoon. You could hear it in Nill’s words and the words of some of their newest acquisitions. There’s a certain feeling looming around the organization right now that, after falling one goal short of a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2019, they are ready to go further in 2019-20.
That’s due in large part to another busy July 1 and impressive effort by Jim Nill.
And with the Stars now planning to “let the dust settle” as Nill put it and handle some internal housekeeping items (like re-signing Jason Dickinson), here’s a rundown of the moves they made on July 1.