With the heat of the 2019 offseason in the rearview mirror, all that’s left for the Dallas Stars to take care of is some in-house negotiations with their qualified RFAs. Here’s a look at who they have recently come to terms with and who is still in need of a new deal.
June 25, 2019 was an interesting day for the Dallas Stars.
While it served as the first day of on-ice drills for the Stars’ 2019 development camp session, it was also the deadline for qualifying restricted free agents across the NHL. And for Dallas, that deadline came with some tough decisions.
The Stars had 10 RFAs in need of new contracts at the time, four of which were on their NHL roster. Each RFA had a unique situation, and there was no guarantee as to which way GM Jim Nill might go in terms of qualifying offers. There were young players that had never panned out at the NHL level, aging players that had become stuck in the development phase, and players that were still on track to make an impact in the NHL.
Brett Ritchie, who put together a breakout rookie campaign in 2016-17 but hadn’t been able to capitalize on it or nail down a spot in the Dallas starting lineup since, was one of the four not qualified. So was Philippe Desrosiers, a 2013 draft pick that had fallen down the Dallas goaltending depth chart over the past few seasons. Defenseman Chris Martenet (a 2015 fourth-round pick) missed the qualifying cut as well.
Rounding out the list was Ryan Hartman, who had been acquired by the Dallas Stars in exchange for Tyler Pitlick just one day prior. The reasoning was that Dallas wanted to negotiate with him as a UFA with no arbitration rights, but the negotiating fell through as the Stars used the open cap space on other moves and Hartman signed with the Minnesota Wild.
That left the Stars with six negotiations to nail down.
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On July 1, Dallas re-signed goaltender Landon Bow to a one-year, two-way deal worth $750,000. The move was made amidst a busy day of signing UFAs, but still carried plenty of relevance. Bow was the Stars’ no. 3 goalie last season and made several appearances with the Dallas Stars whenever Ben Bishop suffered an injury. He even made his NHL debut and played in two different contests throughout the year.
The 23-year-old should be an important piece of the Texas Stars roster in the 2019-20 season and will likely battle for time with 2017 first-round pick Jake Oettinger.
That left the Stars with five qualified RFAs in need of new contracts (Jason Dickinson, Julius Honka, Gavin Bayreuther, Dillon Heatherington, and Niklas Hansson). And throughout this past week, Nill has continued whittling away at the list.
On Monday afternoon, the Dallas Stars announced that they had re-signed Gavin Bayreuther to a one-year, two-way deal with a cap hit of $700,000. Bayreuther made his NHL debut on Nov. 16, 2018 against the Boston Bruins and finished the season with two goals, five points, and a +2 rating in 19 games played. The undrafted defenseman is only 25 years old and is expected to play a top-pairing role with the Texas Stars this season while also being at the top of the list for an NHL call-up. He’s right on the bubble and could see an extended NHL role in 2019-20, depending on how the cards fall.
The Stars took another step on Tuesday by re-signing Dillon Heatherington to a similar one-year, two-way deal with a cap hit of $700,000. Heatherington, 24, was acquired by the Stars at the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline and has spent the past two seasons developing with the Texas Stars. He’s played 11 career NHL games (all with Dallas) over the past two years and seems to be right behind Bayreuther on the call-up list.
That’s a good step forward, but Dickinson, Honka, and Hansson are still on the qualified list.
Dickinson recently filed for arbitration and has a hearing scheduled for July 20. It’s the first day of arbitration hearings in the league and gives the Stars 10 more days to hammer out a new deal. The players that file for a hearing rarely make it to their hearing, considering they usually come to an agreement with the team beforehand.
But this is an important contract for Dickinson. After boasting a cap hit of $875,000 during the 2018-19 season, the 24-year-old forward turned in a successful rookie campaign after struggling to cement his spot in the starting lineup in years past.
Dickinson posted six goals and 22 points as well as a +9 rating in 67 regular season games. He followed it up with three goals and five points in 13 playoff games and established himself as a viable top-six option in the Dallas offense. He was a valuable contributor on the penalty kill, played consistently in all three zones, and had an ability to play anywhere in the Dallas lineup.
As a result, he looks to be a sizable piece of the Stars’ future. Filing for arbitration was merely a tool for Dickinson that guarantees a deal being done before the season begins. But with the two sides in constant communication, the hope is that a deal will be agreed upon before July 20.
Then there’s Julius Honka. It’s clear that the Dallas Stars are trying to trade the 23-year-old defenseman and have been for some time now. Honka’s style simply hasn’t fit under three different coaches, leaving a fresh start for both sides as the most logical option. But will the Stars allow his new team (whenever they find a trade partner, that is) to negotiate a contract? Or will they sign him to a small deal and then try to send him to a new club? The former seems like the more logical option considering the Stars’ current cap situation and the possibility that they won’t be able to trade him before the season begins still lingering.
That leaves Niklas Hansson. The defender signed a contract with Rogle BK in Sweden after playing with the Texas Stars for two seasons. But with Nill qualifying him, you can be assured that a deal will get done for the sole purpose of the Stars still owning his negotiation rights in case another team inquires about him down the road.
The Dallas Stars still have some work to do on the RFA negotiations path, but it’s a step-by-step process. They’re getting closer, and that’s important.