Dallas Stars: Examining Their Cap Situation After Busy 2019 Offseason

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: General Manager Jim Nill of the Dallas Stars stands onstage during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: General Manager Jim Nill of the Dallas Stars stands onstage during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images) /

It was a busy 2019 summer for the Dallas Stars. From trades, to buyouts, to cutting ties with multiple free agents while bringing in a new crop, they revamped their roster and look to be in a position to contend in the season ahead. They did all of that while staying below the cap wall, which is impressive.

The cap space game can be a dangerous (but sometimes necessary) one for many NHL teams to play. And in the 2019 offseason, the Dallas Stars took their seat at the table and rolled the dice.

In many ways, it was a necessary gamble. After a rollercoaster effort through the first half of the 2018-19 season that left many still uncertain about the team’s potential, the Stars bounced back in a big way and qualified for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the first wild card seed. That turned into a six-game victory in the first round over the Nashville Predators, who had just secured their second consecutive Central division title.

From there, the Stars put together a high-spirited and raucous seven-game set with the St. Louis Blues that ended in the way typical hockey fans could only hope: double overtime. But after Pat Maroon secured the game-winning goal and sent Dallas into an earlier-than-expected offseason, the writing became crystal clear on the wall: the Dallas Stars aren’t that far off from challenging for the Stanley Cup.

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In order for the Stars to take the reins and get on the path to contending in the 2019-20 season, though, some retooling needed to happen during the summer.

But with the way the Stars’ cap situation lined up, how would Nill manage? Well, he would have to get a little crafty to say the least.

After hosting exit interviews on May 9, the Dallas Stars entered the 2019 summer with around $20.7 million in cap space (now that we know the new cap ceiling sits at $81.5 million). But there was plenty on the agenda for Nill to accomplish before he could look ahead to Free Agency. And so, he got to work.

He started the summer by re-signing pending RFA Esa Lindell to a six-year extension with an AAV of $5.8 million. The 25-year-old defenseman had proven to be a reliable cornerstone on the Dallas blue line over the course of his two-year bridge deal and earned a sizable extension after a dominant showing in his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut.

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Following that, Nill also extended veteran defenseman Roman Polak on a one-year, $1.75 million contract and re-signed RFA Mattias Janmark to a one-year, $2.3 million deal. Finally, they re-signed defenseman Taylor Fedun to a two-year extension with an AAV of $737,500.

Those four signings took up a little more than half of the Stars’ available cap space, leaving them with just under $10 million to spend. And with Mats Zuccarello extension talks looming and a Dallas offense that finished 28th in scoring in 2018-19 needing more help, the Stars all of a sudden seemed a bit close to the cap wall.

But that’s where Nill took a gamble and got crafty with his cap space. He traded Tyler Pitlick (cap hit of $1 million) to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for pending RFA Ryan Hartman and passed on the opportunity to qualify the young forward. He also passed on qualifying forward Brett Ritchie, keeping another chunk of cap space open for other moves.

And with two days separating the NHL from the opening of Free Agency, Nill pulled the trigger and bought out the final year of forward Valeri Nichushkin‘s contract, turning the former first-round pick’s $2.95 million cap hit into a $700K hit for the 2019-20 season.

With this space and the inability to negotiate a new deal with Zuccarello, Nill entered July 1 with a little over $12 million to spend. And with that, he put together one of the busiest and potentially most successful summers in his time as general manager of the franchise.

Nill signed veteran center Joe Pavelski to a three-year, $21 million contract ($7 million AAV). Pavelski brings a veteran mindset and plenty of experience to the table and should greatly aid the Stars’ in their biggest problem: scoring.

He also added two veteran players that were recently bought out of sizable contracts by their former teams in forward Corey Perry (Anaheim) and defenseman Andrej Sekera (Edmonton). Perry should add size, grittiness, and another strong offensive push to the Dallas lineup, while Sekera gives the team a veteran presence on the left side of the blue line that can still play and produce in a top-four role.

The trio of Pacific division veterans cost the Dallas Stars a combined $10 million on the cap chart, giving them just enough space to re-sign RFA forward Jason Dickinson to a two-year, $3 million extension ($1.5 million AAV) a few weeks later.

And now, here the Dallas Stars sit with just under $1 million left in space ($970,001, according to CapFriendly). Regardless of how you may view Nill or his decisions in past seasons, the 2019 offseason was an impressive maneuver by the Dallas GM in terms of cap and adding necessary talent.

Considering their current limit in space, it seems as though the Stars are likely done with summer moves. And while a trade involving the rights to RFA Julius Honka and moving Martin Hanzal to LTIR on the first day of the regular season will pop up over the next few months and open more space for Dallas on the cap chart, they seem to be in a pretty good spot as of now. The pieces are in place and the Dallas Stars look prepared to take another step in the 2019-20 campaign.

Next. Piecing Together A Dallas Stars 2019-20 Lineup. dark

And when you combine their success from 2018-19 with a busy offseason that centered around shoring up the team’s weak spots, there’s not much more you could ask for or expect.