Evaluating the best left and right-wing options in free agency for the Stars

Considering Dallas' salary cap situation, we look at three options for Free Agent wingers that could be worthwhile expenditures for the Dallas Stars next season. Here are some options that would fit the Stars' needs for next season.
Vegas Golden Knights v Dallas Stars - Game Seven
Vegas Golden Knights v Dallas Stars - Game Seven / Cooper Neill/GettyImages
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Each year, the crop of NHL Free Agents looks enticing to fans. There are always a handful of players that most fanbases desire, and many love the idea of the “free” part of “free agency.” However, teams like the Dallas Stars don’t have a lot of space on their roster or financially in cap space, making NHL Free Agency a strategic time rather than an opportunistic time.

Specifically, the Dallas Stars have ~16.2 million dollars in cap space this offseason (according to CapFriendly). Here are the following players and estimated contracts via AFP Analytics:

Restricted Free Agents (RFAs)

  • Thomas Harley (short-term): 2 x $4.0 million
  • Nils Lundkvist: 2 x $1.4 million
  • Sam Steel: 2 x $1.8 million 
  • Total RFA Cap Hits = $7.4 million

    Backup goalie options include re-signing Scott Wedgewood at ~$1 million, RFA Matt Murray at ~league minimum, or other options. This signing should not take up more ~$1.1 million.

    If these projections plus the backup goalie situation are covered with the numbers above, we could assume that Dallas may have $6.5 million to spend with the following roster:

    Forwards (12): 

    Robertson-Hintz-Seguin

    Benn-Johnston-Dadonov

    Marchment-Bourque-Stankoven

    Faksa-Steel-Dellandrea

    Defenders (6):

    Lindell-Heiskanen

    Harley-Lundkvist

    Suter-Bichsel

    Goalies (1):

    Oettinger

    Backup Goalie

    Should the Stars be interested in acquiring wingers to have more flexibility on lineup construction and be able to move players like Seguin and Stankoven to their natural ‘center ice position’, there are good free-agent options among the 2024 class.

    This article will discuss the best NHL free-agent options within the Stars’ budget. This article is organized into three tiers: Top-six, Middle-six, and Bottom-six. Each tier contains the best option based on playstyle and assumed fit in the Stars’ forward core.

    Tier 1: Top-six = Jonathan Marchessault

    AFP Contract Projection: 3 x ~$6.3 million

    Expected Role: Top-six winger

    2023 Production: 42 + 27 = 69 Points in 59 GP (2 + 6 = 8 Points in 16 Playoff GP)

    Coming off of a career-high 42 goals in a healthy 82-game season, Jonathan Marchessault has proved, once again, that he is a top NHL talent. The winger has been consistent on the goal-scoring and shot-generation fronts. In the last five seasons, Marchessault has averaged 0.89 Individual Expected Goals per 60 (ixG/60), never deviating below 0.88, meaning that per 60 minutes of Ice Time, the quality of all of Marchessault’s shot attempts almost equals an entire goal, with elite consistency.

    When comparing Marchessault’s ixG rates to current Dallas Stars forwards, Marchessault would rank 3rd behind Wyatt Johnston and Logan Stankoven in 2023-2024 and 2nd behind only Roope Hintz in 2022-2023. To add that quality of offensive finish and polish to a lineup that already generates team chances would contribute positively towards the forward core.

    For context on linemates, Vegas’ top line was slightly underwhelming this season, where Marchessault was statistically better when he wasn’t playing with Ivan Barbashev and was less-than-elite playing with Jake Eichel. Despite his line being less than stellar this year, he put up 42 goals himself on 32.7 Expected Goals (adjusted for shooting talent). The 32.7 Adjusted Expected Goals was 34th in the entire NHL

    On the Stars’ side, they only have two players with a shooting talent better than Marchessault’s 11% above league average this season (Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz). If Marchessault were given similar space and opportunities that Matt Duchene, Tyler Seguin, Mason Marchment, and even Wyatt Johnston were given, Marchessault would likely score more than those players because of his shooting talent.

    The Stars could use all of their remaining dollars on a ‘big fish’ player like Jonathan Marchessault, but this eliminates the return of players like Matt Duchene and Chris Tanev, so it seems unlikely. You must analyze what these types of players would bring to the lineup, and Marchessault would be a valuable playmaker for the Stars, should the money work out.

    Hypothetical forward lines:

    Robertson-Hintz-Marchessault

    Marchment-Seguin-Dadonov

    Benn-Johnston-Stankoven

    Faksa-Steel-Bourque

    Tier 2: Middle-six = Jack Roslovic

    AFP Contract Projection: 3 x ~$3 million

    Expected Role: Middle-six winger

    2023 Production: 9 + 22 = 31 Points in 59 GP (2 + 6 = 8 Points in 16 Playoff GP)

     

    Jack Roslovic was part of the Laine/Dubois Winnipeg/Columbus deal in 2021 and has slipped under the radar recently. In his brief time with the New York Rangers after being acquired at the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline, he played in their middle-six alongside solid players and produced 16 points in 35 games in the regular season and playoffs (~37-point pace). Roslovic’s best season to date was the 2020-2021 ‘bubble’ season, where he put up 34 points in 48 games (~71 point pace). 

    Is it possible to uncover the 71-point-pace version of Jack Roslovic? He’s had two years with 20+ goal paces in the last 4 seasons, and I think there’s something here with this player.

    Roslovic sometimes comes across as a timid playmaker, but he’s at his best when working with his speed and confidence. Jack Roslovic has the hands to create individually or make great passes to teammates on the same page. Dallas boasts many forwards with high hockey IQs, where I could see a line of Benn-Johnston-Roslovic having solid puck possession and rush play metrics.

    Moving from Columbus to New York showed me that Roslovic succeeds as part of a strong team with good support players. If this were to work, I’d need Jack Roslovic in my middle-six, with the opportunity to be himself on the ice without fear of failure (e.g., unlike Nils Lundkvist), so I’m not so sure if there is a fit here. It would be an interesting experiment that could start as a 1-year deal should both parties be interested.

    This option likely eliminates the return of Matt Duchene and Chris Tanev. It does leave the opportunity to sign a few more complementary pieces to the bottom six upfront or the bottom pair on defense.

    Hypothetical forward lines:

    Robertson-Hintz-Seguin

    Benn-Johnston-Roslovic

    Marchment-Bourque-Stankoven

    Steel-Faksa-Dadonov

    Tier 3: Bottom-six = Tyson Jost

    AFP Contract Projection: 1 x ~$0.775 million (league-minimum)

    Expected Role: Bottom-six winger

    2023 Production: 3 + 3 = 6 Points in 43 GP

    It may surprise some people that Tyson Jost is already 26 years old and has reached UFA status. Jost was drafted 10th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2016 and has since played for Minnesota and Buffalo without significant production, but I still see something in this player.

    From live viewings, his attacking mentality in a bottom-six role reminds me of Sam Steel, who is eager to be part of plays and make decisions with the puck. I believe Jost to have a higher level of finesse with the puck on his stick than Steel, so I think the two of them together would be an interesting and exciting on-ice product. Jost’s underlying analytics have been underwhelming throughout his career, and has spent time in Buffalo and Minnesota recently. I’m curious if a season in Dallas’ system could re-invent his game as it did for guys like Sam Steel.

    This is a player who would not command a financial investment. for a low-risk 1-year opportunity on a player who was among the top forwards of his draft class in 2016 and has yet to find stability. If Dallas’ bottom six does some shuffling, I wonder if Jost is a player they’d enjoy as part of a new look to their bottom six. While Jost is a natural center, I can see him playing bottom-six winger alongside players with speed and skill like Sam Steel. We may be duplicating player archetypes with this option, but I like the idea of skilled grinders rather than low-offense grinders. This option allows Dallas to likely re-sign Chris Tanev, and that excites me.

    Hypothetical forward lines:

    Robertson-Hintz-Seguin

    Benn-Johnston-Dadonov

    Marchment-Bourque-Stankoven

    Jost-Steel-Faksa

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