The Dallas Stars finished their disappointing season 12th in the Western Confernece. Inconsistency plagued the team as, late in the year, their playoff dreams faded fast.
When a team misses the playoffs, the main job for the GM is to bring in players or coaches that will help the team have a better shot at making the playoffs next season. Dallas has very limited cap room and were expected to be fairly silent during free agency.
Surprisingly, the Stars signed ex-Blackahawk Adam Burish to a $1.15 million contract and Andrew Raycroft to a $700,000 contract. The signings brought the Stars closer to the magic number of $45 million, leaving people to wonder if there is anymore wiggle room for restricted free agents Nicklas Grossman, Matt Niskanen, and James Neal.
The signing of Raycroft is a very smart one. His contract is structured so he could either be sent to the AHL and be paid only $105,000 instead of the $750,000 if he’s in the NHL. That’s only in the first year though.
With Marty Turco testing free agency, the Stars’ number one goaltender is Kari Lehtonen. Raycroft has the chance to beat out Brent Hrahn for the back job behind Lehtonen. If he doesn’t, he’ll be a fine fit in the minors.
Dallas is making moves that will make them "tough to play against," according to GM Joe Nieuwendyk. Signing Burish is a great step in achieving that.
Burish doesn’t get lot of points, but he brings a lot of energy and toughness to the ice. He’s not afraid to come up with a huge check, or even drop the gloves.
Many questions still linger over what will be the outcome of the restricted free agents, Grossman, Niskanen, and Neal.
Neal has a very good chance of receiving an offer sheet. Nieuwendyk said he and his team are prepared if it comes to that. The Stars would be able to match any offer sheet. Who’s to say the offer becomes too expensive for the Stars to match?
"We’re not afraid of an offer sheet," Nieuwendyk said. "I think that threat has been there. We can’t conduct how we want to put the team together in the fear of an offer sheet being thrown at us. James Neal we fully anticipate will be on our team and that's what we’re looking at."
Those restricted free agents will remain the main component of the Stars’ off-season signings. They’ve managed to surprise a lot of people by singing a few free agents. I am almost positive it stops with them. The cap room has to be tightening.
By trying to build a “tougher” team, the Stars and their staff are attempting to bring some hope into the franchise and its fans. It’ll be interesting to see if it works out as planned next season.