CHICAGO - By all accounts the Dallas Stars have had a pretty good offseason so far.
After a horrendous and forgettable season, the Stars have found a reliable coaching staff, found a solution in goal (for at least the next three seasons), and were one of the big winners in the NHL Entry Draft this past weekend in Chicago.
The Stars are now well set up for the future after drafting Miro Heiskanen at No. 3 and Jake Oettinger at No. 26, and the next week could be the final piece in making sure the Stars are contenders once again in the Central Division.
And it all starts with the cap space, and Stars general manager Jim Nill has plenty to play with.
At this moment the Stars have a projected $22 million in cap space heading into next season. That number should jump to $25 million after the Stars announce a buyout for goalie Antti Niemi (which is expected later this week).
Part of that budget is already earmarked for restricted free agents Esa Lindell, Radek Faksa, and Brett Ritchie, who will likely command somewhere around $8 million combined against the cap next season.
Add in Jamie Oleksiak’s new contract, and the Stars are still looking at roughly $16 million in cap space to lure unrestricted free agents (who could start meeting with NHL teams on Sunday) or take on a big contract in a trade.
“Usually there is a balance, depending on who you are looking for and the market,” Nill said. “A lot of these trades the past few days are cap deals with teams where the money doesn’t add up. It’s going to be interesting to see how that balances out over the next couple weeks here. We’re in a good position. Our core is set, and we’ve got a couple of holes to fill on the wings and that.”
At wing, a couple Russians immediately come to mind.
Right wing Alexander Radulov could be the ideal fit and complete a dynamic top line alongside Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. He’s going to want a big contract (especially after T.J. Oshie signed an 8-year, $46 million contract with Washington), but the Stars have the cap space to make it happen.
The other Russian winger of interest is Valeri Nichushkin, who could return to the NHL this season. Nill is still unsure of Nichushkin’s status, but he did admit keeping some cap space open for the winger is a possibility.
No matter what the Stars do, they also seem setup for the long run when it comes to the cap situation. Dallas will want to sign Tyler Seguin to an extension at some point next season, and they should have space to give the center a nice raise with Jason Spezza and Dan Hamhuis’ contracts expiring in the next two seasons (that will be a cool $10 million per season that could go to Seguin).
It’s been a good offseason for Dallas, no matter what they do in free agency. But it could be a great one if the Stars make the right moves.
Follow Sean Shapiro on Twitter @SeanShapiro.
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