The Dallas Stars are coming off of what many would deem a successful season. They made their first trip to the playoffs in six years and were able to remain competitive in nearly every game of their playoff series with the Anaheim Ducks.
With the salary cap being raised to an estimated $71 million, leaving around $21 million in cap room for the upcoming 2014-15 season, it would not surprise me if the Dallas Stars made another blockbuster trade similar to the trade that brought Tyler Seguin to the Stars this offseason. While I do feel as though the Stars made good strides this past season, there are areas that should be addressed in order to remain competitive in an increasingly deep conference.
While approaching the offseason the Stars need to be aware of their cap space available and what they have already committed to players currently on the roster. Currently, the Stars’ unrestricted free agents include Ray Whitney, Tim Thomas and Vernon Fiddler, and also have restricted free agents Cody Eakin, and Antoine Roussel.
Resigning all of these players may not be the best option not only because of the lack of production, but doing so would inhibit the Stars’ ability to improve. In my opinion, the Stars are much more likely to resign younger players like Roussel and Eakin than aging players, but it wouldn’t shock me if the Stars decided to resign Vernon Fiddler.
The first player that the Stars must not resign is LW Ray Whitney. Whitney was once an All-Star caliber player, but he is simply no longer that player. At 42, Whitney simply isn’t as fast or as strong as he once was, and his declining production can be seen by his 2013-2014 campaign during which he recorded 32 points (9G, 23A). It is hard to imagine that this is the same player that during the 2011-2012 season for the Phoenix Coyotes was able to record 77 points (24G, 53A).
It may be argued that Whitney could provide leadership and experience in the playoffs, but his lack of production of any kind in the postseason this year speaks volumes. Whitney made $4.5 million last year and may command a similar figure this season. Not resigning Whitney will enable the Stars to use that money elsewhere to either get a young winger that has potential or perhaps a defenseman that could add depth.
The second individual that I feel should be let go is Tim Thomas. The Stars traded backup Dan Ellis for Thomas at the trade deadline and on paper that was a smart move. Thomas had won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP while a member of the Boston Bruins and was instrumental in their Stanley Cup run. Thomas was brought in to provide stability to the backup goalie position and provide veteran leadership to the young core of playoff novices, but as with Whitney, he simply isn’t that caliber of player anymore. Thomas can be viewed now as a backup goalie at best, and his best days are behind him.
The Stars are set at the goalie position because they have their starter in Kari Lehtonen, and they believe that Jack Campbell will be his heir. Thomas made $2.5 million last year with a cap hit of $512,821. He may be available for less this year, but for a backup goalie that seems too steep of a price to pay.
While the Stars may choose to agree with my assessment of players that are worthy of being resigned and those that need to be let go, ultimately the Stars have proven to the league that they are a team on the rise, and with room under the cap there is reason for optimism regarding the future of this franchise.