We are now 12 hours away from the official start of silly season - free agency begins at noon Eastern on July 1st. And when free agency rolls around, trade rumors abound. It seems Dallas is involved in the conversation with some fairly big names. Here we take a last minute look at what Jim Nill is working with as he starts building the 2014-2015 roster.
#1 - Centers: Stars general manager Jim Nill confirmed on Monday morning on AM1310 The Ticket in Dallas that his main goal this off season was building the depth at center. With the departure of Vernon Fiddler after rejecting a contract extension, the Dallas front office will put most of their available chips in on a second line center. And rumors abound on who the Stars have their eye on. The top candidate for some time now has been Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators. Spezza requested a trade in late June and made a specific list of teams he would not want to be traded to as per his no trade clause - Dallas was not on that list. Jim Nill has since confirmed that the team is interested in Spezza but the deal has to be right, so don't expect the Stars to bend over backwards just to land him. Another name being tossed around in the rumor mill is San Jose Sharks veteran, and former Pacific division thorn in the Star's side, Joe Thornton. If the Stars choose to search free agency rather than a trade, look for Dallas to offer whoever they find a short term 1 or 2 year deal. Nill will most likely not go long term here.
#2 - Backup Goalie: There are three unavoidable eventualities in life; death, taxes, and the Stars looking for a backup goaltender in the off season. It seems like a yearly occurrence since the arrival of Kari Lehtonen in Dallas. And this year is no different with the departures of both Tim Thomas to free agency and Cristopher Nilstorp to Sweden. Yes; there are a lot of big names on the free agency list - but don't look for Dallas to go crazy here. The Stars only need someone to take some of the work load off Kari Lehtonen, who lead the league in the regular season in games played, for a year or 2. The spot will eventually go to Jack Campbell, but not yet. Campbell was sidelined most of the 2013-2014 AHL season with injury and needs to get as much ice time as possible. Another year of consistent ice time with the AHL affiliate Texas Stars will be good for Campbell; sitting him on the bench in Dallas 50 to 60 games out of the year will not. Look for Nill to pick up someone with a 1-year ~$500,000-$750,000 deal out of free agency. 27 year old soon to be free agent Jason Peters of the Carolina Hurricanes/Charlotte Checkers would be a good fit. In 21 games played with Carolina last season, Peters went 7-9-4 with 1 shutout and a 2.50 GAA and .919 SV%.
#3 - Defense: During the middle of the season and the Stars late push to clinch the final playoff spot in the west, the Dallas blueliners drew the most ire from the fans it seemed. The Dallas defense has lacked for years. However towards the end of the year and in the playoffs it seemed the defense finally started to take shape. Jim Nill has even said that the defense is not the concern it once was. There are a few factors here. One is Stars top pair of Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley seemingly hitting the groove. Goligoski, who seems to be on the trade block every year around the trade deadline according to fans, finished the regular season +9 in 81 games played and had the 3rd most points on the team (42) behind only Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. One ahead of his defensive partner, Trevor Daley finished +10 in 67 games played. In the post season however Goligoski lead the team finishing +7 in the 6 game series against the Anaheim Ducks. Another factor is the emergence of Brenden Dillon and Jordie Benn. Dillon, who has quickly become a fan favorite, was +9 during the season but did lead all blueliners in penalty minutes. Jordie Benn led all Stars defensemen in +/-, going +16: the same +/- as Tyler Seguin. Another big factor is the crop of defenders Jim Nill has at his disposal in Cedar Park. Patrick Nemeth, Jamie "Big Rig" Oleksiak, Jyrki Jokipakka, Cameron Gaunce, Derek Meech, William Wrenn. If you watched the Texas Stars run to the Calder Cup this year you know the crop of available defense here is good. There are 2 questions here though - Sergei Gonchar and Maxime Fortunus. Gonchar had a less-than-stellar year and could be traded and Fortunus, the Texas Stars captain, becomes a free agent.
As free agency kicks off tomorrow we'll keep you updated on all the moves here and on Twitter. Follow us (@Stars_Insider) and me (@acaccamisi) on Twitter for updates as the day goes on.