A deep dive into the Dallas Stars' salary-cap situation
Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Navigating the salary cap is one of the more important tasks for any GM.  Teams that can avoid total cap chaos by walking the tightrope of inking players to deals that match their value (or compensate for future value without breaking the bank) remain successful.  Those that don’t see struggles and front-office changes.

PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading for the 2021-22 season and beyond.  This will focus more on players who are regulars on the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL.  All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.

Dallas Stars

Current cap hit: $85,575,985 (over the $81.5M upper limit)

Entry-level contracts

G Jake Oettinger (one year, $925K)
F Jacob Peterson (two years, $842.5K)
F Jason Robertson (one year, $795K)

Potential bonuses
Oettinger: $537.5K
Peterson: $82.5K
Robertson: $82.5K
Total: $702.5K

Peterson spending this much time on the roster early on in his first season in North America is a bit of a surprise, but the fact he has done well is certainly encouraging for the Stars.  With it being his first year, it’s hard to project where his next deal will be, but he’s well on his way to hitting some of his games-played bonus money.  Robertson finished second on the Stars in scoring last season and is hovering near the point-per-game mark again this year.  Limited action in his rookie campaign hurts his bargaining power a little, but as long as he can play at a similar level to last year, he should have enough of a case to argue for a long-term contract with an AAV that could check in close to the one Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov recently received (eight years, $7.75M cap hit).

Oettinger is listed here more to talk about his next contract than anything else, as he’s basically the third-string option this season unless they move two veteran goalies out.  He could be a regular again in 2022-23, and while the Stars would be wise to try to get a multiyear agreement in place with him, there’s little reason for the youngster to agree to that.  A one-year agreement that gets him to arbitration eligibility in the 2023 summer would be his best course of action even if it means his salary won’t jump up too much for next season.  Meanwhile, as he has "A" bonuses, it’s unlikely he’ll hit them this season unless he’s up full-time before too much longer, which will help lessen their carryover penalty.

One year remaining, non-entry-level

F Denis Gurianov ($2.55M, RFA)
G Braden Holtby ($2M, UFA)
D John Klingberg ($4.25M, UFA)
F Joe Pavelski ($7M, UFA)
F Alexander Radulov ($6.25M, UFA)
F Michael Raffl ($1.1M, UFA)
D Andrej Sekera ($1.5M, UFA)

Pavelski’s first season was quiet aside from a strong playoff run, which carried over into last year when he led the Stars in scoring.  He’s still producing like a top-six forward at a minimum (if not a top-liner last season), but he’s also going to be 38 when 2022-23 gets underway.  A one-year deal seems likely, which opens up the potential for bonuses as well.  Even so, he’s going to be heading for at least a small dip, but something in the $4M-$5M range is certainly possible.  Radulov is the other big-ticket deal coming off the books.  He’s coming off an injury-plagued season and is off to a particularly tough start this year.  He’ll be 36 next season, and there will be questions as to whether or not he can still play in the top six of an NHL team.  As someone who has opted to take bigger money overseas once before, it’s definitely a possibility here if his AAV dips into the $3M range.

Gurianov got this bridge coming off an improbable 20-goal season but still hasn’t been able to establish himself as a consistent top-six forward.  He’s young enough (24) to get a longer leash, but his qualifying offer jumps to $2.9M next summer.  With the start to the season he’s having, it’s hard to see him getting much more than that in theory, but with arbitration eligibility, he should be able to use that to push past the $3M mark.  Raffl has been more of a fourth-liner in recent years, and after going through the market this past summer, it’s safe to say his value next summer should check in fairly close to his current $1.1M price tag.

If Dallas is going to reallocate some of Pavelski or Radulov’s money, Klingberg could very well be the beneficiary.  A report last month pegged his asking price at more than $60M over eight years, an AAV of $7.5M or higher.  That’s a significant jump over his current price tag, but he has the offensive production to try to shoot that high.  The Stars may not prefer to go eight years, but if it keeps the cap hit lower, they’ll seriously have to consider it.  Sekera hasn’t been an impact blueliner for a few years now and has been more of a depth player in Dallas.  He’ll have to take a pay cut to get another NHL deal and could be a candidate for an incentive-based deal with a guarantee not far off the minimum with a few hundred thousand in games-played bonuses.

Holtby landing with Dallas was one of the more puzzling goalie moves this summer, but the team they got him at a heavily discounted rate compared to a few years ago.  Of course, there’s a reason for that since he was bought out by Vancouver.  He’s off to a decent start this season, which could help him restore some value and get closer to that higher tier of backups in the high-$3M range.

Two years remaining

G Ben Bishop ($4.917M, UFA)
F Luke Glendening ($1.5M, UFA)
D Joel Hanley ($750K, UFA)
F Roope Hintz ($3.15M, RFA)
G Anton Khudobin ($3.33M, UFA)
F Joel Kiviranta ($1.05M, UFA)

Hintz has largely flown under the radar in Dallas with several high-priced veterans in front of him, but he was a top-liner for the Stars last season.  His output has dipped early on this year, but there’s still time to turn that around.  Their cap situation in 2020 forced a bridge deal, but Hintz will have the hammer in the next negotiation with arbitration rights, a $3.79M qualifier (120% of the AAV) and being a year away from UFA eligibility.  A long-term deal in the $6M range is certainly doable for him.  Glendening is a role player at this point, but as one of the best faceoff players in the league most years, it allows him to get more of a premium compared to other fourth-liners.  As long as he keeps winning draws at a clip better than most, there’s no reason to think he can’t get another deal around this price tag in 2023.  Kiviranta was at his best in the 2020 bubble but has yet to establish himself as a full-time NHL player, and he has been limited when he is in the lineup.  If that continues, he’ll be hard-pressed to get this on the open market, let alone more.

Hanley has been on a minimum contract for the last several seasons, serving as low-cost depth.  That’s a roster spot they’ll want to keep at that price point, so he could stick around for a little while yet.

Bishop missed all of last season and all of this year so far, which has him on LTIR.  However, he has been skating regularly for a while now but they can’t afford to activate him without clearing cap space first so that’s something to watch for from Dallas in the near future.  With how much time he has missed and the fact his next deal will be his age-37 season, it’s not a guarantee Bishop gets another contract, and if he does, a one-year, incentive-based deal with a lower salary is all he could hope for.  Khudobin’s numbers dipped last season and have gotten considerably worse so far in 2021-22.  Like Bishop, his next contract will be his age-37 season, so he’ll probably be eyeing a one-year deal at best, and if his numbers continue to be this poor, it’ll be at a much lower cost than his current one.

Three years remaining

D Jani Hakanpaa ($1.5M, UFA)

Hakanpaa got himself on the map last season as he played in 57 games between Anaheim and Carolina (notable in itself considering it was a 56-game campaign) while providing plenty of physicality from the back end.  That resulted in a fairly strong market for him in free agency, allowing him to get three years after only his first NHL season at the age of 29.  He’ll need to move into a top-four role to have an opportunity for a bigger deal next time around.

Four or more years remaining

F Jamie Benn ($9.5M through 2024-25)
F Radek Faksa ($3.25M through 2024-25)
D Miro Heiskanen ($8.45M through 2028-29)
D Esa Lindell ($5.8M through 2024-25)
F Tyler Seguin ($9.85M through 2026-27)
D Ryan Suter ($3.65M through 2024-25)

Seguin’s contract has not held up too well in the early going.  He hasn’t surpassed the point-per-game mark since 2015-16, and injuries certainly didn’t help him at all last year.  When he’s at his best, he’s still a No. 1 center, but those moments haven’t been as frequent in recent years, making this a fairly significant above-market deal that still has a long way to go.  The drop-off has been even more noticeable for Benn in recent years.  The captain has been more of a second liner the last few years as his playing style starts to catch up to him, so it’s unlikely they’ll get positive value out of the rest of his contract either.  Faksa hasn’t been able to become the top-six piece the Stars hoped he’d become when they made him a lottery pick back in 2012, but he has become a serviceable middle-six center.  Knowing the demand for those types of players, getting him locked up for this long at that price tag is decent value for the Stars.

Heiskanen was one of several young blueliners to sign expensive contracts over the summer.  His deal at the time was a record for a rearguard coming off an entry-level pact (one that has since been broken) while it was also the richest contract given to a Finnish-born player (which has also since been broken).  He has certainly proved to be worth it already as he became their top defender in a hurry and hasn’t really slowed down while logging heavy minutes on a nightly basis.  Considering what the likes of Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson got in their contract years to set the market standard for top blueliners, Heiskanen’s contract checks in as a nice bargain for the Stars even with how rich it is.

Lindell hasn’t really been able to blossom into the high-end two-way defender they hoped he’d be as his production hasn’t quite gotten to that level.  Nevertheless, he’s still a very valuable player in his own end, logging top-pairing minutes at a price tag that is below what many top-pairing players get.  The fact that Suter received a four-year contract at the age of 36 is impressive, but it’s also a sign of how valued he was across the league.  As long as he can hold down a spot in their top four (and there’s no reason to think he can’t for another year or two at least), then he’ll give them some good value on the deal.

Buyouts

None

Retained salary transactions

None

Best value: Hintz
Worst value: Benn

Looking ahead

The Stars are going to have a decision to make soon, as Bishop will eventually have to be activated, which will set off a series of transactions to get them back into cap compliance.  From there, they’ll be tight to the upper limit for the rest of the season, which won’t give them much wiggle room to try to add to their roster between now and the trade deadline.

Next summer, GM Jim Nill will have some extra flexibility available with Radulov, Pavelski and Klingberg among the more than $20M coming off the books as unrestricted free agents.  That will give him an opportunity to pivot directions if he wants to, but retaining or replacing those players should take them right back to the cap ceiling.  Expect to see Dallas tight to the upper limit for the foreseeable future as a result.

This article first appeared on Pro Hockey Rumors and was syndicated with permission.

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