It's free agency day

July, 1, 2011
7/01/11
10:02
AM CT
The Stars are going to be players in free agency this year, and that should make things interesting over the next few days.

Which guys are the Stars going to target? Don’t know.

I do know they have some key areas to address: top six forward, defense and depth.

I think depth is a big area because over the course of a long season it can pay a lot of dividends. It protects a team against injuries and can keep a team from wearing down its top players. The depth issue hurt the Stars last season and with some money to spend in free agency this summer, it’s an area they can address.

There are a lot of good players out there that can help. A few names stick out to me are Joel Ward, Sean Bergenheim, Boyd Gordon, Eric Belanger and Michal Handzus (still talking with Los Angeles). All pretty solid players who would bring depth and some versatility.

With Brad Richards moving on, the Stars are looking for a forward to play in the top 6. It’s not a particularly strong free agent group (other than Richards), but there are some decent options out there. Michael Ryder and Simon Gagne are a couple of notable names. Ville Leino is available at the moment, but he could end up sticking with Philadelphia. Tomas Fleischmann has had some health issues, but he’s been given a clean bill now and is an intriguing player. So is Tim Connolly, if he can stay healthy.

On defense, the pool has thinned considerably over the past week with several players being taken off the market. Columbus signed James Wisniewski this morning, Buffalo signed Christian Ehrhoff yesterday and Detroit wrapped up Jonathan Ericsson. But there are still some solid guys out there such as Ed Jovanovski, Scott Hannan Ian White and Anton Babchuk to name a few.

The Stars need to spend about $10 million to get to the cap floor and can even spend beyond that, according to GM Joe Nieuwendyk. It may look like a big task to spend that much, but this is free agency and teams are going to overpay in the market. If the Stars spend smart – and I am sure they will - they’ll be OK.

Then again, it's going to be competitive out there, so it will be a challenge.

Anyway, it’s a good opportunity to improve the team, make it deeper and more balanced. We’ll see what happens. Free agency opens at 11 a.m. (CT).

Mark Stepneski

ESPNDallas.com
Mark Stepneski joined ESPNDallas.com in July 2010. A former news/special projects producer for KXAS-TV, he has run the Andrew's Dallas Stars Page website since 1997.

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