- Mark Stepneski, ESPNDallas.com
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It turned out to be a busy July 1 for the Dallas Stars, who signed six players on the first day of free agency and added $11.25 million to their salary cap payroll in the process.
“It was a delicate situation because we had the amount of money we had to spend, we identified the players we liked to go after and we did that,” Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said. “It was delicate in the sense that we didn’t want to be left in a situation where you’re sitting around at some point -- whether it’s today, tomorrow or the next day -- and you have this money and everybody on your list that you liked is gone. Then you’re forced to spend it on players that you don’t necessarily want. It worked out well that we targeted these players and we got them.”
Nieuwendyk said there still could be tweaks and he’ll keep his eyes and ears open, but he believes the moves he made Friday have put the Stars in a good position moving forward.
“I realized that by taking Brad Richards out of your lineup you are losing a lot there, but I’ve gone with a direction here that we are going to be a hard-working team and have added to the culture in that locker room,” Nieuwendyk said. “I think with the size that we’ve added on the back end with Pardy and Souray and the experience of Souray, and the depth that we’ve added up front, that we are going to be a more well-rounded team.”
Here’s a look at the players the Stars locked up in the first day of free agency:
RW Michael Ryder
HT/WT: 6-0/192 pounds
Contract: 2 years, $7 million ($3.5 million per year)
2010-11: 41 points (18 goals, 23 assists in 79 games with Boston)
Ryder came up big for the Stanley Cup champion Bruins in the playoffs, registering 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 25 games.
The right winger has scored 30 goals twice in his career, and being a right shot who can put the puck in is a big plus in Nieuwendyk’s eyes.
“He’s a guy that has won a Stanley Cup. He’s a right shot that will give us power play presence and versatility to do things on line combinations,” Nieuwendyk said. “And he’s a proven goal scorer. I think that’s his biggest asset. He thinks about scoring goals and has that quick release. He’ll be a good complement for a number of our forwards who play at the top.”
Ryder has a history with Stars center Mike Ribeiro. The two played together in Montreal.
“I played with him in the minors and in Montreal my first two years,” Ryder said. “We got along well and played together well. I don’t know what the situation is going to be like when I get there, but it’s nice to know there is somebody there that you’ve played with before.”
C Vernon Fiddler
HT/WT: 6-2/195 pounds
Contract: 3 years, $5.4 million ($1.8 million per year)
2010-11 season: 22 points (6 goals, 16 assists) in 71 games with Phoenix
Nieuwendyk talked about depth and character heading into free agency, and Fiddler fits the mold. He’s an excellent checking-line center. He wins faceoffs (53.9 percent last season), kills penalty and is solid defensively. He’s a good two-way player.
“He’s a meat-and-potatoes guy that you win with,” Nieuwendyk said. “That’s what we’ve tried to do here. We’ve tried to add guys that we feel that add to the culture and the character of what we are trying to do. I think Vern Fiddler exemplifies that. He’s been a well-liked teammate whereever he’s been. He’s a versatile player in that he’s a great faceoff guy and a tremendous penalty killer. He’s just a warrior in that bottom grouping of players that you win with.”
HT/WT: 6-4/233 pounds
Contract: One-year, 1.65 million
2010-11 season: 19 points (4 goals, 15 assists) in 40 games with Hershey (AHL)
Souray hit the free agent market when the Edmonton Oilers bought out Souray’s contract earlier this week. Souray signed a five-year, $27 million deal with the Oilers in 2007-08 but was plagued by injuries and ended up in the AHL last season.
The Stars believe he still has a lot to offer at the NHL level and feel Souray will be motivated by the chance.
“I realize some people might view this as a gamble, but I believe it’s a gamble worth taking,” Nieuwendyk said. “He’s motivated. He wants to show the NHL he can still be a top defenseman in this league. And I think the element that really helped us is we haven’t had that point presence on the power play for a few years here, since Sergei Zubov left. That cannon that he has will be a good complement for what we’re trying to do on the power play.”
Souray said Dallas is an organization that has always interested him. As far as the health issues, no problems.
“I feel great,” he said. “Just with today and getting this done so early in the summer provides me with a real determination to be ready for training camp and to give myself the best opportunity to have a great season and help that organization.”
D Adam Pardy
HT/WT: 6-2/206 pounds
Contract: 2 years, $4 million (2 million per year)
2010-11 season: 7 points (1 goal, 6 assists) in 30 games with Calgary
Pardy has played the last three seasons in Calgary and has 147 NHL games under his belt. Nieuwendyk said he is a player the Stars think is trending up in his career. Pardy missed time last season due to shoulder issues.
“Adam Pardy has been on our radar for some time as an up and coming [player], with the arrow pointing up,” Nieuwendyk said. “ He’s had some injuries, but he’s feeling good and healthy.”
Pardy played under Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan in the ECHL. He’ll bring some size and plays a simple defensive game.
RW Radek Dvorak
HT/WT: 6-2/206 pounds
Contract: One year, $1.5 million
2010-11 season: 22 points (7 goals, 15 assists) in 66 games with Florida and Atlanta
Dvorak, who has played in 1,118 NHL games, is another depth signing for the Stars. He’s a guy that can provide some offense and can do some good things at the other end too, especially on the penalty kill.
“He brings an element of size, speed and is a terrific penalty killer,” said Nieuwendyk. “And he’s proved that he can score 15 to 20 in this league."
Nieuwendyk knows Dvorak from his time with the Florida Panthers.
C Jake Dowell
HT/WT: 6-0/199 pounds
Contract: One year, $800,000
2010-11 season: 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in 79 games with Chicago
Dowell played his first full NHL season in Chicago in 2010-11. He played with Stars forward Adam Burish at the University of Wisconsin. Dowell is another depth player who the Stars believe can the team in key areas of the game.
“I talked a lot to Adam Burish about Jake Dowell,” said Nieuwendyk. “Jake Dowell is another guy that can take faceoffs and play penalty kill.”
Dowell led Chicago forwards with 43 blocked shots last season.