Dallas Stars: free agency

Stars add 'physical' D Aaron Rome

July, 1, 2012
7/01/12
6:25
PM CT


After signing veteran forward Ray Whitney earlier Sunday, the Stars addressed their defense by signing Aaron Rome to a three-year, $4.5 million contract, the team announced. Rome, 28, played for the Vancouver Canucks the last three seasons.

From the Stars' news release:
“Aaron is a physical defensive defenseman who adds size and grit to our blue line,” said Nieuwendyk. “He competes at a very high level and helps make our team harder to play against. We’re very pleased to add Aaron to our team for the next three years.”

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound blue-liner appeared in 43 games for Vancouver last season, collecting four goals and six assists for 10 points, all NHL career highs.

A native of Nesbitt, Manitoba, Rome has appeared in 174 career NHL games with Anaheim, Columbus and Vancouver, recording six goals and 16 assists for 22 points with 156 penalty minutes. He has also skated in 18 Stanley Cup Playoff games (15 of which came with Vancouver the past two seasons), posting a goal and an assist with 37 PIM. He appeared in one playoff game for Anaheim during the Ducks’ 2007 Stanley Cup championship run.

Originally selected by Los Angeles in the fourth round (No. 104 overall) in the 2002 NHL Draft, Rome played in 304 Western Hockey League games from 1998-2004, with Saskatoon, Kootenay, Swift Current and Moose Jaw. In the WHL, he earned 155 points (31 goals, 124 assists) and 646 penalty minutes. He was named to the WHL East Second All-Star Team in 2004.

Monday tidbits: Jeff Woywitka a Hab

August, 15, 2011
8/15/11
1:34
PM CT
A few notes for a Monday afternoon:

*Jeff Woywitka has become the latest of the Dallas Stars unrestricted free agents to land a new job. The Montreal Canadiens announced today that they signed Woywitka to a one-year, two-way contract. Details are here.

*Former Star Fabian Brunnstrom reportedly is getting another crack at the NHL. The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported today that Brunnstrom, whom the Stars traded to Toronto last season, has signed a tryout contract with the Detroit Red Wings. The story (in Swedish) is here.

*Here’s a look at what’s happened with Dallas Stars players from 2010-11 who became unrestricted free agents on July 1. Among the NHL guys, Brandon Segal and Brian Sutherby are still unsigned.

A couple of Thursday night notes.

*No big surprise, but earlier today Stars defense prospect Jamie Oleksiak was officially added to the roster for Canada's National Junior Team development camp, which will begin next week. The Stars' first round pick (14th overall) in this summer's draft, who has dual citizenship, declined an invitation to Team USA's camp and decided to try out for Canada's World Junior team.

Right wing Brett Ritchie, the Stars second round pick (44th overall) in the 2011 draft, will also attend the camp. The players at the camp are split into Team Red and Team White and both Ritchie and Oleksiak are on Team Red. You can see the rosters here. More on the camp next week.

Speaking of Oleksiak, he is now on Twitter. You can find him here: @jamieoleksiak

*Ex-Star Jason Williams has found a new home. He signed a one-year, two way contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this week. It will pay him $600,000 at the NHL level and $105,000 in the minors, according to capgeek.com.

Here's a look at the status of the 2010-11 Dallas Stars players who became unrestricted free agents on July 1.

Saturday tidbits

July, 23, 2011
7/23/11
11:08
AM CT
A few Saturday tidbits for a Saturday morning:

*The latest issue of The Hockey News is out and the publication is handing out grades for what NHL teams have done so far this offseason. The Stars got a C+, which tied them for 19th among the 30 teams when all the grades were listed from top to bottom. Here’s what THN had to say about the Stars:
The Brad Richards role will be filled by committee. Jamie Benn will see his responsibility increase in Dallas, while free agent right wingers Michael Ryder and Radek Dvorak were brought in to bolster an offense that was middling even with Richards in the lineup. New D-man Sheldon Souray’s booming point shot will also help.

*THN gave the Stars a grade of B for the draft, which tied them for 10th among the NHL teams. THN noted the Stars going with size in this year’s draft with players such as Jamie Oleksiak, Troy Vance and Brett Ritchie.

*Hockey Prospectus is rolling out rankings of each NHL team’s prospects this summer and that site's rankings are different than most you'll see. It ranks right wing Reilly Smith as the Stars’ top prospect. Goalie Jack Campbell, who is at the top of most lists, ranks 7th. Not on the top 10 list but listed as a sleeper by Hockey Prospectus is forward Matt Fraser. The article on the Dallas prospects is subscription only, but you can see the prospect rankings here. In reading the analysis of the prospects, these rankings appear to be based on the player's ultimate potential and not where he is right now on the development curve. Among the NHL teams, the Stars are ranked 28th as far as prospects.

*Dallas Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski is on Twitter. You can find him here: @gollygoose33

Brad Richards heads to NY Rangers

July, 2, 2011
7/02/11
4:10
PM CT
*Unrestricted free agent Brad Richards made his decision Saturday, choosing to join the New York Rangers. It's a nine-year, $60 million deal for the ex-Dallas Stars. Los Angeles, Toronto and Calgary were the other contenders. Details are here.

*Richards wasn't the first of Dallas' unrestricted free agents to sign a contract with another NHL team. That turned out to be center Aaron Gagnon, who signed a two-year deal with the Jets according to various media reports out of Winnipeg.


Stars address needs in free agency

July, 2, 2011
7/02/11
1:48
AM CT
The Dallas Stars had a lot on the agenda heading into free agency and they addressed those issues in about four-and-a-half hours on Friday.

Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk added a top six forward in Michael Ryder, beefed up the forward depth with Vernon Fiddler, Radek Dvorak and Jake Dowell and addressed some needs on the blue line with Sheldon Souray and Adam Pardy.

In all, it added $11.25 million to their salary cap costs for the season and got them over that cap floor everyone was fretting about a few days ago. And they didn’t really hand out any ridiculous contracts. The longest term is the three years to Fiddler, and considering his reliability as a player that’s a fair term. Pardy getting $2 million per year seemed high, but not absurdly high.

Nieuwendyk left the door open for some more moves, but seemed to indicate the major work had been done.

“I think we’re happy today, but there could be some tweaks,” Nieuwendyk said. “We’re always going to keep our eyes and ears open to help our hockey club, but I can’t say for sure that this is what we’ll start with.”

As it stands right now, the Stars had a first day in free agency.

In Ryder, who has the 30-goal mark a couple times, they got a right shot that put the puck in the net. That’s been something they’ve needed.

In Fiddler they got a top notch checking line guy who can win faceoffs, kill penalties and do all those little things that will help you win games. Those guys are important and they got a good one in Fiddler.

Dvorak’s a pretty talented guy who can move up and down the lineup, pop in some goals and kill penalties. Nothing wrong with some experienced versatility.

Souray is bit of a gamble, but he’s on a very palatable one-year contract for $1.65 million. The Stars have needed a big shot from the point and there aren’t many bigger than Souray’s shot. He’ll bring a much needed dimension to the Stars power play.

We’ll see with Pardy and Dowell. Pardy is a defenseman the Stars think is trending up. Dowell looks like a depth guy who can bring some grit to the lower lines.

Overall, it looks like Nieuwendyk accomplished what he wanted. He wasn’t going to replace Brad Richards or his offense with one player, so he used the money he had available to add players that addressed several needs and will help fill some voids left by Richards’ departure.

The Stars are deeper and more balanced. Ryder and Souray will be nice additions to the power play, where Richards was a key player. Fiddler and Dvorak should be a boost to the penalty kill, which has been a sore spot in recent seasons.

Time will tell how it all works out. It all looks good right now when you ponder it on paper and in theory. And that’s not a bad thing because it’s a sign that the Stars were able get what they needed in free agency, and they were able to do with some smart, reasonable signings.

A busy day in free agency for Stars

July, 1, 2011
7/01/11
8:23
PM CT
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.

The Stars added RW Michael Ryder, C Vernon Fiddler, D Sheldon Souray, D Adam Pardy, RW Radek Dvorak and C Jake Dowell.

“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

Age: 31
HT/WT: 6-0/192 pounds
Shoots: Right
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

Age: 31
HT/WT: 6-2/195 pounds
Shoots: Left
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.”

Sheldon Souray

Age: 34
HT/WT: 6-4/233 pounds
Shoots: Left
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

Age: 27
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

Age: 34
HT/WT: 6-2/206 pounds
Shoots: Right
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

Age: 26
HT/WT: 6-0/199 pounds
Shoots: Left
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.

Stars sign D Sheldon Souray

July, 1, 2011
7/01/11
3:41
PM CT
The Dallas Stars have signed defenseman Sheldon Souray to a one-year, $1.65 million contract. Souray played last season with Hershey of the American Hockey League, where he had 19 points (4 goals, 15 assists) in 40 games.

The 34-year-old has one of the hardest shots in hockey. He has 262 points, including 96 goals, in 650 career NHL games. He last played in the NHL in 2009-10 with the Edmonton Oilers.

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Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk on the opening of free agency and his induction into the NHL Hall of Fame.

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Here's the Dallas Stars signing scorecard to date:

RW Michael Ryder: 2 years, $7 million
C Vernon Fiddler: 3 years, $5.4 million
D Adam Pardy: 2 years, $4 million
D Sheldon Souray: 1 year, $1.65 million
RW Radek Dvorak: 1 year, $1.5 million
C Jake Dowell: 1 year, $800,000

Minor league signings

D Jordie Benn: one-year, two-way
C Ryan Garbutt: one-year, two-way

Cap note

If you include forward Tomas Vincour, the Stars have 23 likely roster players under contract for about 49.9 million in cap costs, which is $1.6 million above the cap floor. Take out Vincour and they're at $49.1 million in cap costs with 22 likely roster players in the mix.

Stars signing scorecard

July, 1, 2011
7/01/11
3:16
PM CT
Here's the Dallas Stars signing scorecard to date:

RW Michael Ryder: 2 years, $7 million
C Vernon Fiddler: 3 years, $5.4 million
D Adam Pardy: 2 years, $4 million
D Sheldon Souray: 1 year, $1.65 million
RW Radek Dvorak: 1 year, $1.5 million
C Jake Dowell: 1 year, $800,000

Minor league signings

D Jordie Benn: one-year, two-way
C Ryan Garbutt: one-year, two-way

Cap note

If you include forward Tomas Vincour, the Stars have 23 likely roster players under contract for about 49.9 million in cap costs, which is $1.6 million above the cap floor. Take out Vincour and they're at $49.1 million in cap costs with 22 likely roster players in the mix.

Stars sign RW Michael Ryder

July, 1, 2011
7/01/11
2:46
PM CT
The Dallas Stars have signed right wing Michael Ryder, who won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins last season. It's a two-year deal worth $7 million.

Ryder, 31, had 18 goals and 23 assists in 79 games in 2010-11. He had 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 25 playoff games.

Ryder, a right shot, has scored 30 goals twice in his NHL career and played with Stars center Mike Ribeiro in Montreal.

More to come.

Stars sign C Jake Dowell

July, 1, 2011
7/01/11
2:45
PM CT
The Stars have signed C Jake Dowell, who played with Chicago last season, to a one-year, one-way contract worth $800,000.

Dowell, 26, had 6 goals, 15 assists in 79 games with the the Blackhawks in 2010-11. Dowell played with Dallas Stars center Adam Burish at the University of Wisconsin.
Here's the Stars release on the signings of Vernon Fiddler, Radek Dvorak and Adam Pardy.

Vernon Fiddler

Center Vernon Fiddler has agreed to terms on a three-year contract worth $5.4 million ($1.8 million per season) with the Stars.

"Vernon is an honest, hard-working player and we are pleased to add him to our club,” Nieuwendyk said. “He plays a solid all-around game and does so much to help a team win. We feel that he fits our vision of a Dallas Stars team that is difficult to play against every night."

Fiddler, 31, has played in 452 career NHL games, tallying 59 goals and 86 assists for 145 points. He ranked 24th among all NHL players in face-off percentage last season at 53.9 percent, skating in 71 games with the Phoenix Coyotes. Fiddler scored 22 points (6g, 16a) with 46 penalty minutes, and ranked third on the club in shorthanded time-on-ice at 2:53 minutes per game. He posted his first career hat trick on Nov. 12, 2010 vs. Calgary (3g, 0a).

The Edmonton native recorded 30 points (8g, 22a) in 2009-10 with Phoenix. He ranked second on the club in shorthanded time-on-ice at 3:05 minutes per game, helping the Coyotes to an 85.6 penalty kill percentage, which ranked sixth in the NHL. Fiddler again placed in the top 25 in faceoff percentage with a 52.4 winning percentage (588-of-1121) in the 2009-10 campaign. He ranked tied-for-third on the club in plus/minus with a +13 rating. Fiddler skated in six playoff games for the Coyotes, collecting two points (1g, 1a) and 12 penalty minutes.

The 6-2, 195-pound center has scored 10-or-more goals in a season three times and has collected 20-or-more points in a season four times in his career. In 2003-04 he helped the Milwaukee Admirals win the Calder Cup (AHL Championship), skating in 22 games during the playoffs, posting eight points (5g, 3a) and 36 penalty minutes. He was originally signed as a free agent by Nashville in 2002.

Radek Dvorak

Free agent right wing Radek Dvorak agreed to terms on a one-year contract worth $1.5 million.

"Radek Dvorak is a skilled veteran who has played over 1,000 NHL games and we are excited to add him to the Dallas Stars," Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk said. "We feel that his experience and ability adds quality and depth to our forward group."

Dvorak, 34, is a veteran of 1,118 NHL games over 15 seasons, scoring 215 goals and 341 assists for 556 points. He began last season with the Florida Panthers and was dealt at the trade deadline to the Atlanta Thrashers, finishing the season with 22 points (7g, 15a) in 63 games. Three of Dvorak’s seven goals last season were game-winners; he also had one shorthanded goal. He was an alternate captain for Florida last season.

The Tabor, Czech Republic, native has scored 15-or-more goals in six seasons and has recorded 30-or-more points in 11 of his 15 NHL campaigns. Dvorak has played in 39 career NHL playoff games, recording seven points (2g, 5a) and four penalty minutes. In 2009-10, he tallied a team-high three shorthanded goals for Florida and ranked sixth on the club in shots with 140. Dvorak also ranked sixth on the club and second among forwards in shorthanded time-on-ice in 2009-10 with 2:12 minutes per game.

The 6-2, 206-pound right wing’s best season came in 2000-01 when he posted 31 goals and 36 assists for 67 points with the New York Rangers. Dvorak represented the Czech Republic at the 2002 NHL Winter Olympics, skating in four games. He was drafted 10th overall by the Florida Panthers at the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.

Adam Pardy

Free agent defenseman Adam Pardy has agreed to terms on a two-year contract worth $4 million ($2 million per season) with Dallas.

"Adam is a hard-working player who we feel adds a lot to our defensive corps," Nieuwendyk said. "He will be a good fit among our blue-liners. Adam has a history with Glen Gulutzan and that certainly was a factor with this signing."

Pardy, 27, spent the last three seasons with the Calgary Flames where he played his first 147 career NHL games, collecting 26 points (4g, 22a) and 141 penalty minutes. In 2010-11, his season was cut short by two separate shoulder injuries as he skated in 30 games for the Flames, posting seven points (1g, 6a) and 24 penalty minutes with a +3 rating. Pardy averaged 14:41 of ice time in his 30 games. The Flames were 17-8-5 when he was in the lineup last season.

The Bonavista, New Foundland, native skated in 57 games for Calgary in 2009-10, tallying two goals and seven assists for nine points. He ranked tied-for-fourth on the club in blocked shots with 60 and averaged a career-high 15:51 minutes of time-on-ice that season. During Pardy’s rookie campaign in 2008-09, he skated in a career-high 60 games while accruing 10 points (1g, 9a) and 66 penalty minutes. He ranked sixth on the club in blocked shots with 44 and ninth in hits with 77 in his rookie season. In the 2008-09 playoffs, Pardy played in all six games for the club, collecting two assists. He was drafted by Calgary in the sixth round (173rd overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

The 6-2, 206-pound defenseman played part of the 2005-06 season under current Stars Head Coach Glen Gulutzan with the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL. Pardy skated in 41 games under Gulutzan, recording 12 points (1g, 11a) and 55 penalty minutes. He also played 10 playoff games in Las Vegas as he collected three points (2g, 1a) and 12 penalty minutes.

Stars sign D Adam Pardy

July, 1, 2011
7/01/11
12:25
PM CT
The Dallas Stars have signed defenseman Adam Pardy, according to a Stars official. It's a two-year deal worth $4 million.

Pardy, 27, played 30 games with Calgary last season, registering one goal and six assists.

He’s 6-4, 206 pounds and is a defensive defenseman who plays a simple game. He has 26 points (4 goals, 22 assists) in 147 career NHL games.

Pardy, who made $700,000 last season, played under Dallas Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan in Las Vegas (ECHL) in 2005-06.

More to follow.

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).
FRISCO -- Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said he has money to spend and areas to address as NHL free agency opens, and one of those areas on his list is depth.

“We have areas throughout our lineup we’d like to upgrade, the depth of our team especially,” Nieuwendyk said this week. “We always want to talk about the high-end forward or the high-end defenseman, but I look at this free agency period as equally as important for those depth guys. We’re looking at names across the board.”

It might not generate the buzz of a top six forward or a top pairing defenseman, but depth is an important part of team success. It was a key for teams that made it into the playoffs and advanced.

"Look at the teams that have gone through the playoffs here, they use a lot of their people,” Nieuwendyk said. “You look at a team like Tampa Bay, and guys like Adam Hall, [Sean] Bergenheim, and Dominic Moore. You can go through a lot of teams. “

The Boston Bruins, for example. Depth was a key factor in their drive to the 2011 Stanley Cup. Players like Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell were key contributors. That depth helped them overcome some key injuries.

Depth was an issue for the Stars last season. It was exposed when the Stars were hit hard by injuries. During the stretch drive, as the Stars tried to get into the playoffs, they relied on their top-end players heavily. Nieuwendyk doesn’t want to go there again. He wants the Stars to be able to use a lot of players, which over the course of a long season likely will pay dividends.

“One of the things last year, I felt our depth was not good," said Nieuwendyk. “We need to work on those third and fourth line guys. ... I think the key is to have enough people to play so that you’re not asking Jamie Benn to play 24 minutes a night. That doesn’t work anymore. I firmly believe you’ve got to use a lot of your people, so depth is important to me.”

While this year’s free agent pool is thin on high-end talent, there should be several players available who could help the Stars in the depth department.

Adding a top six forward and bolstering the defense also are the agenda. Trades are always an option, but right now the focus in on free agency.

Up front, the Stars have Mike Ribeiro, Brenden Morrow, Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn, who likely will play center, as top six forwards. There’s the belief Steve Ott could fill a spot in the top six, but there is still a hole to fill.

On defense, the Stars bolstered the blue line last season with the addition of Alex Goligoski. But right now there are two open roster spots on defense that the Stars need to fill.

The Stars have about $38 million committed in both salary cap costs and actual salary with about six or seven roster spots open. They need to spend about $10 million just to get to the salary cap floor, but Nieuwendyk said the team’s budget will actually allow them to spend above the floor.

So while there is money to spend, the Stars don’t want to be reckless. That’s especially true in a year when the free agent class is pretty thin.

“We still have to be selective and smart,” said Nieuwendyk.

Market thins

What was already a thin free agent market got thinner Thursday, especially on defense. Christian Ehrhoff signed a 10-year, $40 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres acquired Ehrhoff’s rights from the New York Islanders, who had acquired them from the Vancouver Canucks.

Not long after Ehrhoff went of the market, the Detroit Red Wings locked up Jonathan Ericsson to a three-year, $9.75 million deal. Ericsson, who was due to become an unrestricted free agent on Friday, had been expected to stay with Detroit.

Carolina signed forward Jussi Jokinen to a three-year, $9 million deal, keeping him from hitting the market at 11 a.m. (CT) Friday.

Dallas free agents

The official list of free agents will be released by the NHL on Friday, but here’s an unofficial list of Dallas’ free agents as free agency approaches.

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Please feel free to send us any comments or feedback.