Could Dallas be a big player this week?
For all the rumors and speculation being bandied about, things have been awfully quiet out of Dallas over the last week or so.
And perhaps that’s intentional.
Last year, his first on the job, Stars GM Jim Nill let his actions to the talking -- he acquired the rights to Sergei Gonchar and inked him to a $10 million deal, orchestrated the Tyler Seguin blockbuster and acquired Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff within weeks of being on the job.
The result? Dallas made the playoffs for the first time in five seasons and Nill received four first-place votes as NHL GM of the Year.
Nill should be watched with great interest as he readies for an encore performance. Calgary GM Brad Treliving has already tabbed this as “volatile of a draft week as we’ve seen in recent memory,” and it’s clear all 30 NHL clubs hold the potential to do something big.
Earlier this week, PHT spoke with Jarret Bousquet of Titan Management, the agent for Dallas defenseman Brenden Dillon and forward Cody Eakin. While he did confirm he’s spoken with Nill about new deals for both clients -- Dillon and Eakin are pending RFAs -- it sounds as though extensions aren’t imminent as the Stars are intently focused on the draft and UFAs right now.
Makes sense, given how Dallas is positioned at the moment.
Nill’s spent this offseason mostly clearing the decks -- he used one of the club’s two compliance buyouts on defenseman Aaron Rome and informed veterans Ray Whitney and Tim Thomas they wouldn’t be brought back. The Stars also made an offer to versatile center Vern Fiddler, which was rejected as he plans to test free agency.
As such, Dallas now has 15 players under contract for next season at around $48 million -- meaning it has roughly $22 million in available space. Nill has played coy about what sort of budget he’s working with (“We’re not a cap team or a floor team,” he told the Dallas Morning News) and it’s clear from last summer he’s got the green light to be aggressive and make big moves.
At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning the guy who signs Nill’s cheques -- Dallas owner Tom Gaglardi. This past year was Gaglardi’s first full 82-game season as owner since purchasing the club in November of 2011 and while snapping the club’s playoff drought pleased him, Gaglardi sees it more as the first step in turning things around. He hasn’t been shy about doing whatever it takes to accelerate that process -- from the new uniforms to aggressive ticket marketing plans to reconnecting with the club’s history (remember the epic Mike Modano jersey retirement ceremony?) -- and he re-iterated as much following the team’s opening-round loss to Anaheim.
“It was a special moment, because I know how important it is to make the playoffs, and the fans know that too,” Gaglardi explained. “That’s the first step, and you want to take it as soon as possible, because everything gets accelerated after that.”
So yeah. Maybe keep an eye on Dallas this week.