The Stars will have plenty of adversity to face this season. They’ll look to replace their leading scorer and top-line center. They’ll look to rebound from a season that saw them waste a playoff opportunity on the final day of the season. And they’ll look to do it all while breaking in a brand new coach. All the sudden, the naysayers and doomsday predictors look like they may have a point. It looks like it could be an uphill battle for the boys from Big D.
But one thing that won’t hamper the Stars is their precarious ownership situation. It’s no secret that Tom Gaglardi has every intention of purchasing the Stars as soon as he can get approval from the courts and the debtors that are owned money in the bankruptcy case. All parties involve assume the sale will be settled sometime during the first half of the NHL season—in ownership time, that’s not bad at all. Just ask the Phoenix Coyotes. But until then, there was some concern that GM Joe Nieuwendyk and the Dallas Stars front-office would not be unable to make the moves they wanted to because of the delicate ownership situation. The fear was that the team wouldn’t acquire any additional payroll before the sale was completed and a new owner was in place.
Joe Nieuwendyk is here to ease all fears. GM Nieuwendyk told Fan 960 in Calgary that the drawn-out sale process hasn’t affected the Stars and what they’ve wanted to do this offseason (via ESPN Dallas):
“…Obviously we’re going through this sale process and it is taking probably longer than any of us had anticipated. It is moving. I know that speaking with the league this thing will get resolved this season, prior to Christmas. It’s just been a long process. The good thing is it hasn’t taken away from anything what our team has been able to do. We increased our budget and went after players that could fill roles on our team and help us. We added seven players this summer and I feel really good about our team. We’ve been able to keep our off-ice issues away from the locker room and I think the guys are excited about the upcoming season.”
There’s a difference between a team having their hands tied and being fiscally responsible. No team with an internal budget was going to be able to afford Brad Richards and his contract demands. Not only was it an exorbitant price tag for one player, but it also would have limited the resources for management to piece together a competitive 23-man roster. The Stars weren’t the only team that was out of the Brad Richards sweepstakes before July 1.
Just because the Stars failed to re-sign Richards doesn’t mean that they sat on the sidelines and watched as other teams snatched up free agents. All in all, the Stars acquired six new players to improve the team’s overall depth. None of the newcomers are going to make fans forget about Brad Richards, but they should help the Stars roll four lines for the first time in years. Michael Ryder, Vernon Fiddler, Sheldon Souray, Radek Dvorak, Adam Pardy, and Jake Dowell all were acquired by the Stars to help transform the Stars into the two-way team that new head coach Glen Gulutzen envisions next season.
The bad news is that even though the Stars increased their payroll this season, they still have the 25th ranked payroll in the NHL (they’ll most likely be 26th after Winnipeg re-signs Zach Bogosian). While there are contenders pressed firmly up against the salary cap, the Stars have a full roster and they’re still $14.4 million under the limit. Each team in the competitive Pacific Division has a more expensive payroll—even the budget conscious Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes. Again, it will be an uphill battle this season.
GM Joe Nieuwendyk may say that he’s been free to conduct business as usual—but fans in Dallas have to hope the budget will increase once the new owner is in place.