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NHL Free Agency Opens

The offseason outlook for the Stars and Mavericks is quite the contrast as free agency begins tonight in their respective leagues. The Mavs have no cap room but all of the desire in the world to add to their roster. The Stars have plenty of cap room - among the most in the NHL - but have no interest in adding talent to their roster. That is the result of Tom Hicks' past sins. As Mike Heika says, the biggest question for the Stars is how much of their lottery team they can even keep together:

With a $45 million internal budget and barely enough room to keep their own restricted free agents, the Stars will not be a player in NHL free agency when it opens today.

Nieuwendyk's hands are tied. He has committed money to raises for players such as Loui Eriksson ($1.7 million to $3.2 million), Steve Ott ($1.5 million to $2.1 million) and Stephane Robidas ($1.5 million to $3.25 million) and still has key restricted free agents to sign in James Neal and Nicklas Grossman. The Stars are for sale, and until a new owner takes over, there is no money to spend.

Thus, a team that has missed the playoffs the last two years probably will be picked to miss the playoffs again next season.

While the specter of free agency is not exciting, Brad Gardner has an excellent rundown of just how much money the Stars are leaving on the table, what they need to do with their own roster, and what their limited options to add talent from outside the organization will be. Among the items on that list will be retaining James Neal:

James Neal: The burgeoning power forward had a sensation rookie season and then backed it up with even better numbers in his sophomore campaign. He's a nearly proven 25 goal scorer who is looking for a long term deal rather than the bridge contract the Stars want him to take. He is only 22 years old but believed to be looking for a deal in the $4 million/year range. Could take a look at offer sheets. Stars would get drat pick compensation (a 1st and a 3rd) if their budget leaves them unable to match.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.