Published June 27, 2011
DALLAS -- Last week was a busy one for Dallas Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. A week ago Monday, he introduced Glen Gulutzan as the 21st head coach in franchise history, just days before he and other organizational brass ventured to the Twin Cities for the 2011 Entry Draft.
With the 14th pick in the opening round, which they used to take hulking defenseman Jamieson Oleksiak, the Stars addressed one major need in their system, quality blueliners. With the draft now in the books, like every other GM in the League, Nieuwendyk now shifts his focus toward free agency, which begins on July 1.
"We have to be in the game. With the floor at 48 [million], we have to be in the game," Nieuwendyk said. "Our philosophy hasn't changed. Even though we're still in this situation that we're in [with a lack of ownership], we're not going to be stupid either on July 1. When you look at free agency and the crop of players, with no disrespect to them, it's probably not as [strong as] it has been in other years."
Dallas' most glaring needs include a center as well as adding some defensive depth. All-Star center Brad Richards has been the cog of the Stars' offense the last few years but he becomes a free agent on July 1 and won't be returning.
The Stars improved their defensive core last year with the acquisition of Alex Goligoski from Pittsburgh prior to the deadline but they still need another defenseman to bolster their ranks even further.
Nieuwendyk is well aware that some teams overpay early on in free agency, a practice he hopes to avoid unless it's an offer too good to pass up.
"It's very easy to overpay, but we want to be smart with our overpayments if that's the case," he said. "If that player is a player that we feel we're comfortable paying that to and fits in well with what we're doing in our locker room, we'll jump on that."
But he's not about to ignore his club's other needs to focus solely on bringing in a new center or defenseman.
"We need to look at players that aren't as sexy as that dollar-wise as well, third- and fourth-line guys that fit for what we're trying to do and sometimes you have to overpay for them as well," Nieuwendyk said. "As much as we want to talk about the guy who can score us 30, 40 goals a year, those guys are very important on the third and fourth lines as well. We're really taking a good focus on those guys as well. We need some support on the third and fourth lines."
Even though it's already been a busy offseason with the whole coaching search and the draft, the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner and other club officials have been busy preparing for free agency.
"I think that there are guys there that we are interested in. We've had several meetings about it and have prioritized those guys that we'll go after," Nieuwendyk said. "They're in both positions -- defense and forwards. A lot of our top-six forwards are coming back. Brad Richards is going away. But I think Steve Ott is capable of doing more to help us out in that regard and he's determined to be part of that."
However, the Dallas GM has something to contend with that most of his colleagues do not: ownership issues. That lack of a new owner has hampered the club on several fronts, but the man calling the shots in Frisco isn't about to use that as an excuse for not getting some players signed in free agency.
"Well, it has been a challenge. I think everybody realizes that but the one thing I'll say is that we've never used it as an excuse," Nieuwendyk said. "Moving forward, we are going to have a new owner. We're going to be poised and in position to make some noise. If you want to look at cap space and numbers like that, we're well positioned to move forward once we get everything resolved."