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Stars should learn from Sabres’ free-spending blunders

Feb 29, 2012, 8:31 PM EDT

Edmonton Oilers v Dallas Stars Getty Images

Times have been pretty lean for the Dallas Stars franchise ever since Tom Hicks spread his (former) sports empire a little too thin. The impact of those times can be seen in the often-barren stands during games that aren’t against marquee teams like tonight’s match with the Pittsburgh Penguins (currently on NBC Sports Network).

This statement will probably raise some eyebrows considering box office woes and a playoff drought, then: the Stars have done a lot of right amid all their marketplace struggles.

With Brad Richards‘ robust contract off the books, the Stars’ roster is a model of efficiency:

  • All-Star-caliber forward Loui Eriksson is making a bargain $4.25 million per year through 2015-16, easily on my short list of the best deals in the league.
  • Kari Lehtonen is one of the most leaned-upon and valuable goalies in the NHL, yet he’s making a relative pittance at $3.55 million cap hit-wise.
  • In a league full of expensive blueline collections, the Stars’ highest paid guys are Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley at a reasonable $3.33 million per season.
  • Mike Ribeiro might float here and there and Brenden Morrow hasn’t been healthy this year, but they’re still two quality forwards who are making exactly what they should be.
  • Joe Nieuwendyk’s off-season moves have been deft strokes of bargain basement genius.

Michael Ryder has been a fantastic fit in a straightforward sniping role. Eric Nystrom will be a villain in Pittsburgh after his hit on Kris Letang (more on that very soon), but he’s been a huge waiver wire steal. Sheldon Souray, Vernon Fiddler and even Radek Dvorak have all been useful-to-fantastic here and there.

Room to improve

Naturally, things aren’t perfect in Dallas or the team wouldn’t be in another tooth-and-nail struggle for the playoffs.

That cheap defense will get more expensive when Alex Goligoski‘s $4.6 million cap hit kicks in and they need a little of everything in that area. Jamie Benn will cost a ton of cash to re-sign after a gutty, impressive All-Star season. One way or another, the Stars need to find a way to re-gain the hearts of fickle Dallas sports fans.

(My suggestion: make everyone wear Mike Modano masks!)

Keep the trigger finger from getting too itchy

Still, hopefully having a more stable ownership situation won’t equal the kind of spending sprees that GM Joe Nieuwendyk has skillfully avoided in his underrated time in Dallas.

Nieuwendyk and new owner Tom Gaglardi need only to look to Terry Pegula’s ill-fated shopping frenzy as evidence that you don’t have to spend all that new money in one place.

  1. travishenryskid - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    This headline is a little misinformed. Leino was a mistake, but that’s the only issue the Sabres had in free spending. Ehrhoff has been arguably the Sabres top defenseman along with Myers. If anything, the Sabres are in far better shape then they have been since Drury and Briere were here. They have 4 absolute studs from the 2008 draft in Hodgson, Myers, Ennis and Adam and have 4 draft picks in the top 50. This team is set up to make MAJOR moves that will make them good for years to come. It wouldn’t have been possible without the assets that Pegula brought to the table.

    • danphipps01 - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:40 PM

      Sure, if you look at it that way. Most people prefer to look at reality, though – this was a team the owner and GM intended to have compete for the Cup this year, and right now the best you can offer is “Oh, at least our rebuild is looking strong!” as they implode spectacularly and fail to even make the postseason. Sure, they’ll be good in a few years, hopefully. But saying that and pretending it was the plan all along is just silly. Everyone, including the man signing the cheques, expected a playoff powerhouse this year. What they got was a laughingstock.

      Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you on their future prospects. This team WILL look pretty impressive in future. It’s just, they weren’t supposed to look good in three or four years. They were supposed to look good now.

      • ptatu5 - Mar 1, 2012 at 1:00 AM

        the owner said 3 years for a cup..and for a reason gotta drop off the dead weight players open cap space and grow within all of which is perfectly set up now…and as for leino its his first year with the team where he is getting better every game it took vanek what 4 years to earn his pay?

  2. pftbillsfan - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:20 PM

    why jab the Sabres without actually mentioning them in the article.

  3. cup0pizza - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    Go Stars! Nieuwendyk has been doing a great job amid the chaos. Young team that’s been playing with passion. Also some young guys in the system coming soon to really be excited about. Bright future.

  4. Stiller43 - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    They should learn how not to lose to the pens!

  5. mydadyourmom - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    Pisspoor article at best.

  6. riles1008 - Feb 29, 2012 at 11:22 PM

    One thing the Sabres did do when throwing away money on Leino is give word to the NHL the Sabres are buying free agents from here on out. Because prior to that for quite some time we weren’t. Pegula is rich enough where he could ship Leino to Europe just like he has done with Kotalik, remove the cap from the team and just throw his money away to Leino overseas.

  7. buffalomafia - Mar 1, 2012 at 12:46 AM

    Buffalo= mediocrity

  8. pftbillsfan - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:24 AM

    the sabres issues are not the contracts awarded this offseason. Its nearly 30 mill in bad money spent by Darcy. Roy, Stafford, Kotalik, Sekera, thats 15.5 without looking at capgeek. Leino will be fine and Erhoff would be the number 1 if it weren’t for Myers.

  9. riles1008 - Mar 1, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    Sekera is a good sign. One of our strongest defenseman this year with loads of offensive talent. Stafford coming off his great year last year where he stepped up bigtime and had 30 goals, not play great this year but he’s been stuck with leino most the time. Kotaliks contract was a forced inherit from Calgary in the regeher trade. His salary isn’t even on the books because we sent him to Europe and are paying him his contract. This is a team that’s the made the playoffs every but 2 in the last 15. This year is by far not what everyone expected but since we’ve been healthy we’ve played as good as any team in the east. Two OT losses to the rangers, beat Pitt 6-2 and just shutout Anaheim in Cali, one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

  10. riles1008 - Mar 1, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    Regier was also stripped of spending when golisano took over. Golisano ran the team like a business looking to gain a profit. He’s drafted some great players. Myers miller vanek Roy pominville and scouts agree the sabres are stacked in the
    Minors. Having to resign sekera stafford Gerbe and finding leino is tough in a year where forwards weren’t deep in free agency.

  11. pftbillsfan - Mar 1, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    Wow your facts are WAY off. Sabres have missed the playoffs 6 times in the last 12 years. Also Sekera is awful and a healthy scratch alot. Stafford has had one 30+ goal season EVER, juniors and college included, he is way overpaid. I like spirited debate but lets use facts.

  12. riles1008 - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    Well considering sekera hasn’t been a healthy scratch in at least the last 80 games plus, your fact he sucks and is a healthy scratch a lot has no bearing. As for stafford maybe you should re-read that I said “coming off a 30 goal season where he stepped up big.” stafford had a great year last year with Roy out and played the best he’s had his whole career. A young player with a breakout year like that typically deserves a pay bump. My stat on missed playoffs was a mistype, my apologies. You yourself made the mistake of accusing regier of the Kotalik contract (which the rangers originally signed him to that we inherited in the regeher trade) that isn’t even counting against our cap this year because he’s in Europe. If anyone needs to be blamed and go to me it’s ruff. I agree he’s a great coach, but sometimes a franchise needs a reboot. Look at Washington and Boudreau, firing him they are playing way better and he takes over Anaheim they are playing great. Peter Laviolette got fired by Carolina 2.5 seasons after a cup and Ruff still has a job .

  13. metroplexfrog - Mar 2, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    Nieuwy has done a good job retooling the Stars. They’re not far from being a really good team now and with a couple of good moves they’ll be right there.

  14. Andee - Mar 2, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Seriously have no idea how that headline was chosen without mentioning Buffalo at least once.

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