10 questions facing the Dallas Stars this season: What can they do with the money freed by Martin Hanzal?

Ahead of Dallas Stars training camp opening on Sept. 13, The News is examining 10 questions facing the team this season. This is the second installment.

9. What can the Stars do with the
money freed by Martin Hanzal?

Martin Hanzal’s career in a Stars uniform has been underwhelming since he signed a three-year contract with a $4.75 million cap hit two summers ago. But he may not be done giving to the Stars. Or, more accurately, his contract may not be gone giving to the Stars.

When the season starts, Hanzal is expected to go on long-term injured reserve since his chronic back injuries have stopped him from playing hockey. He played just seven games last season (and 38 the year before) but none after Christmas as the Stars placed him on LTIR to free up cap space to trade for Mats Zuccarello. The Stars could face a similar situation this season.

While the rules surrounding LTIR are complicated, and depending on factors like the club’s overall cap hit and potential performance bonuses from callups, the overarching idea is that the Stars can use much but not all of Hanzal’s $4.75 million cap hit to add to their team during the season. (The club could not during the offseason because it has to be under the cap when the season starts.)

In addition to Hanzal making room for Zuccarello last year, the team moved Marc Methot to LTIR to trade for Jamie Oleksiak in January.

The Stars have shown a penchant for creating space via LTIR to trade for players, and with their Stanley Cup window open, this season could provide another chance for them to do so.

Predicting future trade targets can be troublesome five weeks before the season even begins because the uncertainty of a team’s needs, the status as a contender for teams around the league, possible extensions for expiring contracts, injuries and modified no-trade clauses.

But given those caveats, here’s a partial list of pending unrestricted free agents whose cap hit is between $4 million and $5 million:

• Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie
• Rangers winger Chris Kreider
• Kings winger Tyler Toffoli
• Predators winger Craig Smith
• Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov
• Rangers winger Vladislav Namestnikov
• Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin

For a team like the Stars — a contending team at the salary cap that potentially addressed its biggest needs up front in the offseason — perhaps Hanzal’s money is used to make multiple smaller trades to tweak the roster instead of chase a medium-sized fish.

Hanzal’s absence (the Stars even gave his No. 11 to Andrew Cogliano and listed him on the roster as No. 40) doesn’t figure to affect the Stars much since they played so much without him last season. Tyler Seguin, Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, Radek Faksa and Jason Dickinson can all play center adequately, and the group gives Jim Montgomery enough matchup options, especially on the road.

10 questions facing the Stars this season

10. Which prospects can make an impact?
9. What can the Stars do with the money freed by Martin Hanzal?

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