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Stars free agent targets: A look at budget options if Dallas acquires Ryan Suter

On Tuesday, the Stars pushed forward in their pursuit of Suter, hoping to get a deal done by the time free agency rolled around on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the Stars should have a clearer indication of what next year’s roster will look like.

The NHL’s free agency period opens at 11 a.m., and the Stars are expected to be in the market for a top-four defenseman and a depth forward, even despite limited available cap space. Dallas has been looking for a top-four defenseman throughout the offseason, and appears to have zeroed in on Ryan Suter as its main target.

The Stars lost Jamie Oleksiak to Seattle during the expansion draft, as he was wooed to the West Coast by a lucrative five-year contract worth $4.6 million annually. Dallas also missed out on acquiring Seth Jones from Columbus, as both the cost of acquisition and the cost of a contract extension were too rich for the Stars.

On Tuesday, the Stars pushed forward in their pursuit of Suter, hoping to get a deal done by the time free agency rolled around on Wednesday. Suter, 36, is a left-handed defenseman that was recently bought out by Minnesota, which will pay him $833,333 each year for the next eight seasons.

Suter is a minutes-eater who has averaged 25:02 of ice time per game across his 1,198 NHL games with Nashville and Minnesota. He has finished in the top 10 in Norris Trophy voting six times, but not since 2016-17.

If the Stars choose to splurge on Suter (maybe his cap hit lands around $4 million?), they will not have much money to sign a depth forward to flesh out their lineup. But there are budget options out there for Dallas should that be the case:

Ryan Getzlaf

Apr 21, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (15) skates against the Dallas Stars during the third period in game three of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center. The Stars shut out the Ducks 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 21, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (15) skates against the Dallas Stars during the third period in game three of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center. The Stars shut out the Ducks 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports(Jerome Miron - USA TODAY Sports)

Stars general manager Jim Nill has a history of signing aging forwards that have spent their entire career with one team. He lured Joe Pavelski from San Jose and Corey Perry from Anaheim, and perhaps Getzlaf, 36, fits the mold of a veteran trying to find a possible contender to skip to.

Getzlaf is coming off the worst season of his career in Anaheim, when he posted 17 points in 41 games, a 29-point pace in a normal 82-game season. His previous worst was a 49-point pace in 2019-20. Getzlaf is a 6-4 right-handed center known for his play-making ability.

Tyler Bozak

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 2:  Tyler Bozak #42 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his goal against the Dallas Stars during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 2, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 2: Tyler Bozak #42 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his goal against the Dallas Stars during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 2, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)(Claus Andersen - Getty Images)

Bozak, 35, is another veteran option that may be available for cheap after a 17-point season with the Blues last season. He spent the first nine seasons of his career in Toronto before winning a Cup with St. Louis in 2019. Bozak can kill penalties, a potential need with the loss of Jason Dickinson and the (presumed) departure of Andrew Cogliano.

Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 15:  Kyle Palmieri #21 of the New Jersey Devils skates the puck against the Dallas Stars during overtime at American Airlines Center on November 15, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 15: Kyle Palmieri #21 of the New Jersey Devils skates the puck against the Dallas Stars during overtime at American Airlines Center on November 15, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

In recent years, Zajac and Palmieri have been perpetually linked as teammates in New Jersey before they were traded to the Islanders together last year. Zajac, 36, is the older of the two and is more of a passer than Palmieri, who has scored 25 goals four times in his career.

Pius Suter

Chicago Blackhawks center Pius Suter (24) celebrates his game winning goal scored with Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Hagel (38) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Ian Mitchell (51) at American Airlines Center on Tuesday, February 9, 2021in Dallas. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 in overtime. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)
Chicago Blackhawks center Pius Suter (24) celebrates his game winning goal scored with Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Hagel (38) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Ian Mitchell (51) at American Airlines Center on Tuesday, February 9, 2021in Dallas. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 in overtime. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)(Vernon Bryant / Staff Photographer)

The Blackhawks did not issue a qualifying offer to Suter on Monday, making him an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday. Suter, 25, was a rookie last year and was one of Chicago’s bright spots up front with 14 goals and 13 assists while finishing 11th in Calder Trophy voting. Given his age, he should get widespread interest from the league, including a possible deal with terms.

Michael Bunting

Bunting is a Group 6 UFA after not playing the required number of games with Arizona for the Coyotes to retain his negotiating rights, and became an attractive name by scoring 10 goals in 21 NHL games. He has spent parts of six seasons in the AHL, and figures to be a risky acquisition given his limited success in the NHL.

Nikita Gusev

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) skates away as New Jersey Devils center Kevin Rooney (16) celebrates with left wing Nikita Gusev (97) after Gusev scored a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) skates away as New Jersey Devils center Kevin Rooney (16) celebrates with left wing Nikita Gusev (97) after Gusev scored a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)(Kathy Willens)

Gusev is a bit of an unknown at this stage of his career after arriving in the NHL after a prolific career in the KHL. He debuted with a 44-point season with New Jersey in 2019-20, but was waived last year and had 10 points in 31 games split between the Devils and Panthers.

Tomas Tatar

Tatar’s stock is low after he was a healthy scratch during Montreal’s postseason run, but he has been a consistent 20-goals scorer in the NHL. At the right price, could be a bounceback candidate next year.

Find more Stars coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

In This Story

Matthew DeFranks. Matt covers the Stars for SportsDay, and previously covered the Florida Panthers for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He's also covered college football, the Miami Marlins, the Kansas City Royals and the Los Angeles Angels for a variety of outlets. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame.

matthew.defranks@dallasnews.com /mdefranks @MDeFranks
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