GM Joe targeting top 6 forward, defense and depth

FRISCO, Texas -- GM Joe Nieuwendyk said adding top six forward, a top defenseman and improving his team's depth are on the agenda as he looks forward to putting together the 2011-12 version of the Dallas Stars.

“I think our first hurdle is to find out what our budget will be and we don’t have that number yet. We should know that soon,” Nieuwendyk said.

Either way, the Stars did have permission to try to sign Brad Richards to extension during this past season, so there is money available.

“By them giving us the ability to go out and sign Brad it says that our payroll will be higher. So we’ll have some money to play with. Some of that will be allocated to the bumps in salaries that we have,” he said. “We’re looking at free agency, we have our list and the guys initially we want to target. There’s money to be spent and players to go get.”

It’s money that can be used to acquire players in free agency, which will not be particularly strong as far as top end talent, or via trade. Right now, the Stars have 17 likely roster players under contract for about $38 million. Last year they spent around $46 million to $47 million.

One of the priorities for 2011-12 is a top six forward with it becoming clear now that Richards will hit the free agent market and will not be back with the team. Nieuwendyk said that top six forward might come through a trade rather than overspending on one in free agency.

“I think we need a top 6 forward with Brad obviously moving on,” Nieuwendyk said. “Jamie [Benn] shifting to center is a very likely scenario. It’s not 100 percent set in stone yet. If you’ve Benner and Loui [Eriksson] and you’ve got [Mike Ribeiro] and Brenden [Morrow], there’s your top two (lines)and you fill in around them.”

While adding Alex Goligoski at last season’s trade deadline was a major boost to the defense, Nieuwendyk said adding a top defenseman is a focus as well.

“We’d like to improve our defense for sure,” he said. “Again, it may be through trade.”

Depth is another priority. It’s an area that hurt the Stars last season and something that has paid dividends for teams that have gone deep in the playoffs.

“One of the things last year, I felt our depth was not good. You look at the teams that have gone through the playoffs here, they use a lot of their people,” Nieuwendyk said. “We need to work on those third and fourth line guys.”

Dallas’ free agents

Nieuwendyk said the Stars haven’t made any decisions on the team’s own unrestricted free agents.

“We’ve talked to them briefly,” Nieuwendyk said. “[Assistant GM] Frank [Provenzano] has reached out to each one of them. We’ve asked them to be patient and in a holding pattern.”

The Stars GM said some will not be back and there’s a possibility some could return. Among the team’s key unrestricted free agents are: RW Jamie Langenbrunner, LW Brian Sutherby, RW Brandon Segal, RW Jason Williams, D Karlis Skrastins and D Jeff Woywitka.

Coaching search update

There’s not much new on the search for a head coach. Nieuwendyk has met with Texas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan, Montreal assistant Kirk Muller, Nashville assistant Peter Horachek and former Stars, Flyers and Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock.

“All were impressive,” Nieuwendyk said. “Ideally, I’d like to have it done by the draft but even more certainly by free agency.”

Nieuwendyk said getting it done by free agency is important because as the Stars start talking to free agents those players will want to know who is coaching the team.