Jason Demers (Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
Dallas Stars defenseman Jason Demers set a career-high with seven goals in 2015-16 and averaged the highest ice time of his career. He wants to turn that into a healthy raise in free agency, but it could mean he’s forced out of Dallas.
The Stars have already had to part ways with one of their top defenseman, Alex Goligoski, because the free agent-to-be couldn’t come to terms on a contract with Dallas. Goligoski may be joined as a Stars cast off, though, as it appears Jason Demers could be on his way out of Texas, as well.
The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle reported that Demers’ free agency ask is somewhere in the $5.5 million per season range, which would be hard for the Stars to carry going forward. Coming off of a seven-goal, 23-point season in which he averaged nearly 21 minutes of ice time per night, that seems like a steep asking price for Demers, but it’s one that he could potentially have met on the open market. It could also be a simple negotiating strategy for Demers — start high, and hope you can find some middle-ground.
This past season, Demers carried a $3.4-million cap hit, but his actual salary was $3.65 million. An increase of two million seems unlikely, but even more unlikely considering the Stars aren’t in a position to be handing that type of raise out.
At present — before any potential increase in the salary cap — the Stars have roughly $13.75 million in cap space. Signing Demers at even $5 million per season would mean Dallas has $8.75 million to fill at least another two or three roster spots. That’s a lot of money this season, sure, but this isn’t a one-off ‘Season Mode’ in an EA Sports video game. Stars GM Jim Nill has to be conscious of what’s to come.
Captain Jamie Benn, Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky and Johnny Oduya are set to become unrestricted free agents next season, and Radek Faksa, Brett Ritchie, Mattias Janmark and Patrik Nemeth set for restricted free agency ahead of 2017-18. Because of that, the Stars are going to need to keep some cap space open for next season.
If the Stars can’t find a compromise with Demers, though, it’s going to hurt an already rocky-at-times blueline. Demers faced off against quality opponents this past season and he was one of the best play-driving defensemen the up-tempo Stars had.
That said, Stephen Johns looks ready to slot into a full-time NHL role and Julius Honka put up 11 goals and 44 points in 73 games with AHL Texas this past season. The 2014 14th-overall pick might be ready for his Stars debut after two years’ worth of seasoning with Dallas’ farm club.