Depth can be the difference between a Stanley Cup contender and a Stanley Cup Champion.
Cliche or not, hard-working bottom-six players often produce big moments for the teams playing hockey into June.
For the Dallas Stars, a team trying to prove it’s more than a regular-season power, this summer will define that depth with Travis Moen, Vernon Fiddler, Patrick Eaves, and Colton Sceviour all set to become unrestricted free agents.
And consider Dallas likely won’t carry eight defensemen like it did this past season.
That created a messy situation that hurt the development of Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth, while it created a glass ceiling for AHL players that was only broken when Jason Demers was hurt and the Stars were able to get around roster limitations in the playoffs.
With that in in mind, Dallas will likely carry seven defensemen this season and leave room for 14 forwards on the roster.
And with Brett Ritchie’s signing earlier this week the Stars now have 11 forwards under contract. With restricted free agent Valeri Nichuskin likely to sign soon, Dallas already has a dozen NHL forwards without Moen, Fiddler, Eaves, and Sceviour.
Barring another move this summer (which, knowing GM Jim Nill, isn’t out of the realm of possibility), the Stars would likely sign two of the four UFAs to fill out their forward ranks.
And of the four options available, the Stars should focus on signing Eaves and Sceviour.
Moen only appeared in 23 regular season games this past season, while he appeared in six playoff games before dealing with a postseason-ending broken wrist against the St. Louis Blues.
The winger brought rare playoff experience to the Stars’ locker room (he scored the Cup-clinching goal for the Anaheim Ducks in 2007) this past season.
However, at 34 years old, Moen doesn’t provide significant value over a younger and cheaper option in Curtis McKenzie — who could either be a fourth-line winger or 13th forward for the Stars.
Fiddler didn’t miss a game this season for Dallas, but depth down the middle and soon-to-be ready prospects should end the 36-year-old center’s tenure in Dallas.
Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Cody Eakin, and Radek Faksa are all signed and should create a formidable foursome at center ice, while prospects Jason Dickinson and Devin Shore will be pushing for an NHL roster spot. In addition Mattias Janmark can play center or wing, while the Stars have a nice insurance policy in case of injury in AHL centers Travis Morin and Justin Dowling.
Eaves, 32, dealt with injuries this past season as he appeared in 54 regular season games and he registered 17 points (11 goals, six assists) — which could have been just 14 points if you take away one improbable first-period hat trick against the Chicago Blackhawks in February.
Eaves is a solid penalty killer, and is one of Dallas’ more responsible forwards in the defensive zones. Eaves also has a versatility factor to play both in the top-six or bottom-six, while he can play on the power play and provide more lineup options for Stars’ coach Lindy Ruff.
Sceviour is the youngest of the bunch at 27, and is an underrated product of the Stars AHL system. In 71 regular season games the winger had 23 points, while he also filled a role on the penalty kill and the second power play unit.
And Sceviour should have the most-cap friendly contract for Dallas. He made $700,000 this past season, and even with a slight raise the Alberta native isn’t expected to demand more than a $1 million per season like the other three UFAs.