While we have been overrun with the Mike Modano talk these days, there are other issues coming up with free agency opening on Thursday. Here is Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk on several subjects:
On where the Stars stand in terms of going after unrestricted free agents:
``It's safe to say we're not going to be a big player in free agency, just as we weren't last year. But even though July 1 is the deadline, if we can do something that makes sense (later) we'll do it.''
How are negotiations going with restricted free agents James Neal and Nicklas Grossman:
``We're continuing talking to Neal and Grossman's agents. Those are important issues. But again, it has to make sense, and certainly you don't want to overpay. James Neal, we feel is going to be a big part of it, but we want to make sure we do the right thing, much like Loui Eriksson where we did a bridge contract. And with Grossi, as well, we view him as an important part and we have to find common ground.''
Do you worry about a restricted free agent offer sheet for James Neal? They have been rare, but he is the type of player that a team could target:
``They have been rare, and I realize that threat potentially is there, but it certainly doesn't stop us from doing what's right.''
How are talks going with Jere Lehtinen. Is he closer to a decision on retiring or not:
``I communicated with Jere right before he went back to Finland and I sent him an e-mail last night. In his mind, he's no closer to making a decision on this. Maybe now that we're into July, he might feel better.''
How about the decision to sign enforcer Krys Barch to a two-year contract extension:
``Well, Barchy is a guy I felt strongly about. Barchy is a guy who I think is a strong leader and will be important going forward without a guy like Mike (Modano) in the locker room.''
Do you have a philosophy in your system? You have given raises to players like Toby Petersen, Brian Sutherby and Barch when you have 22-year-old players who could play in their positions for league minimum. Is that a trend?
``Ideally, we'd like to get to the point where we have a stockpile of young prospects who can take those positions, but we aren't there yet. And if you go to free agency, you risk overpaying. With the guys we have we know the type of character they have and we know they are top quality people, and we like those type of people in our locker room.''
Where do you see Fabian Brunnstrom fitting in this year?
``I had a terrific meeting with Fabian at the end of the year. I know it was a difficult situation for him, but he is a guy at the end of the day who has skill and has size. I know he didn't show it last year, but he said it to me, `I'm going to come in here and show people.' To have his skill around, and with Mike (Modano) going out, it's not a bad thing.''