Unrestricted free agent Cameron Gaunce hasn’t ruled out re-signing with the Dallas Stars this summer.
“Things have been very good with Dallas. I continue to appreciate what they’ve done and are still doing for me,” Gaunce said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We’re on good terms and we’re still talking. I believe it’ll be one of the team teams we have serious discussions with.”
“We both kind of understand where I stand with them,” Gaunce continued. “And I’m completely fine with that. Because of that, we’ll probably continue dialogue with them throughout this process.”
The 24-year-old defenseman has let his agent lead all conversations with teams, and he is well aware he probably won’t be signing a contract tomorrow when unrestricted free agents can start signing at 11 a.m. central (noon eastern).
“If teams have called so far it’s just kicking the tires. It probably means I’m about fourth or fifth on their list of priorities,” Gaunce said. “So there’s not point in discussing serious matters until that starts to fill out.”
Gaunce is looking for an NHL opportunity, but he’s also willing to accept an AHL leadership role. If he signs with Dallas, it’ll likely be the latter.
On Monday, Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill said he currently has 11 defensemen under contract that he would “feel comfortable with” playing in an NHL game. Eight of those players will be in the NHL, another three will be in the AHL with Texas.
That doesn’t leave much room for Gaunce’s upward mobility and an NHL opportunity with Dallas.
And that could force him to look elsewhere.
Two seasons ago Gaunce played nine game for Dallas, where he held his own while playing minimal minutes for the NHL club.
“I want to play in the NHL,” Gaunce said. “That’s what everyone wants to do. That’s why we play the game.”
Of course, finances will impact his decision as well.
Gaunce made $100,000 in the AHL last season on his two-way contract with Dallas (his NHL salary would have been $650,000). If Dallas and Texas are interested in bringing him back in a more veteran role, he could demand a nice AHL raise, potentially asking for $150,000 to $175,000 — similar to what Travis Morin will be paid in the AHL next season.