At about 11 a.m. central time on Wednesday, this curious bit of news broke on Twitter.
VAN puts Zach Hamill on unconditional ($125) waivers, presumably for mutually-agreed termination of contract. DAL's Max Fortunas on waivers.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 18, 2013
What, pray tell, were the Dallas Stars doing putting AHL defenseman Maxime Fortunus on waivers? Three minutes later, the Stars themselves answered that question when they announced they had signed Fortunus, previously on a minor-league contract, to a one-year NHL deal.
The Stars also assigned rookie defenseman Jamie Oleksiak back to the Texas Stars, presumably so they could bring Fortunus up in his place once he clears waivers. While I don't believe Fortunus needs to clear waivers to come from Austin to Dallas, he would need to clear to go back down, so having him clear now gives the Stars a 30-day window in which they can send him up or down.
Fortunus, 30 (I know the release says he's 27, but everything I can find says he was born in 1983), is a long-time Texas Stars defenseman. At 5-foot-11, 202 pounds, he's not the biggest player on the back end, but he does lead the Texas blueline with 16 points on three goals and 13 assists in 24 games. He's played with Dallas before as he filled in for eight games back in the 2009-10 season, where he had no points and four penalty minutes.
He has not been officially recalled yet, and the Stars are still "considering their options" with how to use him at this point, but if the injured Aaron Rome is not expected to be ready in the next few days, I'd put some pretty strong money on Fortunus being recalled some time tomorrow.
The move allows the Stars to send Oleksiak back to the minors for more seasoning. While he didn't look entirely out of place in the NHL, the 6-7 rookie is obviously still growing into his game a bit and is still only 20 years old. He played five games in this stint for the Stars as a fill in for the multiple injures on the Dallas blueline and had no points with a minus-three rating before being scratched in last night's win over the Colorado Avalanche.
The other reason for making the move today is likely the NHL's holiday roster freeze, which kicks into effect at 11:59 p.m. local time on Dec. 19 and remains in effect until lunchtime on Dec. 28. Here's the verbiage from the CBA if you want to try and translate it into layman's terms.
For all Players on an NHL Active Roster, Injured Reserve, or Players with Non-Roster and Injured Non-Roster status as of 11:59 p.m. local time on December 19, a roster freeze shall apply through 12:01 a.m. local time December 28, with respect to Waivers, Trades and Loans; provided, however, that Players may be Recalled to NHL Clubs during this period and, provided further, that if a Player is placed on Regular Waivers prior to the roster freeze period and is claimed during such roster freeze period, the roster freeze period shall not apply and the Player shall immediately report to the claiming Club. However, during the roster freeze period a Club can make any Player transactions necessary for the Club to come into compliance with Article 50 as a result of a Player being removed from the Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception.
Given the way that is worded, I believe that if Fortunus clears waivers now, he can be recalled or assigned to the Texas Stars over the next 10 days despite the freeze if the Stars need to bring someone off injured reserve. Of course, they also have the option of putting Rome on IR retroactive to the date of his lower-body injury to clear space as well.
By my very unofficial count using CapGeek.com, this would be the 50th contract on the Stars books when you include both NHL and minor-league players. That's significant because NHL teams have a 50-contract limit, meaning the Stars cannot sign a player to a free-agent contract unless they move someone else before.
Here's the official release from the team. We'll update with financial terms when they become available.
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that defenseman Maxime Fortunus has been signed to a one-year contract. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Fortunus, 27, has skated in 24 games this season for Texas and leads all team defensemen with 16 points (3-13=16). The native of La Prairie, Que., is Texas' all-time franchise leader among defensemen in games played (296), goals (32), assists (89) and points (121). The 5-foot-11, 205-pound defenseman has skated in eight NHL contests, all as a member of the Dallas Stars during the 2009-10 campaign. Fortunus was undrafted and signed his first NHL contract with the Dallas Stars on July 3, 2008.
The team also announced that defenseman Jamie Oleksiak has been reassigned to the Texas Stars, Dallas' development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).
Oleksiak, 20, has played seven games for Dallas this season, collecting five shots and two penalty minutes. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound defenseman was originally recalled from Texas on Nov. 30, where he earned five points (3-2=5) and a plus-4 rating in 22 games for the club. The native of Toronto, Ont., was Dallas' first-round selection (14th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft.