Late last night, there was a report floating on Twitter that the Dallas Stars had signed unrestricted free agent Jiri Hudler. This morning, Mike Heika used his Batphone to confirm that this is, indeed, something the Stars have agreed to terms on:
Stars have agreed to terms on one-year deal with Jiri Hudler for $2 million. Still waiting on signed contract.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) August 24, 2016
The deal has been confirmed as reported last night as a one year, $2 million contract. The signing of Hudler that leaves Dallas with a bit of a crowded forward corps based on who is signed, the expected signing of RFA Valeri Nichushkin, and waiver eligible prospects:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Sharp
Jiri Hudler - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin (unsigned RFA)
Mattias Janmark - Radek Faksa - Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves
Curtis McKenzie/Brett Ritchie/Adam Cracknell
It’s been fairly believed that Cracknell was signed as a depth guy and is expected to be assigned to the Texas Stars of the AHL, so that solves one of the two extra forwards the Stars are carrying today. With his injury-plagued season last year, will Ritchie be a surprise addition to the Texas Stars roster to start the season? Has Curtis McKenzie reached a ceiling with the Dallas Stars as an bubble player?
Training camp will help sort some of those questions out.
In the mean time, Mark Stepnesky reported that Dallas general manager Jim Nill sees Hudler as a top six forward. That would see Janmark drop onto the third line to make space for Hudler on the left in the second line. In the summer, there’s a million ways to pencil in lines and what looks good on paper. Until the Stars get on the ice and observe who meshes well with others, the lineup has some question marks.
One thing is for sure with this signing, though. The Stars have enviable offensive depth on the front end. As well, the addition of Hudler provides another element to the Stars’ power play that could add balance to both units this season on the man advantage.
There is still one burning question I have about the forwards now. Who replaces Colton Sceviour and Vernon Fiddler on the penalty killing units? Both forwards saw significant time killing penalties for the Stars last season. While the Stars should continue to find success on offense, when they do go down by a man, who will be the penalty killers Lindy Ruff calls upon? Benn, Eakin, and Roussel are likely to remain in that role next season. But who else kills penalties in this lineup?
Faksa showed that he had the trust of Ruff down the stretch of the season, taking faceoffs in big moments in close games and being utilized in all situations. He’s likely candidate number one for added playing time on the PK. Eaves and Janmark could be other options for the coaching staff as well in these situations.
Injuries occur throughout the season, so the signing of Hudler shouldn’t be seen as having any influence on the contract negotiations under way with Nichushkin nor should it be viewed as a signal for some imminent trade. Nill saw a way to provide added offensive punch to his potent offense, add some depth for injuries, and add another veteran leader to the team.