Perhaps we should have know the Dallas Stars season was going to go poorly when the team announced they would be down two (then three, then four, then all) Top Six forwards during training camp.
Ales Hemsky was sidelined by a hip/groin injury, perhaps preexisting but definitely exascerbated by the World Cup, that eventually turned into season-limiting hip surgery. He was able to come back for a stretch of games just after the Stars were eliminated from playoff contention but then was shut down for good at the end of the year.
(An aside, but this team really needs a frequent customer card for the hip surgeons, don’t they?)
And Hemsky, in some ways, was lucky compared to poor Mattias Janmark. After a very encouraging rookie season, Janmark was diagnosed with a congenital knee condition (osteochondritis dissecans, for those of y’all who didn’t read all about it back in October) in the off-season that required immediate, season-cancelling surgery. In what is a very good sign for an injury that doesn’t have a guaranteed recovery, he was skating with the team by the end of the season though never was close to being able to play in a game.
Both players were counted on to be major contributors to the Stars offense this season after finding chemistry with Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel (for Hemsky) and Jason Spezza (for Janmark) last year. In total, though, only Hemsky was able to contribute his four goals and three assists in 15 total games.
Clearly, the season grade for both has to be incomplete. Their most notable contribution was the 149 man-games lost to the Stars 292 man-games and $10.5 million cap hit lost to injury at forward.
So the biggest question then is their future with the team moving forward.
Janmark is the easier answer here. He is a restricted free agent, just coming off his entry level contract and making a second-year salary of just under $800,000. Assuming his recovery continues to go well, and all signs to that end are encouraging right now, he will certainly be qualified and likely signed to a reasonable contract so that both sides can see how his knee will hold up.
He is not arbitration-eligible this year (but would be after next season). The most interesting thing here will be to see if the team tries to lock him up for a longer term or if they go for the shorter contract with the uncertainty of his knee. Either way, and again, assuming continued recovery, he seems like a lock for the team next season.
Hemsky is a much more murky situation. Last season was the final year of a three-year, $4 million cap hit deal. While he didn’t blow people away in his first season in Dallas, he really came around in the second year (after other hip surgeries seemed to help his speed and mobility), making both boggling and simple plays and really earning the nickname “Dangles,” as he is called by teammates at times.
Depending on the cost and contract length, it may also make sense to retain his services (assuming the injury that he reaggravated at the end of the season is not a long-term concern).
The Stars have had some notable success with players coming off major, possibly chronic injury issues (see: Eaves, Major General), and Hemsky likely will not be able to command a huge price tag on the open market having missed so much of this season. They lacked offensive creativity at times this year, and even in his brief stint, Hemsky showed he could bring that like few others. His skill with the puck and vision (even if not always shared by his linemates) makes him a unique potential piece that doesn’t appear to have a ready internal replacement, but the injury risk appears to remain.
So what say you, Stars fans? What type of role should the team expect Janmark to play next year, and is Hemsky worth another investment at forward?