In late August last summer, general manager Jim Nill announced that the Dallas Stars had signed veteran forward Jiri Hudler. At the time, the move was slightly curious in that it seemed the projected forward corps for Dallas was going to be quite crowded with his addition.
My oh my, how that narrative changed in a hurry.
Not long after Nill stated that he saw Hudler as a “top six forward” for Dallas, the news that restricted free agent Valeri Nichushkin was signing a two-year contract in the KHL came to light. That made the veteran forward’s signing make a little more sense, in that Dallas had several young players that ready to make the jump to the NHL and having another veteran leader with Nichushkin’s departure couldn’t hurt.
His cap hit didn’t either. Signed at a one year, $2 million cap hit, Hudler was quite affordable. He had put up respectable numbers in his career, putting up 46 points last year between Calgary and Florida (post trade deadline). Hudler was also just two seasons removed from winning the Lady Byng, awarded to the player that is judged to play the game with skill and gentlemanly conduct.
Not only could he provide depth scoring, he could provide some leadership in the locker room — good player to have around a younger team.
As the injuries to the Stars forwards started to pile up prior to and during training camp, Hudler’s expected role became even bigger, with holes to fill in the top six and on the power play.
After just four regular season games, Hudler came down with a mystery illness that would sideline him for about six weeks. By the time January 1 rolled around, he had played in just 12 games — the bulk of which came in the last two weeks of December.
Once Hudler was healthy again, guys such as Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza had gotten healthy enough that the Stars had formed some sort of top six unit (as weird on paper as it probably looked.) Hudler would spend the rest of the season bouncing around the lineup and eventually eating some healthy scratches as guys such as Devin Shore played their way into a fixed roster spot.
Hudler never really found a role in Dallas. He played in just 32 games total this year and recorded three goals and 11 points. It was his worst season as an NHLer since he was on a roster full time (2006-2007 with the Detroit Red Wings).
All in all, his signing neither hampered the Stars this season nor did it notably improve it. It was a low risk signing that I would probably give a C- for the year. We’ll be left to wonder how different his season may have been without that mystery illness disallowing him from finding a true rhythm in Dallas.
However, with the play of guys like Devin Shore and the readiness displayed by Jason Dickinson and Gemel Smith near the end of the year to be serviceable NHL players in the bottom six — where Hudler spent much of his season — I wouldn’t expect Hudler to be re-signed by Dallas this offseason.