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Stars Add Raffl, Hakanpaa To Roster Depth

The Dallas Stars already had the largest contingent of Finnish players in the league last year between Roope Hintz, Joel Kiviranta, Miro Heiskanen, and Esa Lindell (as well as Julius Honka down in Texas.) They’ve added another member to their burgeoning ‘Finnish Mafia’ today by signing Jani Hakanpaa to a three-year, $1.5 million average annual value contract.

Apparently, that was a big selling point for the Finnish defenseman:

The 29-year-old played for the Anaheim Ducks and the Carolina Hurricanes previously. He’s generally a defense-first guy, good in third-pairing minutes and can play the penalty kill effectively. He also adds a right-handed blueliner to an arguably-thin right side for Dallas.

Here’s what the Stars said about Hakanpaa in their press release:

FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed defenseman Jani Hakanpaa to a three-year, $4,500,000 contract with an annual average value (AAV) of $1,500,000.

Hakanpaa, 29, split the 2020-21 season between Anaheim and Carolina. In total, he produced four points (2-2=4) in 57 regular-season games between the two teams and finished third in the League with 215 hits. After recording one assist in 42 games to start the season with Anaheim, he recorded three points (2-1=3) in 15 regular-season games for Carolina. He also appeared in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games with Carolina and did not produce a point.

Having appeared in parts of two NHL seasons with Anaheim and Carolina, he has totaled five points (3-2=5) in 62 career regular-season games played with a +5 plus/minus rating.

“Jani is a big, physical defenseman that sees the ice well and skates at a high level for a man of his size,” said Nill. “He is a reliable penalty killer and will help balance out our backend.”

Internationally, Hakanpaa has represented his native country of Finland at the 2012 World Jr. Championship, winning bronze, and the 2019 World Championship, winning gold.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound native of Kirkkonummi, Finland was originally selected by St. Louis in the fourth round (104th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft. He was signed as a free agent by Anaheim on July 3, 2019. He was acquired by Carolina along with a sixth-round selection in the 2022 NHL Draft from Anaheim in exchange for Haydn Fleury on April 12, 2021.

They weren’t done adding to their depth, as the team announced another signing on the second day of free agency. Michal Raffl, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers for a long time before appearing last season for the Washington Capitals, was signed to a one-year, $1.1 million average annual value contract.

I checked in with our friends over at Broadstreet Hockey to get a sense of what Raffl brings to the Stars. The scouting report basically paints him as a “spackle” kind of guy – he can play up and down the lineup as needed and is defensively responsible. He drives play and makes his linemates better and will be a great addition in the bottom six.

From the Stars:

FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed forward Michael Raffl to a one-year contract worth $1.1 million.

Raffl, 32, registered 11 points (4-7=11), including three game-winning goals to match the second-most of his career, in 44 regular-season games with Philadelphia and Washington in 2020-21. The forward opened the season with Philadelphia, logging eight points (3-5=8) in 34 regular-season games. He also scored two game-winning goals with Philadelphia, which were tied for second on the team for the season. Raffl was acquired via trade by Washington on April 12, 2021 and finished the campaign with the Capitals, logging three points (1-2=3) and 21 hits in 10 regular-season games. He also skated in four Stanley Cup Playoff games with Washington, registering 14 hits and nine shots on goal.

The eight-season NHL veteran has amassed 163 points (82-81=163) in 514 career regular-season games with Philadelphia and Washington. Raffl’s 21 game-winning goals since entering the NHL in 2013-14 are the second-most in the NHL for a player averaging fewer than 14:00 time on ice per game. He has also skated in 32 career Stanley Cup Playoff games with Philadelphia and Washington, registering eight points (5-3=8), two game-winning goals and 92 hits.

“Michael is a solid two-way forward with good hockey sense, allowing him to play in a variety of situations,” said Nill. “He has a strong, physical presence on the ice and will add veteran savvy and depth to our lineup.”

Raffl has made several appearances on the international stage with Austria, including skating in six World Championships (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2018 and 2019) and a trip to the 2014 Winter Olympics where he earned three points (1-2=3) in four games.

The 6-foot, 200-pound native of Villach, Austria was originally undrafted and signed by Philadelphia as a free agent on May 31, 2013 before being acquired by Washington via trade in exchange for defenseman Ty Murchison on April 12, 2021.

The depth of the team looks better today than it did 48 hours ago, but there’s a couple of question marks still:

*What does the team do about a crowded crease with three NHL goaltenders expected to be ready to go — and a fourth that could (theoretically) get healthy in-season?
*Is there space for Thomas Harley to make a push on the backend?
*Do the likes of Ty Dellandrea, Rhett Gardner, Nicholas Caamano, and Adam Mascherin have  a chance to make the forward lines?

With the team already eating into Bishop’s presumed LTIR placement cap relief, it feels like there could be another move coming that sheds some salary and gives the Stars more flexibility in-season.