For those that may have missed the news, two days ago, Stars GM Jim Nill announced the signing of free agent Right Wing, Jiri Hudler, to a 1-year deal worth $2 Million. With the current player and contract situations, this signing was a bit of a head scratcher…until you look at the deal itself, the player behind the deal, and a little outstanding issue by the name of Valeri Nichushkin.
Jiri Hudler (pronounced Yeer-EE HOOD-lur) is a native of the Czech Republic and was drafted in the 2nd round (58th overall) by the Detroit Red Wings. Many have indicated that as Assistant GM with the Wings, Jim Nill was part of the reason that Jiri was selected. He played in Detroit for 7 years, followed by one year in the KHL (Russia) in 2009 with Dynamo Moscow, followed by four years with the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers (3.5 with Calgary and 0.5 with Florida). Throughout his 12 years in the NHL, Jiri has racked up 459 points (177 goals & 282 assists) over the course of 676 regular season games and 83 playoff games, including a Stanley Cup in 2008 with the Detroit Red Wings, and the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2015 for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct. Even in an off-year, Jiri will provide 40+ points. Coming off a 46-point season in 2015/2016 and a monster 76-point season the year before, Hudler amazingly sat on the open market far longer than anyone expected. Many believe this deal was a win-win for everyone…the Stars get another Top 6 forward that can put up great numbers and fit very well into the Stars’ shoot-first mentality, and Jiri can help join the league’s highest scoring team at a run towards their second franchise Stanley Cup, and boost his value for a larger contract in the future.
The 800 lb elephant in the room that the Stars have been trying to deal with is Restricted Free Agent, Val Nichushkin. In July, Val was given a qualifying offer to retain him as a restricted free agent following the end of his rookie contract. The team has indicated that they are still working on a longer term deal, however, recent reports have indicated that Val has been seen with his old KHL team, Traktor Chelyabinsk, which beg the questions…will Val be returning to the Stars for the 2016/2017 season? Was the Jiri Hudler deal supposed to replace Val? Is the Hudler deal designed as a way to move additional pieces around so the Stars can finally move one of their goalies for Big Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning? Or is this just another piece of the puzzle to set themselves up come the Trade Deadline and next season’s Expansion Draft? Only time will tell, but as we inch closer to training camp and preseason, the answers to these questions should prove interesting…but in the end, Jiri Hudler is a great addition for the year and shows how serious the team is about winning the Cup sooner rather than later. But, as always…
CURRENT ROSTER & POSSIBLE LINES
- Benn —— Seguin — Nichushkin??
- Sharp —– Spezza — Hudler
- Roussel —- Eakin —- Janmark
- McKenzie — Faksa —- Hemsky
- Hamhuis — Klingberg
- Johns —– Oduya
- Nemeth — Oleksiak
- RW – Patrick Eaves
- RW – Brett Ritchie
- RW – Adam Cracknell
- Cracknell has a two-way contract so he will most likely end up back in the AHL to continue development, and Eaves and Ritchie will remain on the 23-man roster and move in and out as rest and injuries take place.
- D – Jordie Benn
- D – Andrew Bodnarchuk
- Jordie dropped in and out of the 20-man dress list more often toward the end of last season and into the playoffs. While I personally cannot stand the way he plays, he is a veteran that knows how to move things around, even if he tends to find himself standing in front of the net with a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face.