Jiri Hudler (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Dallas Stars have been built around their offensive ability, and they added to their firepower by signing Jiri Hudler to a one-year, $2-million deal. Hudler, 32, is coming off of a 16-goal, 46-point season and is two seasons removed from a 31-goal campaign.
The Stars’ offense has been inarguably the best in the NHL over the past two seasons and since the start of the 2014-15 season Dallas has scored 37 more goals than any other team in the league. Suffice it to say that the Stars don’t really need more firepower in their arsenal.
However, just because the Stars don’t need more scoring ability doesn’t mean GM Jim Nill is going to pass up the opportunity to make an already outstanding offense even better.
Nill appears to have done exactly that with the signing of Jiri Hudler, 32, to a one-year, $2-million deal. Nill confirmed Dallas’ signing of Hudler to DallasStars.com’s Mark Stepneski. The plan, Nill said, is to have Hudler slot into the top-six and lend a hand on the power play, and after scoring 265 goals in 2015-16, the Stars could be set to ice one of the most productive offenses of the past several years.
Hudler’s 16-goal, 46-point season may have been a down year considering his production during the 2014-15 campaign with the Calgary Flames — he set career-highs with 31 goals, 45 assists and 76 points in 78 games — but if he’s given the chance to stay in the top six in Dallas there’s no reason to believe he can’t once again eclipse the 50-point plateau.
During Hudler’s nearly point-per-game season with the Flames, he benefitted from playing on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and he’ll likely have similar offensive talents to play alongside with the Stars. If Dallas’ top line consists of Tyler Seguin centering Jamie Benn and Patrick Sharp, which was a common and lethal combination this past season, then the second line could very well be made up of Jason Spezza centering Hudler and Ales Hemsky.
What makes the situation even better for the Stars is that when it comes to 5-on-5 scoring, Hudler has been consistent over the past two seasons, so it’s not as if last season signalled an overall dip in his ability to find the net when playing at even strength.
During the 2014-15 campaign, Hudler’s 2.54 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 ranked 10th among skaters to play at least 500 minutes, according to Puckalytics. He dropped slightly and ranked 27th at 2.10 points per 60 minutes in 2015-16, but over the past two seasons he’s the 10th-ranked player in that category.
The signing is about as low-risk, potentially high-reward as it gets, too. If Hudler fits in and scores at a good pace, then the Stars have landed him for half of his past season’s salary on a one-year deal that will likely see him pack his bags and head elsewhere next off-sesaon. And if Hudler fails to catch on in Dallas, moving a $2-million deal shouldn’t be too tough for Nill to manage.
The only possible downside is that Hudler’s signing puts a block on one of the younger players, such as Valeri Nichushkin, Radek Faksa or Brett Ritchie, moving up the lineup. But Hudler’s not going to be locked into his role in the top-six. Hudler’s spot can be taken if one of the youngsters really pushes for it.
Amazingly, even with all the pure offensive talent the Stars possess, the team still has room to operate. The Hudler signing leaves Dallas with close to $6 million in cap space and only one restricted free agent, Nichushkin, left to get under contract, according to CapFriendly. That means if Dallas needs to upgrade at any position throughout the campaign, Nill will have the space to do so.
No team has cracked the 300-goal mark in a single season since the Washington Capitals netted 312 in 2009-10 and the highest scoring team in the past five seasons was the 2011-12 Pittsburgh Penguins with 273 goals for. With Hudler on board, though, the Stars look like they could be the highest scoring, most offensively gifted bunch assembled anywhere post-lockout.
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