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Dan Hamhuis adds experience to Stars defense

Veteran defenseman signs two-year contract with Dallas, will help replace Goligoski

by Steve Hunt / Correspondent

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars signed defenseman Dan Hamhuis to a two-year, $7.5 million contract Friday to bring experience to their blue line.

The Stars, who finished second in the NHL with 109 points last season before losing to the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Second Round in seven games, entered this offseason with four defensemen (Jordie Benn, Jason Demers, Alex Goligoski and Kris Russell) who could become an unrestricted free agent Friday.

On June 16, the Stars traded Goligoski to the Arizona Coyotes for a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Dallas re-signed Benn on June 24, but Demers and Russell each became a free agent and likely won't return.

Dallas needed to replace Goligoski, who was second on the Stars with an average ice time of 23:50 during the regular season, on its top pair alongside John Klingberg, who was fifth among NHL defensemen with 58 points last season.

Video: Analyzing Dan Hamhuis signing with the Dallas Stars

Stars general manager Jim Nill said Hamhuis is a perfect fit, having played 872 regular-season games and 62 Stanley Cup Playoff games over 12 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators.

"He was definitely one of our priority players," Nill said of Hamhuis, who had 10 assists and 13 points in 58 games with Vancouver last season. "I've watched him mature into an elite defenseman in the game. I've known him well."

Nill said adding Hamhuis is a straight swap with Goligoski because they play similar minutes.

"He is going to play a lot, I know that," Nill said. "He's an experienced player, he can play high minutes. I think he's going to play probably top-four minutes for us. But I think he gives us versatility. I think we're set up good from one to eight [defensively], I think there's lots of options and I think we can spread the ice time out."

Hamhuis doesn't know who he'll be paired with in Dallas, but if it's Klingberg, he's looking forward to it.

"He is a tremendous talent and a real exciting player in the organization that can change games around," Hamhuis said of Klingberg. "I think there's such a bright future for him. He's had such a great start to his career so far and he's a special talent for sure."

Dallas made a bid to acquire Hamhuis at the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline, but the Stars and Canucks were unable to agree on a mutually beneficial trade, and he remained in Vancouver.

However, when the veteran defenseman and his agent formulated a list of possible destinations, Dallas was near the top because of the positive things he'd heard about the organization and the city from Stars captain Jamie Benn, center Cody Eakin and forwards Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza, who Hamhuis played with for Canada at international tournaments.

"Whenever those guys talk about the Dallas Stars organization and the city, it was always great things," Hamhuis said. "I'm looking forward to seeing those guys again. I'm hoping for a smooth transition fitting into the dressing room and for a smooth transition for my family fitting into the community."

Video: VAN@ANA: Hamhuis beats Gibson to tie the game in 3rd

Hamhuis played for Stars coach Lindy Ruff on two occasions: the 2009 IIHF World Championship, when Ruff coached Canada, and the 2014 Sochi Olympics, when Ruff was an assistant under Mike Babcock.

"I'm hoping that Lindy [Ruff] gives me a little more ice time than he gave me at the Olympics, but it's been all great experiences working with him," Hamhuis said.

Dallas signed two other defensemen Friday, Andrew Bodnarchuk and Dustin Stevenson, to provide organizational depth. Bodnarchuk, 27, played 37 games last season with the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets. Stevenson, 26, had six assists and eight points in 45 games for Stockton of the American Hockey League.

Bodnarchuk and Stevenson are expected to play for Texas in the AHL.

The Stars also re-signed forward Patrick Eaves, an 11-year veteran who has played for the Ottawa Senators, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings and Predators. Dallas was 9-0-0 last season when Eaves scored a goal and 13-1-0 when he had a point.

"He's another [veteran] guy," Nill said. "He's been there. He's done it. He can be on the power play, he can kill penalties. He's very versatile. He's a consummate pro. He fits in the dressing room well. He's just a good fit and is someone everybody's very, very comfortable with, and that's important as we move forward."

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