CEDAR PARK, Texas -- Signing forward Jiri Hudler has already turned into a nice insurance policy for the Dallas Stars.
Hudler, 32, already looked like a bargain when he signed a one-year, $2 million contract on Aug. 24 with Dallas. His value has gone up with injuries and a Kontinental Hockey League defection affecting the Stars' forward depth.
Centers Tyler Seguin (hairline fracture, heel) and Radek Faksa (concussion-like symptoms), and forward Ales Hemsky (groin), are dealing with injuries related to the World Cup of Hockey 2016. Though coach Lindy Ruff said Faksa will practice Monday, Hemsky is expected to miss 7-10 days. In addition, center Cody Eakin (knee) was injured Friday and is expected to miss six weeks.
Ideally, that would have been an opportunity for centers Devin Shore and Jason Dickinson, but each remain out. Dickinson had offseason hip surgery and is out until at least late October. Shore sustained an ankle injury Saturday and will miss a couple weeks, according to Ruff.
On top of that, restricted free agent forward Valeri Nichushkin agreed to terms on a two-year contract with CSKA Moscow last week.
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With all those forwards missing, Hudler has been one of the most watched players at training camp.
"He's a special player, he's really high-end talent," Stars forward Patrick Eaves said. "Those don't just come out of anywhere … he's a winner. He's got everything we want and he had a special goal out there today [during a scrimmage] that most us don't even have a sniff at doing."
Hudler said Nichushkin's contract saga didn't have anything to do with his decision to sign with Dallas.
"I thought Val was going to stay," Hudler said. "It wasn't on my mind."
However, Dallas general manager Jim Nill was on Hudler's mind. Hudler has a good relationship with Nill since 2002, when the Detroit Red Wings chose him in the second round (No. 58) of the NHL Draft.
"I had some options and I didn't want to wait and then Jim called," Hudler said. "I know Jim from Detroit, he was one of the main reasons Detroit drafted me when I was 18."
Hudler has 417 points in 676 NHL games, including a career-high 31 goals and 76 points with the Calgary Flames in 2014-15. He took a step back last season with the Flames and Florida Panthers with 46 points in 72 games. He's looking for a bounce-back season, but it won't be defined by his statistics.
"Perfect season for me isn't being the highest scorer. Perfect season for me would be still talking here in June," said Hudler, who won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008.
Hudler said he isn't worried about his role in Dallas. He's comfortable playing on either wing and understands Ruff tends to often shuffle lines.
"Left or right I don't care," Hudler said. "I played for Mike Babcock and Bob Hartley. Not a lot of things can surprise me."
On Sunday, Hudler played on a line with center Mattias Janmark and free agent wing Samuel Laberge during a scrimmage. Janmark said it was easy to play with his new teammate.
"It's a great addition, he's a veteran guy who's been in the League for a lot of years," Janmark said. "Hopefully he can be that extra spark that can get us even further."