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5 things you might not know about Andrej Sekera

From junior hockey in Canada to a hectic draft day, the newest Stars blueliner brings quite the backstory

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

The Stars signed Andrej Sekera to a one-year contract to open free agency on July 1. So what should Dallas fans know about their newest possible star?

Here are five things:

 

1. He grew up in Slovakia, but played junior hockey in Canada

Sekera was born in Bojnice and grew up with humble beginnings in Slovakia.

"Youth hockey is way different than here. It was go somewhere and have fun. It wasn't as professional or as serious as it is here," Sekera told NHL.com in 2014 said. "There were a bunch of kids from apartment buildings. There were 15 of us in the same age group that would play soccer in the summer and hockey in the winter."

Still, the Sabres drafted him at 71st overall in 2004 and Sekera came to play Major Junior for Owen Sound. In his second season, he had 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists) in 51 games, won the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the league's outstanding defenseman, and his career took off from there.

"I realized if I have a chance and I'm already here, why not fight for it and make it to the NHL?" Sekera said. "I came to the rink every day. First guy in, and probably the first guy out. The old saying of come early and you leave early. I'm a guy who always wants to do stuff before practice if there is a workout or something because after practice I'm just too tired."

 

2. He has bounced around the league

After being drafted by Buffalo, Sekera played seven seasons in the Sabres organization. He then was traded to Carolina in 2013 and to Los Angeles in 2015. Sekera made a name for himself in Carolina as he had 44 points (11 goals, 33 assists) in 74 games in 2013-14. That made him a candidate for a big new contract, and when the Hurricanes couldn't get an extension done, they traded Sekera to the Kings.

After playing 16 games with Los Angeles, Sekera signed a six-year, $33 million deal with the Oilers. He was among the team's top minute guys for two seasons, but then suffered a torn ACL and played just 36 games in 2017-18. The next summer, he suffered an Achilles tendon injury and played just 24 games in 2018-19. To create cap space, the Oilers bought out Sekera this summer, and the Stars scooped him up with a $1.5 million one-year contract that includes incentives that could max out at $500,000.

Stars general manager Jim Nill said he believes Sekera, 33, can return to the form he showed in Carolina and Edmonton before the injuries.

"We're fortunate that we're getting another guy that wants to show that, 'I still have something left in my game,'" Nill said. "We watched him at the World Championship, he's skating better and we think he's going to get better just from time and from training."

 

3. A lot of Oilers fans weren't happy with his buyout

The Oilers have been battling to find the right mix on defense, and a lot of fans felt a healthy Sekera could be a part of that group. After all, he was second on the team in time on ice at 21:29 and second on the team in blocked shots at 166 before the injuries.

Among those who believe Sekera will be a good player next season are these:

Tweet from @Alex_Thomas14: The #Oilers have bought out D Andrej Sekera. Opens up significant cap space for 2019-20. However, I think this is a mistake. Kris Russell should be the guy sent out. Sekera is a much better player. Believe this move will haunt Edmonton. Bad decision by Ken Holland.

Tweet from @OilersFanSean: Wow I feel this is one of the biggest mistakes the #Oilers have made, and that���s saying something. The guy had some bad luck, but he came back strong. Would have been a great steadying factor and strong leader for the young kids. https://t.co/yV6xsb7B4o

Check out more opinions on Sekera here in the Edmonton Journal.

 

4. His draft day was hectic

Sekera told NHL.com that his draft day was hectic back in 2004.

His agent told him that being at the draft would be a good thing, so he decided to come over to Raleigh, N.C., but when he traveled overseas, they lost his luggage.

"My flight in Paris got canceled so I had to stay overnight. I got here on draft day, and my luggage wasn't here. So I was just the guy in the sweatpants," Sekera said with a smile. "We never wore suits back home for a game day or whatever. It was always sweatpants or whatever you wanted to wear -- what was comfortable for you. And I realized I was probably the only guy in sweatpants here."

Still, he was able to get a suit and show up for the draft, where he was taken 71st overall by the Sabres.

"My agent made sure I had something normal to wear. I looked like Al Pacino from 'Goodfellas.' Just a different style," Sekera said. "It was fun, though, and a good experience."

 

5. He will wear No. 5 with the Stars

Video: Sekera shares first thoughts about joining Stars

Sekera has worn a bunch of numbers, but typically has worn No. 2 with Slovakia and recently had that number with the Oilers.

Jamie Oleksiak currently has No. 2 with the Stars, so Sekera will wear No. 5.

The last person to wear No. 5 for the Stars was defenseman Connor Carrick last season. Ironically, Olekisak also had the number in his first run with the team.

Others who have worn No. 5 in Dallas include Matt Niskanen, Darryl Sydor, Trevor Daley and Doug Zmolek.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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