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Closer look: Stars add valuable assets as free agency begins

Nill 'excited' with Dallas' moves, which includes the addition of Nichushkin and Comeau

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars didn't land center John Tavares in free agency (he went to Toronto), but they were still busy, signing a backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, forwards Valeri Nichushkin and Blake Comeau, and defenseman Roman Polak. Plus, one of the team's top goaltending prospects, Colton Point, decided to leave college and turn pro, signing an entry-level deal with the Stars.

"We're excited with what we did," said Stars GM Jim Nill. "We filled in the holes we wanted. We're looking forward to putting the team together and starting camp with it."

Here's a brief look at the players the Stars signed Sunday, the first day of free agency.

 

Anton Khudobin, goaltender 

Age: 32 
Contract: 2 years, $2.5 million per year

Khudobin is coming off a strong 2017-18 season in Boston where he made 31 appearances, posting a 16-6-7 record, 2.56 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. He played a lot early in the season for the Bruins, including a stretch of four-straight starts where he won all four and stopped 120 of 127 shots. Last season was a bounce-back one for Khudobin, who struggled in 2016-17 and was placed on waivers before being assigned to Providence of the AHL. Perhaps his best season in the NHL came in 2013-14 when he posted a 2.30 goals-against average, and .926 save percentage while playing 34 games for Carolina. The native of Kazakhstan, who is listed at 5-11, 195 pounds, has had some ups and downs over his career, but he's a proven NHL backup who has shown he can log 30-35 games in a season. Khudobin has played in 147 NHL games for Minnesota, Carolina, Anaheim, and Boston, recording a 67-51-16 record, 2.47 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

Khudobin on signing with the Stars: "I talked to Alex (Radulov), and he said "Doby, come here. It is going to be great. That's it. That's my decision. And plus, they have a really good chance to win, which is really important for me. I am not looking for a lot of money or whatever, I am looking to win."

 

Video: Nichushkin, Khudobin, Polak, Comeau coming to Dallas

Valeri Nichushkin, forward 

Age: 23 
Contract: 2 years, $2.95 million per year

Nichushkin returns to the Stars after two years in the KHL where he tallied 51 points (27 goals, 24 assists) in 86 games. Last season, he recorded 27 points (16 goals, 11 assists) in 50 games and nine points (six goals, three assists) in 19 games for CSKA which made it to the KHL's championship series. Nichushkin missed the final part of the playoffs due to an injury that also kept him out of consideration for the 2018 World Championship. The Stars expect to get back a more mature Nichushkin who played three seasons in the NHL after being selected tenth overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. After a stellar rookie season in 2013-14 that saw him put up 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 79 games, he was limited to eight games the next season due to hip surgery and then registered 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in 79 games in 2015-16 as he tried to bounce back from the lost season. Having fellow Russian Alexander Radulov around could be a big boost for Nichushkin, who is still a young player with plenty of potential and has the ability to provide some offensive depth for the Stars.

Nill on Nichushkin: "I expect him to play the same role as the last time he was here. He was a top ten pick, and he played in the NHL when he was 18 and was a very effective player. … We're getting a better player back. He's excited about coming back. He's 6-4, he can skate, and he's a bull on the puck. We are looking forward to his addition."

 

Blake Comeau, forward

Age: 32 
Contract: 3 years, $2.4 million per year

The right-handed shooting Comeau is coming off a solid season with Colorado where he scored 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 79 games. The versatile Comeau provided a veteran presence on an Avalanche team that set a franchise record by playing eleven rookies in 2017-18. Comeau, who brings some grit and physical play, saw a lot of time against the opposition's top players last season. He led Colorado forwards in penalty killing ice time and tied for fifth in the NHL with three shorthanded goals. Comeau, who has scored in double figures in three of his past four seasons, scored a career-high 24 goals with the New York Islanders in 2010-11. The 6-1, 202-pound Comeau can play either wing, move up and down the lineup, and provide some scoring depth. He's played 720 NHL games with the Islanders, Calgary, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Colorado, tallying 285 points (121 points, 164 assists).

Nill on Comeau: "Great veteran presence. He's had a strong career and did a good job in Colorado the past couple years, played well against us. Very versatile player. You can play him on the first line, third line, he can play left side or right side, and I like the veteran presence in the dressing room."

 

Video: Best wishes to Roussel and Lehtonen

Roman Polak, defenseman 

Age: 32 
Contract: 1 year, $1.3 million

The veteran defensive defenseman played in Toronto last season, recording 12 points (two goals, ten assists) and a plus-five rating in 54 games while averaging 17:39 of ice time. There's nothing fancy about the 6-2, 235-pound Polak, who is a right-handed shot. He's going to stay at home, throw some hits, block some shots and kill penalties. He won't wow you with his skating or offensive skills, but he's an experienced, reliable defender who brings size and physical presence to mix in with some of the Stars younger, highly skilled players on the blue line. Polak has played 688 NHL games with St. Louis, San Jose, and Toronto.

Nill on Polak: "We've got the Honkas and Heiskanens, and we've got some real skaters, but you do have to have a good mix of players. You add [Polak] with Johns and Methot, and it gives us a good mix with our top seven moving forward."

 

Colton Point, goaltender 

Age: 20 
Contract: Three-year, entry-level deal

It appeared that Point, a fifth-round pick in 2016, would be heading back for his junior year at Colgate University, but Point decided to turn pro and agreed to an entry-level contract that was announced on Sunday. If all goes well, Point is expected to play with the Texas Stars of the AHL next season, sharing the net with Landon Bow. Point is coming off a superb sophomore season at Colgate, where he had a 16-12-5 record and led the nation in save percentage (.944), ranked second in goals-against average (1.74) and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the top player in college hockey. He also played on Canada's gold medal-winning team at the World Juniors. He started one game, stopping all 20 shots he faced in a 6-0 win over Slovakia.

Point on turning pro: "It's a big decision leaving after your sophomore year. It's still a lot of school to finish if you do choose to finish it. Leaving my teammates at school that I've grown close to is hard, but in terms of development, signing and going on to better hockey is what's best for me right now."

 

Video: Tavares chooses Toronto

Additional signings

The Stars also signed forwards Erik Condra and Michael Mersch and defenseman Joel Handley to two-way contracts. All three players are depth signings who are expected to play for Texas of the AHL. Dallas also signed forward Joel L'Esperance to a two-year, entry-level contract. L'Esperance played for the Texas Stars at the end of last season after wrapping up his collegiate career at Michigan Tech.

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

Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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