The Dallas Stars forward group and the center position got a little deeper Wednesday. The Stars announced that center Vernon Fiddler was returning after signing a two-year contract with the club.
“We’re very excited,” Stars GM Jim Nill said. “Vern was a big part of our success last season. He’s a character player. He plays hard every night. He plays the game the right way and he was a big part of our young guys understanding what it takes to win, learning from him. He had a great playoffs for us, and when the chips are down he’s a guy you can count on. He knows how to win.”
The 34-year-old Fiddler, who decided to test the free agent market before re-signing with the Stars, registered 23 points (6 goals, 17 assists) and won 52.2 percent of his faceoffs in 76 games with the Stars last season.
Nill wasn’t ready to slot in Fiddler as the fourth line center. He said the addition of Fiddler gives Stars head coach Lindy Ruff options.
“I think we have a lot of options on our team. Vern Fiddler, like everybody on our team, gives us a lot of options,” Nill said. “As we saw last year, with injuries or matchups, there are times that Fiddler could move up, [Shawn] Horcoff could move up. Lindy has a lot of options to work with, which we are excited about.
“We’ve become a team where we have top six forwards with high-end skill and our next two lines are great second/third lines. They can all move up and down. I know when Lindy goes on the road, we are not going to be worried about matchups. He can put any line out there. It doesn’t matter if our supposed third and fourth lines play against the first and second lines. I know he’s not going to be worried about that. … Lindy wants to play four lines. We can play a four-line game. We can play any type of game, and that’s important.”
Stars sign Ranford to entry-level deal
The Stars added to the organizational depth by signing forward Brendan Ranford to a three-year entry-level contract Wednesday. Ranford was under contract with the Texas Stars this past season, his first professional campaign.
The 22-year-old registered 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) in 65 games during the regular season. He came up big in the playoffs as the Stars won the AHL’s Calder Cup championship, tying for fourth in the league in postseason scoring with 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists) in 21 games.
“He stepped up in the playoffs and earned his contract,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “We are looking forward to his future development.”
Ranford, a seventh round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, played five seasons with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League before signing on with Texas in 2013-14.
Ruff talks Spezza, Hemsky additions
Stars coach Lindy Ruff said the addition of Tyler Seguin gave the Dallas Stars a different look last season, and the acquisitions of center Jason Spezza and right wing Ales Hemsky will alter things this coming season.
“What [Spezza] does with the puck is special, and that fits the way we want to play,” said Ruff, who coached Spezza at the World Championship. “I think it helps that Jason and Hemsky have played together. He sees the ice well. He’s been a point-per-game guy. You look at all these teams in the West that are good offensively, we took a good stride offensively [last season] and hopefully this pushes us a notch higher.”
On Hemsky, Ruff sees a guy who is not only a skilled playmaker but a guy who can finish as well.
“He’s got good speed. He’s a guy that would look to pass first, but I have seen him score highlight reel goals,” Ruff said. “I’ve seen him shoot it from inside of the circles and score. I think he has both [playmaking and goal scoring ability].”
Ruff said he believes the addition of Spezza and Hemsky will be a boost to the Stars’ power play, which had its ups and downs and finished 23rd in the league at 15.9 percent last season.
Both players have been productive on the power play in their careers. Spezza has 252 career power play points (90 goals, 162 assists). Hemsky has 192 power play points (40 goals, 152 assists).
“When you are scratching numbers and names down now, you’ve got some great options,” Ruff said. “I thought a couple of our D took a nice step later in the year. I think that if we can put two good units out there, two strong units, it looks good for us.”
The Stars announced Wednesday that Jason Spezza will wear No. 90 for the Stars. Ales Hemsky will wear No. 83. Numbers for new Stars Patrick Eaves and Anders Lindback are still being determined.
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. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.