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Will 'great test' lead Janmark to bigger deal next summer?

Nill says the 'valuable' forward is eager to prove himself after re-signing with the Stars on a 1-year contract

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Mattias Janmark knows a thing or two about challenges, so the 2019-20 season should be something he can face head on.

The 26-year-old forward last week signed a one-year contract extension that will lead into the potential for unrestricted free agency next summer, so he's betting on his own ability. But after already overcoming a debilitating knee injury that kept him out of hockey for the 2016-17 season, this is just one more step in the climb for Janmark.

"It's a great test for him, and I think he's looking forward to it," said Stars general manager Jim Nill of the one-year deal for $2.3 million. "If he steps up and puts up the numbers, he will definitely be able to build on that and take advantage of his situation."

 

[JANNY B. GOOD: Janmark signs one-year, $2.3 million contract extension with Stars]

 

Janmark is one of the most respected players on the Stars, but the NHL is a business, and so the fact that he missed a season because of Osteochondritis dissecans (a condition in which bone underneath the cartilage of a joint dies due to lack of blood flow) means he has to prove himself year after year.

Last season, he came back from the year away from hockey to tally 19 goals among 34 points and earn the Stars' Masterton Trophy nomination. This past season, he played 81 games, but his numbers were down -- six goals among 25 points.

"He's done a great job for us and worked so hard, and sometimes it's just a matter of getting those numbers up," said Nill. "He has the ability to score 15, 20, or even more, goals, and so then he has to go out and do that, and then he's in complete control."

Janmark and Nill go back a long way. Nill was part of the Detroit Red Wings organization that scouted Janmark before drafting him 79th overall in 2013. He then acquired Janmark as part of the Erik Cole trade in 2015.

Video: DAL@STL, Gm2: Janmark and Dickinson combine for goal

Janmark burst onto the scene and made the NHL roster in 2015-16, tallying 15 goals among 29 points in 73 games that season. The next year, however, he started to feel instability in his knee and that started a series of surgeries and a year of rehab in which Janmark questioned if his career would be over.

"That was tough and I didn't really know how to deal with it really. But I remember I had a meeting with Jim the day after to kind of get the process going, and one thing I remember is that I really wanted to get the surgery done right away so I could start the process," Janmark said last year in describing the process.

"After the surgery, I could barely walk. It was pretty frustrating at times. We could do drills in the pool and I could just feel my knee didn't work like it should. And they didn't know, really. They didn't have any real answers."

Yet, he found those answers through hard work, and proved he could overcome the challenges by scoring 19 goals.

"I think when you look at where he is, it's amazing," Nill said. "He is one of our options as a top-six forward, and he can also help if he's not playing in the top six. He's a valuable member of this team."

Janmark has the skill to hang with some of the best players on the Stars. For two seasons, he was a regular linemate with Jason Spezza.

"He's a great skater and he's good on his edges, and I don't think people know how strong his legs are," Spezza said. "I like playing with him because he has really high hockey IQ."

Video: DAL@NSH: Janmark overpowers Rinne with heavy slapper

Janmark has played in the past with Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov, and also spent much of the playoffs on the fourth line with Justin Dowling. He can move up and down the lineup and can play all three forward positions. He was third among forwards in shorthanded time on ice last season at 1:30 per game.

"He has the skill and speed to play with players like Seguin or he has the intelligence and commitment to be one of your better defensive forwards, so it's just a matter of finding what works," Nill said.

While the knee surgery was hard, Janmark still maintains great skating speed, which might be one of his top assets. It's also a key for him playing a key role on this Stars team, which embraces a fast game.

 

[RELATED: How Janmark defied the odds to return from a career-threatening knee injury]

 

"I think the whole league is trending that way, but it is one of the things that can help set him apart," Nill said. "You need to skate to score in this league, and he can do that."

Nill said Janmark has the ability to make this next season a big one if he can score a little more.

"It's an opportunity," Nill said.

And Janmark has always done well when he's been given an opportunity.

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, and listen to his podcast.

Read more: Mattias Janmark , Jim Nill, Dallas Stars

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