As Jiri Hudler considered the Dallas Stars as a possible landing spot during free agency this summer, he did some research. Although Hudler knew the Stars had a good team and his experience playing against the Stars told them it was a good organization, he still wanted to gather some intelligence before making a decision.
"You do your checking, and everyone said the same thing, that it's a great group of guys," Hudler said.
And Hudler found out in his first week with the Stars that those intelligence reports were correct.
"In the locker room I don't feel like I've been around for a week, I feel like I've been around for a couple years," Hudler said. "I've been in the league long enough, but you are still a little nervous about how it is going to be and if you are going to click with the boys in the room. This is more than I expected. Everybody is really nice, and this is a fun group. The class coming out of the room is unreal. I like that."
Making sure new players are welcome starts at the top with management and works its way down through the organization.
"Everybody on our team is tight," said forward Antoine Roussel. "That's the mentality of our team; it is family first. That's what we do; we welcome guys like that."
Hudler and defenseman Dan Hamhuis, the Stars' other key offseason addition, have quickly worked themselves into the mix.
"The new additions coming in, they are not shy at all," said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. "You can hear them talk around the locker room. It is exciting. The guys know who they are taking into the locker room."
The Stars signed the 32-year-old Hudler, a skilled forward, to a one-year, $2 million contract in late August. GM Jim Nill said at the time of the signing that you can never have enough skill and depth on a team's roster.
The depth part proved to be important with the Stars suffering a rash of injuries in training camp and Valeri Nichushkin deciding not to return to the Stars and sign a two-year deal in the KHL. Hudler brings eleven seasons of NHL experience, tallying 417 points (161 goals, 256 assists) in 676 games. He's played in 83 NHL playoff games and won a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008.
"He's got a high skill level, and he's going to fit in well with the way we play here in Dallas," said forward Patrick Sharp. "He can play with speed, hang on to the puck, make plays, and he's great on the power play."
Added Stars coach Lindy Ruff: "He's just been a consistent 50 to 70-point player - and last year he was a little off that mark - but we feel he plays the game the way we like to play it; he likes to have the puck, and he makes good plays. I think we have some players he can play with that they can make each other better."
Where Hudler will fit in the lineup is still up in the air. He's been skating on a line with Jamie Benn the first few days at camp, but Hudler says he's not worried about where he ends up as far as a line.
"It doesn't have to be top line," Hudler said. "Whoever I play with I am sure they are going to be great players."
And Hudler is focused on team goals. Asked if he considered the possibility of playing with Radek Faksa and Ales Hemsky to form an all Czech Republic line, Huddler shook his head in the negative.
"I never think this way," Hudler said. "It's Dallas Stars, Dallas Stars, Dallas Stars. Not Czech Republic."
Hudler had a career year with Calgary in 2014-15, registering 76 points (31 goals, 45 assists) in 78 games playing on a line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. He called it a "perfect season" as the Flames pulled off a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last season, the Flames struggled, and Hudler's numbers tailed off. As a pending unrestricted free agent, he was traded to Florida at the NHL trade deadline.
Hudler is looking for a bounce back season, and he has a new definition of a perfect season now that he is with the Stars.
"We can do a lot of great things here," Hudler said. "Perfect season would be for me to still be here talking in the middle of June."