When you talk about a notable duo on the Dallas Stars, the obvious names that pop up are Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. But if you watch Dallas play, you can quickly see how pivotal another Stars tandem can be. That is the pair of Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt.
The Stars avoided arbitration with Roussel on Tuesday by signing the restricted free-agent to a new, four-year contract. The deal ensures that the Stars fan-favorite will remain in Dallas at least through the 2017-2018 season. Roussel’s signing comes just about six months after the Stars locked up Garbutt to a three-year extension before he hit the open market.
Knowing that those two will be on the same team – and likely the same line – for the next three years is as exciting for the Stars as it is frustrating to the rest of the NHL. Can you imagine what the other 29 teams are thinking about having to face that pair night in and night out through 2017?
Time and time again Stars fans have seen what the Roussel/Garbutt one-two punch does to opponents. They hit. They frustrate. They shut down. They punish. They fight. They rattle. And they score. That last quality cannot be underestimated. Last season Garbutt had 17 goals (third on the team, behind only Seguin and Benn) and Roussel finished with 14. Roussel also finished third in the NHL with 209 penalty minutes, while Garbutt had 106. Of the 33 players who had 100 or more penalty minutes, only five players had more goals than Roussel. Only three had more than Garbutt. Keep in mind that they accomplished those numbers with virtually no power play time all season. Throughout the year we saw the line come up big against the likes of Chicago, Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and others. When they are on the ice together, Roussel and Garbutt have the ability to turn a game on any shift.
But as impressive as their numbers are, what makes both so special are the intangibles. It’s hard to find guys who compete so ruthlessly every shift of every game. If you flip on a game and see that pair on the ice, it is almost impossible to tell if the Stars are winning, losing or tied. You won’t know if it’s the first, second, or third period. And you’ll have no idea if it’s game number 3, 47, or 82 of the season. It’s cliché to talk about guys who don’t take shifts off, but these two truly embody that philosophy. And there’s a reason why.
Both Roussel and Garbutt were undrafted players who had to work and fight – both figuratively and literally – to get to where they are today. They climbed their way through role positions in the low minors with stops in the ECHL and AHL before earning full-time NHL spots. The reason they only know how to go top speed is because if they knew anything less, they wouldn’t be here.
Last season they primarily split their time playing alongside Cody Eakin or Vernon Fiddler. Fiddler has re-signed for a couple of years, and Eakin – another restricted free-agent – will likely be signing a multi-year deal soon. That means that those combinations are once again there, at Lindy Ruff’s disposal, for the foreseeable future. The thought of Roussel-Eakin-Garbutt as Dallas’ third line for the next three years should keep fans smiling all the way through 2017.
People around the Stars affectionately refer to Roussel and Garbutt as “The Pit Bulls.” They are fast. They are physical. They scrap. They sacrifice their bodies. They stick up for their teammates. And now, thanks to a pair of new contracts, they will continue to patrol the ice in Dallas for many years to come.
Release the hounds.
Josh Bogorad is the Pre-Game, Post-Game, and Intermission host for the Stars radio broadcasts. He can be heard 30 minutes before face-off and immediately after games all season long on SportsRadio 1310AM and 96.7FM The Ticket. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshBogorad.