As training camp draws closer, more Dallas Stars players are arriving back in town to work out and skate in Frisco. Among them is forward Patrick Eaves .
"I was home in Detroit about 60 days, and when you come back and see the guys, you get that energy again," Eaves said. "It's a special thing to have when you are around each other all year. You take a little time off and then you are excited to see each other again."
Eaves said he spent his time in Michigan resting, seeing some friends and working out. Eaves also took a trip to Toronto, where he defended his title at the annual Smashfest ping-pong charity tournament. Eaves defeated Vancouver Canucks forward Alex Burrows to claim his second straight championship at the event, which raises money for both cancer and concussion research.
"I made a run in the finals. Burrows pushed me right to the end. He was really good this year," Eaves said. "It was fun. It was a great event, and a ton of guys turned out. It was good."
Several NHL players took part in the tournament, including Stars forward Antoine Roussel , who made it to the semifinals. But Eaves and Roussel didn't play against each other.
"Rous was on the other side of the bracket," Eaves said. "They kept us away from each other."
Now, Eaves and Roussel are both back in Dallas and are among a small group of Dallas players skating in Frisco a few times a week. Eaves has returned to the Stars after re-signing a one-year contract on July 1. Eaves was an unrestricted free agent, but was determined to return to Dallas for a third season.
"I think we have something to build off that is special," Eaves said. "It's a special group of guys that is fun to be out there with every day. I took that into great consideration. We have a great coaching staff, and it goes right up through management. I think something special is going on here, and I want to be part of it."
The Stars will look different this season. Several players from the 2015-16 team have moved on. Alex Goligoski was traded to Arizona. Vernon Fiddler (New Jersey), Jason Demers (Florida) and Colton Sceviour (Florida) were unrestricted free agents who signed elsewhere. Travis Moen (unsigned) and Kris Russell (unsigned) are gone as well. Some young players will help fill the void.
"We're going to miss the guys that moved on there. A lot of guys moved on, and I am happy for them as they enter their new chapter. We are going to miss them obviously," Eaves said. "[GM] Jim [Nill] and his staff have done a great job of drafting and developing. I think everyone in the room has faith in the prospects coming up. When they are here, they are going to be ready to play."
The Stars have added a couple of key veterans. The Stars signed defenseman Dan Hamhuis to a two-year deal on July 1. Hamhuis has been skating in Frisco recently, and Eaves has been impressed with his new teammate.
"I knew he was good, but I didn't know he was this good," Eaves said. "You really see how good he is when you are on the same team and see him every day, day in and day out. I have been very impressed this week. Holy smokes. I knew he was tough to play against, played a lot against him in Detroit and it's huge for our team to get him."
The Stars also added to their forward group in late August, signing Jiri Hudler to a one-year contract. Eaves knows Hudler well, having played with him in Detroit.
"He's a great guy," Eaves said. "He's a special, skilled player. He'll fit in very nicely."
The Stars took a good step forward last season, putting together the best record in the Western Conference in the regular season, winning in the first round of the playoffs and then ending the season one win short of advancing to the Western Conference Final.
"You just don't win the Cup overnight; one year make a run the whole way. We just have to do our part and build that next step, climb up that and build up another one," he said. "We'll look to get the start we had last year. It's going to take a lot of hard work. I think we still have that sour taste in our mouth, the way it ended. We're not satisfied."
And that's left Eaves and his teammates with some unfinished business, and the anticipation for the 2016-17 season is high.
"We've got new guys coming in. It is exciting," Eaves said. "We're ready to get going. We're excited. It's going to be fun."
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.