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Stars add experience on defense with signing of Hamhuis

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Dan Hamhuis waived his no-trade clause last season to pave the way for a possible trade from the Vancouver Canucks to the Dallas Stars, but the deal never materialized. Now – a little more than four months after that trade fell through – Hamhuis is on the way to Dallas.

Hamhuis, who hit the free-agent market Friday, signed a two-year contract worth $3.75 million per season. The veteran defenseman was a priority for Stars GM Jim Nill, and the Stars were high on of the list potential landing spots for Hamhuis.

“Dallas was definitely a front-runner going into it, and when Jim called and offered the contract, it was a clear decision for us. It was a pretty quick and smooth negotiation to get where we are,” Hamhuis said. “When you look at all the different teams that could be potential places to play and all the different boxes that could be checked off – fit in the community, fit on the team, role on the team and all those things – and the Stars had so many of those boxes checked off. And one of the biggest boxes is they are in a window to win right now. That’s something I am really excited about.”

The 33-year-old Hamhuis has spent the past six seasons in Vancouver and will bring 872 games of NHL experience to a Dallas defense that is expected to feature a lot of youth in 2016-17.

“I am excited about our young defense, but I knew it would be nice if we had the opportunity to add experience in someone like Dan,” Nill said.

Hamhuis has missed time the past two seasons due to injury, but the Stars expect him to play a key role in 2016-17. The 6-1, 209-pound left-handed shot is a solid defender who can move the puck and eat up big minutes on the blue line. He’s won a gold medal at the Olympics and played in a Stanley Cup Final with Vancouver.

“He’s going to play top four minutes for us. He gives us versatility,” Nill said. “[Leadership] is a big part of it. You can look at his resume, and I am a big resume guy.”

Hamhuis is familiar with several Stars players. He’s played with Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and Cody Eakin, hearing good things about the Stars organization and the Dallas area along the way.

He’s played under coach Lindy Ruff at both the World Championship and the Olympics.

“I am hoping Lindy is giving me a little more ice time than he gave me at the Olympics,” Hamhuis joked. “But it’s been all great experiences working with him.”

With the signing of Hamhuis, the Stars have eight likely defensemen on next season’s roster. That’s the same number the Stars carried most of last season and what Nill plans to carry again in 2016-17. Due to the World Cup, the schedule will be squeezed into less time, and Nill said the Stars will need all eight defensemen.

“It’s going to be a grind,” Nill said. “I know you can never have enough defensemen. I know last year was tough on some of our young kids. It’s a learning process for those guys, and it will make them better players this year. We will need all our defensemen this year. It’s great competition for all of them. The best are going to play, but I know they are going to get playing time, too.”

The addition of Hamhuis and the departures of Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, and Kris Russell will give the Stars a different look on the blue line this season. As it stands now, the Stars will roll with Hamhuis, John Klingberg, Johnny Oduya, Stephen Johns, Patrik Nemeth, Esa Lindell, Jordie Benn and Jamie Oleksiak.

“It’s going to be different, but it’s going to be better,” Nill said. “We’re getting faster and getting stronger on the backend.”

Eaves returns

*Forward Patrick Eaves hit the free agent market Friday, but he didn’t go far. The Stars re-signed the 32-year-old right wing to a one-year contract reportedly worth $1 million. Next season will be Eaves’ third with the Stars. He’s had some injury issues but has been an effective player when in the lineup, tallying 25 goals and 19 assists in 101 games with Dallas.

“He’s a veteran presence. He’s been there and done it,” Stars GM Jim Nill said. “When we had our organizational meetings and talked to the coaching staff, they just have so much trust in Patty. They can put him on the first line, second line, fourth line. He can play on the power play, and penalty kill. He’s very versatile, and he is the consummate pro.”

*The Stars signed two defensemen who are expected to provide depth in the AHL. Andrew Bodnarchuk signed a two-year contract, and defenseman Dustin Stevenson signed a one-year contract.

“You can never have enough depth,” Nill said. “They are going to get opportunities in training camp to show what they can do, and it just gives us more flexibility.”

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 reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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