The Dallas Stars made a couple of moves on the first day of free agency, signing forward Ray Whitney to a two-year contract and defenseman Aaron Rome to a three-year deal.
Whitney, who turned 40 in May, was one of the top offensive players on the market. He notched 77 points (24 goals, 53 assists) and a plus-26 rating in 82 games last season with the Phoenix Coyotes.
"We’re really excited to have him,” said Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. "He’s coming off a 77-point season, he’s still one of the premier offensive players even at that age. I think with (Mike) Ribeiro going out we were in need of replacing some of that production, some of that skill. I think he is the type of player that makes players around him better. That is going to bode well for players like Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, and our power play."
|Ray Whitney has 1,003 points in his NHL career and captured one Stanley Cup championship with the Hurricanes in 2006. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images) |
Whitney brought up the Stars’ power play as an area where he could provide some help. So was the Stars’ locker room.
"I'm not going to come in talking bad about a power play I wasn't on, but if you go by the stats you see where it was last year and where it finished," Whitney said. "I'll try to help that out as best I can and be a top six forward, be productive. But mostly just try to be a guy in the locker room that can help with some of the younger guys and try to help the guys go in the right direction."
Nieuwendyk expects Whitney to see time on the first power play unit and he believes Whitney’s playmaking ability will be a big boost for the Stars as well.
"I think that’s going to be big for some of our guys, because we have centers who can finish, and Ray is a player who can really find people," Nieuwendyk said. "If he is playing with Jamie Benn then Jamie Benn is going to have lots of opportunities."
Whitney’s deal with the Stars will pay him $9 million over two years, and getting that second year was key for the right-handed shooting left wing.
"They were the one team that didn’t see anything in my game that would make them afraid of giving me the second year,” Whitney said. "That’s what I was most appreciative of."
Whitney has 1,003 points (365 goals, 638 assists) in 1,229 career NHL games. He’s played in 103 playoff games, winning a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006. The 5-10, 180-pound forward has been a consistent point producer during his career, even into his late 30’s. Nieuwendyk said even though Whitney has hit 40 there is no concern, and for his part Whitney doesn’t think it is an issue.
"People ask that question and it makes me wonder what makes people think I shouldn’t be productive at that age," said Whitney. "Just because you are at an age it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to decline or you’re supposed to all of sudden not to be able to play the game. It’s been frustrating for me to have to deal with it. For most of my career it was my size, I was too short to play the game, and then it was the age. There’s nothing that says you can’t play into your 40’s."
"No one questioned Mark Recchi playing; no one questioned Nick Lidstrom playing. Obviously, if you take care of yourself physically, you continue to train, eat properly and watch your body you can continue to play as long as you want. Eventually time will catch up with you, I understand that, but with today’s modern medicine and the way players are taken care of by doctors, there’s nothing saying a player can’t play until 40."
The Stars signed Rome to a three-year, $4.5 million deal. Rome, 28, has played the last three seasons for Vancouver. Last season he played in 43 games, picking up four goals and six assists. The 6-1, 225-pound defenseman has six goals and 16 assists in 174 career NHL games. He also has 18 NHL playoff games under his belt.
"He’s a big body and he plays a tough game, and I think he’s going to do that for us," said Nieuwendyk. "He’s got some experience and he’s been in some playoff runs in recent years. He’s a gritty guy; he plays hard.
"He gives us some flexibility going forward. There will be stiff competition for jobs and to get in the lineup. One thing I know year after year there are always teams looking for D, and there are always injuries. To have that depth and to have a guy that has a lot of grit to him like is for good for our depth."
|Aaron Rome will help bolster the Stars' blue line this season. (Jamie Sabu/Getty Images) |
Nieuwendyk said the Stars will give a good look this season to prospects like defenseman Brenden Dillon and Matt Fraser, and that the signings of Rome and Whitney are an important part of the process as he works to get the team where he wants it to be.
"If you think about what we’ve done already, we’ve traded Mike Ribeiro for Cody Eakin and a second round pick, we’ve added Ray Whitney, we have plans to incorporate some younger players, which is where we’ve been heading with all of this," Nieuwendyk said. "It’s three years on Rome and two on Whitney, trying to bridge the gap until we hopefully get some of those kids incorporated and they turn into productive players like some of the veteran players we’ve had here."
*Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk wouldn’t rule out the possibility of more moves in free agency in the days ahead.
"I wouldn’t say we’re finished yet," he said. "We’ll take a look in the next couple days, but I look at all summer, too. There’s a long summer ahead, quite possibly bleeding into September."
*Nieuwendyk said the Stars did make an offer on free agent forward Zach Parise, but Parise indicated he would be going elsewhere.
"I’ll tell you we made a significant offer to Parise. I think they’re probably going to go in a different direction, they’ve notified us," Nieuwendyk said.
*Nieuwendyk said the Stars did make an inquiry on defenseman Jason Garrison, who ended up signing with Vancouver.