The Dallas Stars locked up a key piece of their core Friday, signing center Cody Eakin to a four-year contract extension worth $3.85 million per season.
“Cody is a big part of our team now and in the future,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “He’s a very versatile player; you can play him up and down the lineup. He’s very responsible. He’s good in his own end, and he can score. The coaches love him because he does all the little things right. He’s competitive. We just think he is going to get better, and we are showing a commitment to him that he is a big part of our future. And we want him to take over some of the leadership moving forward.”
The 24-year-old Eakin, who has one year left on his current contract, set career highs in goals (19), assists (21) and points (40) in 78 games played last season. It was the third season in Dallas for Eakin, who was acquired along with a second-round pick in July 2012 for center Mike Ribeiro. Eakin has shown growth in each of the three years, and the Stars expect more moving forward.
“He can be a 40-60 point player consistently,” Nill said. “At times last year, due to injuries and because he was playing so well, he moved up and played on the top line. He can play on the top line, he plays that shutdown role. He brings a lot to the table. I had him at the World Championship (winning a gold medal with Canada), and he was a big part of the team over there. I think there is still growth in his game.”
While his offense took a step forward last season, Eakin played key roles in other areas for the Stars. He ranked second among forwards in shorthanded ice time per game last season (1:57), and he led the team in faceoffs taken (1,292), winning 50.8 percent. He can play a shutdown role as well.
“You can play him against the best players in the league. When we go out on the road, a lot of times he gets matched up against the best players,” Nill said. “When we made the playoffs (2014), he was up against [Anaheim’s Ryan] Getzlaf. He’s a hard player to play against. He’s on the puck, he’s tenacious, he’s got good skills, and he skates well. He’s just a good all-around hockey player.”
The Stars got the deal done well in advance of Eakin becoming a restricted free agent, which would have happened after next season. Last time around, Eakin missed training camp while working out a two-year deal that averaged $1.9 million per season.
“It’s important for both parties. It’s important for him. We’ve shown a commitment to him. We believe in him. He’s a big part of this team moving forward,” Nill said. “For us, we have to plan our rosters. We are planning our roster for this year and three, four years down the road. We know now that he is slotted in where we want him.”
And the Stars also have their top three centers under contract for several years. Eakin is signed through 2019-20 and both Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza are locked up through 2018-19.
“We are set up good down the middle,” Nill said. “We are getting some of our young defensemen – [John Klingberg] is signed [for seven years]. We are getting the core of our team signed, which is important.”
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.