Thursday, July 26, 2012

Austin Smith Returns to His Roots, Talks Growing the Game in Texas

(Credit: Judy True)

For Texas-born hockey player named Austin, playing your first professional game just a stone's throw from the State Capitol is a unique and special occurrence.

"Getting my chance to play in Austin was surreal," said Austin Smith at this month's Development Camp. "The fans were amazing. It was amazing to have that atmosphere being a Texas-born player."

Smith started his love of hockey early on when his Dad took him to Dallas Stars' games when the team first moved to Texas. The Coppell, Texas, native picked up roller hockey shortly thereafter and then transitioned to ice, playing most of his youth career at the Stars' former practice facility in Valley Ranch.

After moving to Connecticut to play at Gunnery Prep, British Columbia to play for Penticton, and later attending Colgate University in upstate New York, Smith has returned to his hockey roots for what he hopes is a long time. After finishing up his college career in the spring, he joined the Texas Stars for the final twelve games of their 2011-12 campaign.

In Cedar Park and the Central Texas area, Smith sees an opportunity for hockey to gain a foothold as a big-time youth sport. He was among the "first generation" of youth hockey players in Dallas. With the arrival of the Texas Stars, the Austin area could be seeing that same influx happening right now.

"[Birth years] 1986 to 1988 are that first generation of hockey here in Texas. There were probably only a couple hundred kids playing when I first started."

(Credit: Portraits by Deena)
Smith, who was born in 1988, saw hockey as a great alternative to football and basketball, even if it made him a little different than most of his friends.

"I was little when I was young, so it was a good sport for me. I was never 'football-sized' and I wouldn't have made it in basketball either. However, there were times where I felt a little different, where you're at middle school and no one plays hockey. Everyone goes after school to play basketball or whatever."

For Smith, the first step to growing the game in Central Texas is the addition of more rinks. With the closing of the Chaparral Ice location on I-35, the community has been reduced to one year-round rink. The Chap's recently announced partnership with the Texas Stars will help things but CenTex still has a ways to go before it reaches the level of coverage that Dallas boasts.

"That's one beauty of being here in Dallas. There are 10-12 rinks in a 30 mile radius. If we can find a way to get more rinks in the area, that will definitely help the cause. That's the place to start. The ice is so expensive, and unless you have more facilities, the demand is so high and the price will only go up.

For now though, Smith points out that youth players with NHL dreams needn't worry about getting on the ice every day. He often tells parents during clinics that off-ice or "dry land" training is just as important to the growth of a young player.

Regardless of where the training happens, the passion for the game will start for many at the Cedar Park Center, just as Smith's passion grew out of trip to the Reunion Area in Dallas.

"You have to get the kids started young on it. Everyone else goes out to play football, and I was playing hockey. I had a love of the game, and we need that to get more kids into it."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jordie Benn Signs One Year, Two-Way Contract With Dallas

The title really says it all for this one. Defenseman Jordie Benn was sent a qualifying offer this summer and signed a one year, two-way deal with the Dallas Stars today for the 2012-13 season. He should be in Cedar Park for most of the season but could be the first callup for the NHL club in case of injury. Jordie is another great story from the CHL for Dallas, along with Ryan Garbutt.

Here's the release:
The Dallas Stars announced today that the club has signed defenseman Jordie Benn to a one-year, two-way contract for the 2012-13 campaign.

Benn, 24, earned an assist in his NHL debut last season, becoming the 10th player in Dallas Stars history to record his first NHL point in his first NHL game. Along with younger brother Jamie, they became the third set of siblings in Dallas Stars history, and the sixth in team annals, to play in an NHL contest together. In total, Benn collected two assists in three games with Dallas in 2011-12.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound defenseman played a majority of the 2011-12 campaign with Dallas’ development affiliate, the Texas Stars, where he ranked first among team defensemen in goals (9), power play goals (5), overall points (32), and was tied for first in assists with Brenden Dillon (23).

The Victoria, BC native was undrafted and signed with the Stars as a free agent on July 1, 2011. He spent the 2010-11 season with Texas (AHL), recording 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) and 39 penalty minutes in 60 appearances. In 45 games with the Allen Americans of the Central Hockey League in 2009-10, he posted 18 points (9 goals, 9 assists) and 55 PIM. He also collected 11 points (2 goals, 9 assists) and 12 penalty minutes in 20 playoff games with the Americans that season, as Allen advanced to the CHL Finals before falling in six games at the hands of the Rapid City Rush.

(Image credit: Steven Christy)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Jack Campbell Looking to "Be In Control" During First Pro Season

Jack Campbell handles the puck behind his net in a March 23rd game at OKC (Credit: Steven Christy)

Goalie Jack Campbell was among many of the players at Development Camp this month expected to spend most, if not all, of the season in Cedar Park with the Texas Stars. Campbell started the last 12 games of the 2011-12 season for Texas and quickly became a fan favorite.

"I just really enjoyed it. It was a great experience; the fans were awesome."

Campbell has spent the summer preparing for his first full professional season after leaving the OHL's Soo Greyhounds at the end of last season. The American-born tender put himself through a "pretty tough" training regimen leading up to camp, lifting in the morning and skating and yoga in the afternoon six days a week.

Goalie coach Mike Valley had Campbell, Christopher Nihlstorp and Tyler Beskorowany working on their own during the Development Camp sessions. Nihlstorp is expected to pair up with Campbell in Texas in net. "[Christopher's] another great guy," said Campbell. "Dallas has a lot of great character and it's great to meet new people. He's pushing me out there along with Tyler."

The game was really quite different for Campbell between the OHL and AHL. He noted that the game style is a lot faster and shots came quicker and harder.

"At the same time, I felt like I could elevate my game. Now I'm trying to slow it down and be more in control. I feel like I'm getting better."

Campbell will continue his training this summer in Windsor, Ontario, before undoubtedly heading to the Traverse City Tournament in September (if the CBA is resolved).

Wherever he ultimately ends up this season, and whenever that season may ultimately start, Campbell knows he has a welcome home in Cedar Park.

"My goodness, [the end of last season] was awesome. Being an American, I felt like the fans welcomed me with open arms, more than most, perhaps. The fans were loud. I had no idea they were so passionate about their hockey. For them to come out and support us like that even though we didn't make the playoffs, that was awesome. I'm just really looking forward to the next season."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Texas Stars Partner With Chaparral Ice to Bring Amateur Hockey to CPC

Tyler Beskorowany takes time to pose for a picture with some young fans after practice at the Chaparral Ice on I-35 during the 2010-11 season. (Credit: Bill Harris)

The Texas Stars have announced this afternoon that they have partnered with the local hockey rink, Chaparral Ice, to "maximize the availability of full-sheet ice at Cedar Park Center and Chaparral Ice". Essentially, the agreement allow the Chaparral Ice Center to schedule full hockey league activities at the Cedar Park Center through the year.

Last season, the Chaparral Ice location on I-35 closed its doors and has since been purchased and renovated to no longer function as an ice rink. As the below release states, the Stars have an interest in ensuring there is more than just one ice sheet in the Austin area available for amateur hockey.

In the 2011-12 season, the CPC opened its doors to the adult amateur community for a Spring draft league. This partnership looks to continue and extend that relationship through the existing Chaparral Ice league infrastructure.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars and Chaparral Ice announced on Thursday that they have entered into a partnership to maximize the availability of full-sheet ice at Cedar Park Center and Chaparral Ice’s location at Northcross at West Anderson lane. The partnership also covers the continued development of the Texas Junior Stars program through Chaparral Ice’s youth travel teams.

“With only one full-time, full-sheet of ice available in the Greater Austin area, we felt it was imperative to coordinate our efforts with Chaparral Ice to maximize the amount of ice available for not just youth and adult hockey, but also all ice sports,” stated Texas Stars President Rick McLaughlin. “Additionally, through our agreement with Chaparral Ice, we anticipate the Texas Junior Stars program will continue to grow and thrive.”

The agreement covers the managed scheduling of ice time at Cedar Park Center by Chaparral Ice to enable full hockey league activities in the Austin area. In addition, Chaparral Ice is the home of the Texas Junior Stars program.

Chaparral Ice is a family-owned business that is home to approximately 20 youth teams, from recreation through high school to competition/travel hockey teams, with over 250 boys and girls ranging from ages four to 18. The facility is also home to over 400 adult league participants across 8 leagues. In addition to year-round hockey, Chaparral Ice is home to the Austin Figure Skating Club, Stars of Austin Synchro Team, Capital of Texas Figure Skating Club and the Lonestar Curling Club. The facility is also available for public skating, corporate events, broomball, and hosts year-round skating and hockey classes.

“Chaparral Ice is excited about our new relationship with the Texas Stars and Cedar Park Center,” said Angie Vaught, General Manager of Chaparral Ice Center. “This relationship will allow us to offer additional programs and ice time not only to our current players and skaters, but to the growing skating community in Central Texas as well. We will be able to meet the needs of all our programs for the 2012-13 season, and we look forward to the opportunity to expand the presence of ice sports in the Cedar Park/Leander area. We feel our partnership with the Texas Stars and Cedar Park Center will be vital to the growth of hockey and figure skating in the greater Austin area.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reilly Smith Knows AHL Is Key Piece of NHL Future

Reilly Smith takes a break between drills at last week's Development Camp in Frisco, Texas (Credit: Kimberly VanHeel)

Most young hockey players' sibling rivalries never leave the local hockey rink. As they ascend through hockey, fewer and fewer brother pairs make it to the next level. Only 259 sets of brothers have played in the NHL, and the Stars' Reilly Smith and Red Wings' Brendan Smith are in that select group.

But before the two could potentially face off four times a year in the NHL, both needed some seasoning in the AHL. Brendan's prior experience with the Griffins over the past two years has helped reinforce the importance of the AHL to Reilly.

"[Brendan] actually found that playing in the AHL was a lot harder grind than he thought it would be," said Reilly last week at Development Camp. "There's a lot of travel, and it's a lot harder than you think. It helped his game and made him stronger mentally. The AHL pointed out the weak areas of his game. We've talked a lot about it, almost everyday."

Brendan and Reilly never played together as kids due to their age difference. Their best chance, with the OPJHL's St. Michael's Buzzers, did not come to fruition as Brendan left the club to play for the University of Wisconsin in 2007. Instead, Reilly joined his eldest brother, Rory, for that season with the Buzzers. Rory is now a professional lacrosse player with the Colorado Mammoth.

Reilly went on to attend Miami of Ohio from 2009 to 2012. In his final season, he was among the top ten finalists for the Hobey Baker, scoring 30 goals and 18 assists in just 39 games. After leaving Miami, he played three games for Dallas before the end of the season. "[The NHL] was like night and day from college. As soon as I left, I knew I had a lot of work to do."

And the AHL is a great place to learn some of those skills.

"When I finished the year with Dallas, they said there were no guarantees. You're competiting to make the team just like everyone else. It's was a good experience and is helping me to push myself more."

As part of that regimen to make himself better, he has been working out with Brendan in the weight room this summer. They are distinctly aware that they could face each other for the first time either in the AHL or NHL this season.

"We're pretty competitive with each other. There's always that possibility that we'll play each other," said Reilly. "It'll be pretty interesting how it all works out. Backyard games of hockey were always competitive and I'm sure this would be no different."

Between his new teammates in the Dallas organization and his Red Wings prospect brother, Reilly knows that if he does end up in Cedar Park it's a great place to start out his career.

"Austin [Smith], [Brenden] Dillon, [Scott] Glennie and I have talked a lot about Cedar Park. They said it's a great atmosphere, and everything is awesome down there. My brother said it's one of the best places to play in the league."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dallas Stars Get Gritty, Re-Sign Gazdic, Garbutt


Late on Monday, the Dallas Stars announced the re-signing of forwards Luke Gazdic and Ryan Garbutt and the signing of new draftee defenseman Ludwig Bystrom to a three year entry-level contract. Gazdic and Garbutt were both restricted free agents at the end of the 2011-12 season and were both tendered qualifying offers. Garbutt signed a two-year one-way deal, while Gazdic signed a one-year two-way deal.


With a one-way contract, Garbutt will likely spend his season in Dallas after finishing the year in the NHL last season. After playing in the CHL just two years ago, Garbutt has now scored a one-way contract in the NHL.

If Garbutt is assigned to Texas, which could be possible but I think unlikely, fans know what to expect. Hoping that penalty trouble is resolved after time in the NHL, Garbutt can be counted on for high-energy play in the top two lines. Surely Texas would also love to have his shorthanded tenacity back on a pairing with another shorthanded beast like Mike Hedden.

Meanwhile, the Stars wanted Gazdic to focus on playing between the whistles last year, and he had a career year in terms of offense, collecting 11-12-23 while only tallying 102 minutes of penalties, a career low. After a minus-22 in 2011-12, the next step for Gazdic is to tighten up the defensive side of his game. The last thing you want from an energy forward is a defensive liability. It's the next logical step in the growth of his game.

This leaves Jordie Benn as the last RFA with a qualifying offer expected to play in Cedar Park not to have signed with Dallas yet. His brother, Jamie, the other big fish on Dallas's radar.

(Image credit: Portraits by Deena)

Texas Stars 2012-13 Roster First Look

Head coach Willie Desjardins will lead the troops in 2012-13, but who will he be leading?

Things have finally settled enough between Dallas signings, Texas signings and signings elsewhere that I feel confident projecting an early look at the Texas Stars lineup for the 2012-13 season.

Goalies

Let's start with the easiest position, goaltending. With Richard Bachman getting a one-way deal and Christopher Nihlstorp having never played a game in the NHL to this point, I think that you'll see Jack Campbell and Nihlstorp in Austin this season. Nihlstorp would have to have an out-of-his-mind camp and Bachman, the worst in his career, for that to change.

This leaves Tyler Beskorowany on the outs. It is very unlikely that Dallas sends Campbell to Idaho. Nihlstorp would have to give his consent to be sent to Idaho, since he is not on an ELC. I don't see that happening, since he was surely brought over from Sweden to compete for the backup role in Dallas and be first call from the American League. Beskorowany will probably be sent to resurrect his career in Idaho along with rookie Josh Robinson.

Defense

It gets a little harder as you shift up to the blue line. The depth chart obviously starts in Dallas, where there is some uncertainty still. Brenden Dillon could very possibly make the NHL club out of training camp this fall. Let's assume that does happen. If so, the lineup could look something like this.

Oleksiak-Fortunus
Nemeth-Benn
Sloan-Labrie
(as of yet unsigned AHL/ECHL D man)

In my opinion, Dallas won't keep Jace Coyle in Texas just to have him sit in the press box every night. That's not why you have kids in development leagues. They would be most likely in this case to sign another defenseman to act as the seventh blue liner and fill in due to injury.

If Dillon does indeed get assigned to Texas, it would be a toss-up to me whether Dallas would assign Labrie or the AHL-ECHL player to Idaho. Labrie would make sense to ensure he gets his ice time, so I'm leaning that way.

Forwards

This is where things get dicey. When you're looking at a depth chart of thirteen in Dallas before you even start talking about the thirteen or fourteen here in Austin, predictions get difficult. Here's a stab at it, keeping in mind that lines are not wholly indicative, just guesses.

Fraser-Morin-Chiasson

Perhaps it makes sense to keep Fraser and Morin together, perhaps it doesn't based on their defensive deficiencies last year. Let's say it does. They add a big bodied winger (a la Ray Sawada from early 2011-12) to the lineup, but with better hands than any of their previous linemates. This should be a great scoring line, but their plus-minus could be questionable. There is also some chance that Chiasson starts in Dallas, but I think he's more likely to be a mid-season callup.

Smith, A.-Petersen-Smith, R.

The Smiths work on either side of veteran pivotman Toby Petersen on this second line. Austin Smith is a great goal scorer and Petersen is an effective goal and assist producer at the AHL level, potting 51 points in 63 games in 07-08. Reilly Smith is also a goal scorer with 30 goals and 18 assists in his final season at Miami Ohio (39 games). I feel like this line would be more defensively responsible thanks to the influence of the veteran Petersen.

Wathier-Sceviour-Glennie

Why not reunite one of the most successful lines from last season, the Swagger line. Defensively responsible hockey that can score as well? Who wouldn't want that going over the boards as the third line? If Scott Glennie can continue to mature his game, then this line could become lethal in terms of scoring prowess.

Gazdic-Tousignant-Hedden
Roussel


I'll admit that the sandpaper might need to be spread across the lineup a little more than this, but I think this lineup could be a solid one. Really, this particular line hinges on the skill advancement of Mathieu Tousignant. Hampered by injuries in his first and third years with Texas so far, can he be an effective pivot for this or any line? If he can return to his season two form (10-13-23 in 78 GP), then this line works. If not, then this may be the last year for Tousignant.

Despite his placement on this last line, I think Texas is looking for more out of Luke Gazdic. He started to show flashes of it last season: the ability to score and be an effective part of the PK. It is sure that he will probably get a few fighting majors this season, but it won't be anything near as many as last year. Antoine Roussel, who I have here in the 13th forward position, could be the enforcer this year.

Finally, it is known that Hedden can play up and down the lineup. Hopefully he won't have to this season, but what he brings to the fourth line is that ability to elevate his game when it is called for.

Players Departed

This list, of course, leaves several players out of the equation for the 2012-13 Dallas Stars organization. Remember that this list could change in a second though. For example, Dallas signed Ray Sawada and Texas signed Nick Layton both on July 19th last year. I've included the player's new home, if they have one, for 12-13.

NHL UFAs - Godard, Lukowich, Raycroft (Milan, Italy), Sawada, Spang
NHL RFAs - Hauswirth, Neal, Stefanovich
AHL UFAs - Layton, Schultz, Weller
AHL PTOs - Arnason, Berube (Allen), Brodie, Campbell, S., Case, Connolly, Lowe, Spratt
AHL ATOs - Vause

Friday, July 13, 2012

Maxime Fortunus Returns to Texas Stars for Fourth Year

(Credit: Steven Christy)

Despite all signs initially pointing to no, the Stars have re-signed Maxime Fortunus on a one year, two-way deal. Fortunus is the club's all-time leader in defenseman games played, having started with the club in its inaugural season of 2009-10.

Fortunus will be a huge veteran presence in the locker room for the Texas Stars, along with Tyler Sloan. The right-handed shot out of Quebec had six goals and fourteen assists last season. With the signing, Texas now has either 7 or 8 defensemen for their roster (depending on whether you want to count Brenden Dillon)

Oleksiak-Dillon
Sloan-Labrie
Nemeth-Benn
Coyle-Fortunus

Note that my pairings here are not "real".

I'll admit that my initial leanings on this were incorrect. Rumour was that Fortunus was not happy with how the season went last year and was going to entertain other offers. Perhaps he did and wasn't happy with what he saw. I think the changes over the summer should show that the organization is committed to a culture change. I would also assume that when the details show up on Capgeek that he got a nice pay bump at the AHL level, commensurate with his veteran experience.

Quick Hits with Texas Stars Coach Willie Desjardins

I got a chance to talk to Texas Stars head coach Willie Desjardins on Saturday. He's very excited to get started with the team and I talked to him on a few different topics.

On what he sees from the first few days of camp:
It's amazing when you look at the size and the speed. Every year they seem to get better. You can't tell it on the ice, but we have great character as well.
On what stands out for him with Jamie Oleksiak and Patrick Nemeth:
How mobile they are and how good of hands they have. It used to be you'd have one or the other, size or hands. These guys have both and that's exciting.
On Austin Smith, Reilly Smith and Alex Chiasson:
They're high end players. There's some really good skill. Austin has great skill, Reilly's in the middle, and Alex has great size and great skill too. They're a really good package and you expect good things from them.
On getting in touch with other veteran players for Texas this coming season:
I've talked to quite a few of them. I think it's important. Your leadership group is a key to your success. You always try to stay in touch with them. There are some really good leaders.
On new assistant coaching hire, Doug Lidster:
Doug has been a captain in the NHL and won a couple Stanley Cups. He's had a great career as a player. As a coach, he's really intense. The other thing I really like about him is that he doesn't wait to be told what to do. He is looking to get better everyday. He is driven to be better everyday.
On the division of labor between he and Lidster:
We haven't talked about responsibilities. We'll obviously talk on a daily basis about all areas. Definitely he'll take defense, and I'll take forwards. We'll split up the special teams between the two of us as well.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stars Re-Sign Bachman, Sceviour to One Year Deals

(Credit: Chris Jerina)

The Dallas Stars announced today that they have re-signed two of their restricted free agents, both of whom spent significant time with the Texas Stars over the past few years.

First, Richard Bachman, who had filed for arbitration, signs a one-way deal with Dallas for $625,000. Given that I feel he will continue to grow into an NHL role, I would think that this pretty much ensure he will be the backup to Kari Lehtonen on opening night (whenever that is).

(Credit: Texas Stars)

Second, Colton Sceviour signed a two-way deal, also for a year, to play for the Stars again this season. It is still up in the air, however, where he may fall. In talking to Dallas staff at camp last week, there is some feeling that Dallas should allow the kids to play, warts and all, to get the NHL experience that will make them effective pieces of the puzzle in years to come. If Dallas goes that way, Sceviour will be high on the list to fill in those gaps. He was well trusted by Coach Gulutzan during his time in Texas and can be counted on to be defensively responsible.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

From Undrafted to NHL-Ready, Brenden Dillon Is Primed for Big Year

(Credit: Steven Christy)

I got quite a few interviews at Stars Development Camp this past week. I'm going to space out the articles I'm writing about it over the next week though. Stick around to hear from Stars coach Willie Desjardins and prospects Jack Campbell, Reilly and Austin Smith, Alex Chiasson, and today, Brenden Dillon.

The big buzz around Stars Development Camp wasn't really about a recently drafted player. In fact, the player with some of the biggest buzz in the camp wasn't even drafted at all. Brenden Dillon, just starting his second year with the organization, was among those present at Stars camp over the past week in Frisco. Dillon, who is familiar to the Cedar Park faithful, picked up a lot of high praise in his single NHL game last season. Some are even projecting that he could crack the roster on day one.

"I'm just trying to worry about what I can worry about", Dillon said. "You hear this and that, but I try to stay away from that and just play hockey."

If he doesn't start there, he has a coach who knows his game well in Willie Desjardins. Dillon's Thunderbirds played against Desjardins' Tigers in the WHL. "I think [Desjardins] has a great system and reputation from coaching in the Western League with Medicine Hat, where I actually played against him," said Dillon.

Dillon spoke highly of fellow blue-liners Jamie Oleksiak and Patrick Nemeth, both of whom are expected in Texas this season. "The future is bright in both Dallas and Texas. Fans have a lot to look forward to."

Dillon will head off to Gary Roberts' camp to learn the finer points of health and fitness, including healthy eating, with some of his teammates. After that, barring CBA upheaval, he could be headed back to the Traverse City Tournament, where he served as captain last season.

"[The CBA]'s not up to me, but I had a great time last year and it was a great tournament. If [the CBA] does go through and I'm there."

It was clear from my talk with Brenden, and some of the other players, that the CBA is weighing heavily on their mind. At such an early stage of their career, this year could represent an inflection point in their potential. However, these young prospects know that it's not up to them and they are only working to control what they can.

After getting one small taste, Dillon knows that he wants to get back.

"To be here full time is a big motivation for this summer."

Friday, July 6, 2012

Stars Hire Doug Lidster as Texas Assistant

The Dallas Stars are expected to announce today that they have hired former NHL defenseman Doug Lidster to the role of Texas Stars assistant coach. Lidster played 897 NHL games through a 16 season career, even making a 17 game stop in Dallas in the 98-99 season. Lidster spent ten years with the Vancouver Canucks from 1983-1993, serving as their captain in the 90-91 season.

The 52 year-old Kamloops native has a connection to the Stars' current coaching staff as he was Willie Desjardins' assistant in Medicine Hat during the 2002-03 season. Lidster got his own gig as a head coach for the Saginaw Spirit, but resigned midway through the season following an incident with a player, as described in the Ottawa Sun here. It seems like a rather unfair situation that he was put in, and surely he is happy to have a second chance with the Dallas system.

During his time in the NHL, Lidster was known as an offensive defenseman. He quarterbacked the power play, scoring 75 goals and 268 assists in his career. He won Cups with the Rangers in '94 and Stars in '99.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dallas Stars Sign Tyler Sloan, Spelling The End for Fortunus, Lukowich As Stars

While the hockey world drools over the thought of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise teaming up in Minnesota, the Texas Stars got a little bit of free agent news themselves late last night. Multiple sources report that the Dallas Stars have signed veteran defenseman Tyler Sloan to a one-year, two-way deal.

Tyler Sloan is a 31-year old defenseman, most recently of the Milwaukee Admirals, where he compiled one goal and nine assists in 62 games of service. Sloan has played in the NHL with the Washington Capitals, putting up four goals and thirteen assists over 99 games. Sloan was on a two-year contract to the Capitals from 2010-2012, but had the last year bought out and became a free agent this time last year. He signed a two-way with Nashville and was assigned to Milwaukee.

Sloan has played 467 regular-season games between the AHL and NHL. He also spent some time with the Las Vegas Wranglers under Coach Glen Gulutzan.

As the roster begins to fill up, it looks like this signing fills the role of veteran defenseman, obsoleting both Maxime Fortunus, who the team was in talks with, and Brad Lukowich, who the team had not engaged with in free agency. This gives Texas a likely opening day roster on the blue line, totally postulating on combinations:

Oleksiak-Dillon
Sloan-Labrie
Nemeth-Benn
Coyle

It is possible that another defenseman could sign, setting up a sure fire first-callup guy. However, I think that player is most likely to be an AHL-ECHL player who will sign at the bottom of this depth chart rather than an NHL-AHL guy who will fill in somewhere in the middle and bump Coyle to Idaho.

Finally, the expected departure of Lukowich leaves the Stars capitaincy open and up for grabs. My money is on Francis Wathier. What do you think?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dallas Signs Petersen, Roussel to Two-Way Deals

The Dallas Stars announced today that they have added two players on two-way deals in the second day of free agency. The first is a familiar name to Texas and Dallas fans in Toby Petersen. The second is Antoine Roussel, familiar to Texas fans from his time with the Chicago Wolves this past season.

Petersen was most recently signed to a one-way deal in Dallas but only saw action in 39 games this past season. The 33-year old Minneapolis native has been in the Stars system since 2005 and even saw time with Texas last year in a conditioning assignment. He tallied an assist and a minor penalty in the game. His 397 NHL games will trigger the veteran rule and count toward the team limit. However, the expected non-signing of Lukowich opens up a spot in that regard.

Petersen is a reliable scorer at the AHL level, having potted 21-30-51 in his last season in the AHL of just 63 games. He can play in all situations and act as a mentor for the younger players.

Antoine Roussel is the other signing. He spent the entire 2011-12 season with the Chicago Wolves. This contract will be his first NHL deal. In 61 games of service, the left winger picked up four goals and five assists. The native Frenchman's biggest number was penalty minutes with 177. Perhaps with the Stars seeking a bigger role for Luke Gazdic, Texas felt it was necessary to bring on another enforcer type player. Roussel squared off with just one Texas Star this past season, a bout with his now-teammate Francis Wathier on April 10th at the CPC.



Here's the release:
The Dallas Stars announced today that the club has signed center Toby Petersen and left wing Antoine Roussel each to two-year, two-way contracts through the 2013-14 season.

Petersen, 33, has spent five of his nine NHL seasons with the Dallas Stars and is coming off a 2011-12 season that saw him post five points (2 goals, 3 assists) and six penalty minutes in 39 games.

In 397 career NHL games with Pittsburgh, Edmonton and Dallas, Petersen has posted 81 points (33 goals, 48 assists) and 50 penalty minutes. His career-best for points in a season is 15, set twice in 2009-10 with Dallas and 2006-07 with Edmonton. He has added a goal and two penalty minutes in 18 career NHL playoff games.

Originally drafted in the ninth round (No. 244 overall) by Pittsburgh, the Minneapolis native made his NHL debut with the Penguins on Dec. 5, 2000 at Ottawa. He scored his first NHL goal three games later, on Dec. 10, 2000, at Detroit.

During his time with the Iowa Stars (AHL) in 2007-08, was named the team's MVP after tallying 51 points (21-30-51) in 63 games. He also appeared in the 2008 AHL All-Star Game, winning the Fastest Skater skills competition.

Roussel, 22, spent the 2011-12 season with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, posting nine points (4 goals, 5 assists) and 177 penalty minutes, second-most on the club. He collected eight points (1 goal, 7 assists) and 88 PIM in 42 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL) in 2010-11.

The 6-foot, 194 pound left wing played for Chicoutimi in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 2006-2010, recording 139 points (59 goals, 80 assists) and 417 penalty minutes in 252 games. In 20 QMJHL playoff games, he added 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists) and 69 PIM.

A native of Roubaix, France, Roussel scored three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in seven games for France in the 2012 IIHF World Championships. He also won a bronze medal with France at the 2009 World Junior Championships (Division I).