|Hubert Labrie (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)|
After playing in the 2009 Traverse City Tournament with Dallas, Labrie was signed to an entry level deal by the NHL Stars on September 18, 2009. He has split time between Idaho and Texas over the past three years and is a restricted free agent this offseason. Jim Nill and crew must extend a qualifying offer to the defenseman by June 30th at 5 PM ET to lock him up for another season. If not, he'll become an unrestricted free agent.
Labrie has played more games in Texas than Idaho each of his three years in the pros. His first year was the tough 2011-12 season, which saw him take a minus-16 in 33 games as an unsheltered rookie under Coach Jeff Pyle. He improved under Desjardins with a plus-4 and plus-11 rating the past two seasons. He even picked up two goals and five assists this season, including a Gordie Howe hat trick against Hamilton on March 29.
As Dallas-drafted prospects like Jyrki Jokipakka and Patrik Nemeth continue to roll into the system and jump ahead of Labrie on the depth chart, it was a tough year again.
"[Jim Nill and Scott White] know I want to play more, but this was my role as 7th or 8th D. I think I played well every game I was in this season, did a good job. We'll see. I don't now what's going to happen next year, but I hope I'll be back."
Factors to consider when looking at a qualifying offer for Labrie are broad. A big picture factor is the contract limit. NHL teams are limited to 50 contracts and the Stars are going to need some open slots to ensure they can sign new and old draft picks and undrafted free agents. Is Labrie worth one of those contract slots for the Dallas Stars?
To decide that, you have to look at where he fits in for the overall organizational depth. If you believe that Labrie is a top 4 defenseman at the AHL level, then it makes sense to have him on an NHL contract. If you believe he is a 4-7 defenseman in the AHL, it may not make sense. Take a look at William Wrenn or Maxime Fortunus for examples. Neither were on NHL contracts to start this season.
If he is not qualified, Labrie could still transition to an AHL deal in Texas, given the history he has in the organization. He could also sign somewhere else in the AHL where he believes he has a better chance at playing more or getting a better shot at the NHL. If somehow that doesn't happen, he could do something similar to Taylor Vause this year, signing an ECHL deal despite his AHL talent. BY doing so, he would open himself up to making a huge difference as a callup anywhere in the AHL and get an SPC that way.