The road to the Stanley Cup in the Western Conference is littered with broken down contenders that couldn’t match their opponents’ strength at center; or, with the emergence of the Nashville Predators and the potential of the Calgary Flames with their respective top four defensemen, couldn’t generate offense beyond their top two lines.
This is why the Minnesota Wild made a bold move to acquire Martin Hanzal at the trade deadline last season: To give them three strong centers in their lineup. And while it wasn’t Hanzal’s fault the team went out in the first round to the St. Louis Blues – blame Jake Allen for that – it’s never good when your owner expresses deep regrets for ever having acquired you.
So Hanzal went to market, and found a buyer in the Dallas Stars. They signed him to a three-year, $14.25 million contract on July 1.
Hanzal, 30, is a hulking 6-foot-5, wins faceoffs and had 39 points in 71 games last season. He’s excellent in the faceoff circle for a team that was under 50 percent in faceoffs last season (No. 14 in the NHL).
Which is to say he’s a piece of the puzzle, which is fine for the Stars. They have Tyler Seguin. They have Jason Spezza. Now they have Hanzal at a $4.75 million hit, less than a million more than the $3.85 million they were paying Cody Eakin before he was plucked by the Golden Knights.
“Martin is a very detailed player who competes at high level,” said GM Jim Nill. “He is one of the League’s best centermen in the faceoff circle and his complete set of abilities will improve us in several facets of the game.”
Not a bad move at all for the next two seasons, provided Hanzal excels in that third-line role in which we assume Ken Hitchcock will cast him. But we might have hoped this was a two-year deal, just for the added cap flexibility when Seguin’s up in 2019.
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