Dallas Stars Signing Martin Hanzal Provides New Spark To Offense

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 11: Martin Hanzal
GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 11: Martin Hanzal /

The Dallas Stars came out of nowhere on the first day of free agency by signing center Martin Hanzal. This move could end up being one of the best in free agency across the NHL this offseason.

It was Saturday morning around 6:45 a.m. when the news broke.

Most Dallas Stars fans weren’t even out of bed yet when Elliotte Friedman warned everyone to keep an eye on the developing relationship between the Stars and UFA center Martin Hanzal.

Upon waking up, the report caught many Stars fans off guard.

Why a center? Aren’t the Stars already heavily solidified down the middle? Why aren’t the Stars focusing solely on right wingers like Justin Williams or Alexander Radulov? Isn’t that the only position they still need help at? And why Hanzal?

It just didn’t make sense. And there was even more confusion when the signing became official around 12:30 on Saturday afternoon. Hanzal was locked down on a three-year deal worth $4.75 million per year.

Dallas Stars
Dallas Stars /

Dallas Stars

“I’m really, really, really happy right now,” Hanzal said on Saturday afternoon shortly after the signing. “The Stars are a classy organization and I’m just glad to be part of it because it’s such a good team, I believe they have a good coach, and they’re a playoff team. I’m really, really happy to be a part of it.”

The 30-year-old talked about his hunger and desire to not only win, but also to get into the playoffs. And he made sure to reiterate plenty of times about his belief that the Stars are a playoff team.

After spending the first 9 1/2 seasons of his NHL career with the Arizona Coyotes organization, Hanzal was traded to the Minnesota Wild at the 2017 trade deadline and closed out this past season up north. He’s a skilled center with plenty of miles left on him and was one of the more sought after free agents on the market.

But why did Dallas pick him? Why did the Stars, a team with Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Radek Faksa, and Devin Shore down the middle of their lineup pick up a veteran center who Ken Hitchcock expects to play heavy minutes (meaning he will likely play in the top six)?

Well, because a lot of reasons. Depth is a big one. Veteran leadership on offense is another. But most of all, it’s because of all that he brings to the Stars’ table at such a great value.

Hanzal will basically serve as a booster for all of the Dallas Stars’ weak areas this past year. He’s a massive forward at 6’6, 226 lb. and knows how to get physical and keep an offensive rush alive using his size and reach. He’ll be the biggest player in the Stars’ forward group by a long shot (second place being Adam Cracknell at 6’3, 220 lb.).

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He’s a skilled center that can eat up big minutes in a game when needed and help out in a top-six situation considering he has played there for the majority of his career.

“I like the challenge playing against the top two lines and the top players and shutting them down,” Hanzal said.

Some of Hanzal’s greatest skills as a center include winning face-offs (since 2014-15, he’s won 56.3 percent of his draws, making him one of the most consistent centers in the NHL in the face-off dot). This is something that the Stars struggle with, especially when it matters most in the offensive or defensive zone.

That brings us to our next point: special teams. On a power play, Hanzal can win the opening face-off, keep the puck in the zone, set up opportunities, and provide a ginormous presence in front of the net, screening the opposing goaltender while looking for the deflection.

On a penalty kill, he can log big minutes, win the primary draw, get his stick on the puck with his reach, and keep the opposing power play stagnant.

And there’s always the positive effects of veteran leadership. With the loss of Patrick Sharp, Jiri Hudler, and the potential loss of Ales Hemsky in free agency, the Dallas Stars’ offense got a lot younger this offseason. Hanzal will help by bringing in another veteran mind.

All of Hanzal’s strengths just happened to be the Stars’ biggest weaknesses last season. They owned the 20th best power play and the worst penalty kill in the league last year, hitting record-low numbers when compared to their performance over recent years. They couldn’t win the important face-offs, had no size on offense, and couldn’t piece together a dominant top six. Hanzal brings aid in all of those areas.

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  • His only downfall has proven to be injuries. Last season, he played 71 total games split between Arizona and Minnesota. It was his first season playing in more than 65 games since the 2009-10 season when he fell one game short of a complete season.

    In the conference call on Saturday, Hanzal said that he is currently training in the Czech Republic and that he feels strong, healthy, and is ready to get back on the ice.

    And injuries may not be as big of an issue when he’s in a Dallas Stars uniform. That’s because the Stars won’t be overworking him and asking more out of him than he can give like Arizona might have done. Depth is a wonderful thing to have, and with the center depth that Dallas now has, Hanzal shouldn’t ever be in a spot where he’s being overtaxed.

    So where does he go in the lineup? Considering his impressive strength as a natural center, he will likely remain in that position.

    Hitchcock has stated that he is fond of the idea of Tyler Seguin as a no. 1 center, so Seguin’s job is likely secured. Jason Spezza will probably be moved to the wing (barring any other signings or moves by Jim Nill). He could be shifted up to the first line to re-form The Super Line from the 2014-15 season that fans loved so dearly. One quick shift could not only make the Stars’ second line stronger, but also their first.

    The Dallas Stars started Saturday morning supposedly hunting for a solid right wing to round out their roster. But in the end, a veteran center seems to have fulfilled the same need.

    Hanzal could have signed with a few other teams, but ended up picking Dallas because, well, he wants to win.

    “I think they’re an underrated team and a great team,” Hanzal said. “I always loved playing against them because they were working really hard and had some skilled players. I believe this is a winning team and that is why I chose Dallas.”

    Next: Some Free Agent Options At Right Wing For Stars

    This signing was an “under the radar” kind of move, which happens to be the kind Nill loves the most. But it could have some immeasurably positive effects on not only Hanzal’s career, but also the Stars’ franchise going forward.

    And after all, isn’t that what they need?