Dallas Stars Free Agency: Assessing Dan Hamhuis And His Situation

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 03: Dan Hamhuis #2 of the Dallas Stars looks on during the game against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on April 3, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Dan Hamhuis
SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 03: Dan Hamhuis #2 of the Dallas Stars looks on during the game against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on April 3, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Dan Hamhuis /

It’s time to break down the situation of each unrestricted free agent on the Dallas Stars in the coming summer. Today, we take a look at the potential future of Stars’ defenseman Dan Hamhuis.

The Dallas Stars have a lot on their plate over the next month.

As it goes with every offseason, all 31 NHL teams face a plethora of decisions. The period for making each decision could last one or two days or could take months to mull over. But each decision can play a critical role in the team’s chances at future success.

These decisions can range anywhere from draft day moves to trade acquisitions. But they also involve free agents, both on the team and on the market.

In the 2018 offseason, the Stars have a unique free agent class to process. They have a healthy stock of restricted free agents that either need qualification or to be signed to longer-term deals. But on top of that, there are a few unrestricted free agents that all pose a difficult argument.

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Here at Blackout Dallas, we thought it would be a good idea to break down the situation of each of those unrestricted free agents. Though there are 11 unrestricted free agents in the organization to contemplate, we will only focus on the ones that played in at least one game with the Dallas Stars this season. That narrows the list down to six players.

The interesting thing about this class of UFAs is that all six players have a serious argument to both stay and go. There is a respectable reason for Dallas to keep each player, but there is also a solid reason to release them to free agency and move on in a different direction.

And that’s why GM Jim Nill‘s job will be a challenge this summer. If he lets a player go, he needs to be prepared to find a replacement, whether in house or on the market. And if he re-signs a player, he has to maneuver around the cap and make the deal feasible for the team. On top of that, he also has to be sure that the player is ready and able to fill the role that needs filling.

The six UFAs in discussion are Kari Lehtonen, Dan Hamhuis, Greg Pateryn, Antoine Roussel, Mike McKenna, and Curtis McKenzie. We will take time to look over each one and assess their case entirely over the next few weeks.

We’ve already taken a look at the potential futures of Kari Lehtonen and Mike McKenna. Today, we will look at Dallas defender Dan Hamhuis.

History With The Team

Though Dan Hamhuis didn’t become a Dallas Star until July 1, 2016, he almost became a Star four months prior.

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  • At the 2016 trade deadline, the Stars were soaring high near the top of the league but needed some veteran depth on defense. According to reports, Dallas was closing in on a deal with Vancouver for Hamhuis as the clock ticked on the day of the deadline. But after the Canucks asking price proved to be too steep, the Stars backed out and traded for Kris Russell instead.

    Hamhuis entered free agency that summer and was quickly snatched up by Dallas on a two-year deal. He was signed primarily due to the fact that Dallas had lost three veteran defenders in to free agency/trade in that same offseason and needed help on their young and inexperienced blue line.

    He’s turned into a reliable defender for Dallas over the past two years in terms of consistency. Over the two-season span, he’s only missed a total of five regular season games. That’s a much better percentage than the 47 games that he missed in his final two seasons with Vancouver.

    Hamhuis has yet to play in a playoff game for the Stars with the team missing the postseason in each of the past two years. As a result, he hasn’t been able to use his nine years of playoff experience to his and the team’s advantage.

    But still, he’s played two solid seasons for the Dallas Stars as a depth defender, helping mentor younger players while slowly growing closer to the end of his own career (he’ll be 36 in December). Oh, and it should probably be mentioned that he’s yet to win a Stanley Cup, even after 14 years of serving as a reliable defensive defenseman.

    2017-18 Season Recap

    The 2017-18 season was a steady one for Dan Hamhuis and was his best so far as a member of the Stars.

    Dallas spent the 2017 offseason adding Marc Methot, another left handed defensive defender, to the blue line as well. With that addition, no one quite knew how the Stars defense would stack up. But with Hamhuis having a slightly above average year in 2016-17, it was clear that the 2017-18 season would need to be a big one for him, especially with it being a contract year.

    Hamhuis started out the year playing third-pairing minutes, but eventually moved up to the second line for a full-time spot alongside Greg Pateryn, a newcomer to the lineup. As a pairing, the two quickly bonded and built a certain chemistry that they were able to ride to the end of the season.

    The duo played second-pairing minutes for the Dallas Stars and offered a shutdown style of play by using formation and physicality. They also were Ken Hitchcock’s most trusted pairing on the penalty kill for a majority of the season and did well.

    There was a 27-game stretch from November 24 to January 23 in which Hamhuis was worked like a warhorse. He responded in a big way. On multiple occasions, he was the leading Star in terms of ice time (surpassing 23 minutes on five different occasions during the span). Hamhuis was called over the boards often and rarely disappointed, getting the Stars a big penalty kill or stand in the defensive zone when they needed it. He flourished during the stretch, posting nine assists and a +11. Not bad for a defensive defenseman at all.

    “He’s so underrated,” said goaltender Ben Bishop after the game on December 29. “He’s one of the best defensemen I’ve played with in my career. He kind of flies under the radar, but he does a great job night in and night out.”

    By the time it was all said and done, Hamhuis had skated in 80 games at an average of 20:11 on the ice per game. He finished with three goals and 24 points (his highest point total since 2012-13) along with a -6 rating and 113 blocked shots (the second most of his career). All in all, it was a pretty good season for the aging veteran.

    Contract Situation

    Dan Hamhuis currently sits at age 35 and is a few months away from turning 36. He has passed his prime and is likely look at retirement within the next three or four years. He pointed out on exit interview day that he still feels good and is ready to keep playing and would love to be back in Dallas.

    His most recent contract was a two-year deal with a cap hit and AAV of $3.75 million. That contract put him at third on the list of Stars defenders in terms of price. It wasn’t a bad deal at all for a veteran defender.

    A Realistic Asking Price

    This is an interesting question. On the one hand, Hamhuis is an aging veteran. A decline in production is inevitable and his struggle was visible in his play as the season approached an end. As a player nearing retirement with maybe two good seasons left in him as a depth defender, his next contract value shouldn’t be incredibly high.

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    But on the other hand, Hamhuis proved his value this past year in various situations on the ice and turned in a solid performance. And because of that, there may be multiple teams in need of veteran leadership on their blue line knocking on his door come July 1. He will be the fourth-oldest defender on the market this year that was still active in 2017-18. And not only did Hamhuis outplay them all by a long shot with 80 games, but he also outperformed them all.

    He could be a hot commodity on the market on the first day of free agency and might be able to snag a sizable deal from a team willing to pay.

    At this point in his career, a two-year deal worth somewhere between $2 and $2.5 million seems like a solid guess. Hamhuis won’t be making more than he did this past season, but is still likely considered a valuable asset that could fill a hole that many teams have. We’ll have to wait until July 1 to see what happens.

    Pros To Re-signing Him

    He provides depth, plain and simple. Hamhuis gives the Stars a veteran with over 1,000 games of NHL experience to put anywhere on their blue line. He’s flexible in the lineup and can mesh well with most players that he is paired with. It showed in 2017-18 when he played with Greg Pateryn, who came off of the healthy scratch list around a month into the season.

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  • “He’s one of the easiest guys to play with,” Pateryn said of Hamhuis in November. “He’s always in position and I never have to cover for him. We just work off of each other really well. We’re at the point where we know where each other are on the ice and we talk a lot out there. He picks up little things on the ice that I don’t see and dispatches them over to me.”

    He is a solid leader on the blue line and provides tips and suggestions for the young Dallas defensive core. Greg Pateryn had never played more than 38 games in an NHL season until this past year when he played 73. It was a stretch for him, but Hamhuis was their to aid him in the transition.

    Hamhuis gave the Dallas Stars a taste of what he can still bring to the table in this past season. He is capable of playing big minutes, can serve well on the penalty kill, and does a lot of things the right way in the defensive zone. He’s not flashy, but he plays his role and does it well.

    Why wouldn’t the Stars want another year or two of the veteran on the blue line to help up-and-coming players like Miro Heiskanen and Dillon Heatherington?

    Cons To Re-signing Him

    Well, that’s exactly why. With the new talent coming in (specifically on the left hand side), the Stars might end up creating a logjam by signing Hamhuis back on.

    Miro Heiskanen had an incredible year in the Finnish Elite League (Liiga) and earned the title of top defenseman across the league. He did that at 18 years old. And as a result, there’s a 100 percent chance he will be in Texas next year and a good chance that he may even start for Dallas on opening night.

    Add in Heatherington who proved his value in six games this past season along with a solid year in the AHL with the Texas Stars. That’s two left-handed defenders along with Marc Methot and Esa Lindell.

    With those players boasting their NHL readiness, Hamhuis would make a fifth lefty shot. No defense ever found true success with five left handed defenders trying to share time in the lineup (see the 2013-14 Dallas Stars for reference).

    And on top of that, is signing the oldest player on the roster back for another run the best idea? Could that money be spent elsewhere? It’s a tough decision to make, especially when talking about a depth defender.

    The Bottom Line

    In the end, Dan Hamhuis proved in 2017-18 that he still has miles left in the tank. The car may be a bit rusty and the tires may be baring, but he’s still getting from A to B and doing it in a simple yet effective way.

    I don’t think that the Stars will re-sign both Hamhuis and Pateryn, but one of them could definitely be a possibility.

    Hamhuis has served the Dallas Stars faithfully for two years and proved himself to have decent value. His possession numbers are good, he can help with special teams, and he is rarely out of position in the defensive zone. He plays the game smart because that’s what veterans do.

    According to Elliotte Friedman in one of his recent 31 Thoughts posts, the defender recently spoke with the Stars’ newest head coach Jim Montgomery. There was also a reported plan for the two to meet face-to-face once they got back to Dallas. Whether that happened or not is unknown, but the fact that he met with the new coach carries at least some weight.

    After all, he probably wouldn’t meet the new coach if there was no potential plan in him returning. But then again, it may have just been a formality to see where the two sides stood.

    Next: Top 25 Stars Games Of 2017-18: No. 20-16

    Dan Hamhuis is a valuable defenseman that can have a lasting impact on a defense. But is his skill and value worth bringing him back, or will the Stars be creating further problems with their prospect development?

    FURTHER READING: Mike McKenna’s UFA Situation, Kari Lethonen’s UFA Situation