The Dallas Stars are making some changes to the roster before Friday’s game against the Sharks.
The Stars have already lost one player to waivers this season, with Remi Elie going to the Buffalo Sabres at the start of the year.
Now, Dallas will have to wait and see if someone picks up Smith as well.
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Smith went to arbitration over the summer with the Stars, mainly over a one-way contract versus a two-way contract. He was awarded a one-way deal, though that has no effect on whether or not he has to clear waivers. His deal is small, so it’s not a hardship if a team wants to pick him up, but he’s also not producing a lot.
In 14 games this season, Smith has 2 goals and 3 points. He’s done okay in his games, but hasn’t proven himself to the point where Jim Montgomery and Jim Nill want to keep him up.
The alternative at this point would be to send Roope Hintz down. Hintz is exempt from waivers, so there’s no risk of losing him, but he’s been playing very well recently. It’s understandable that the Stars would choose to risk Smith in favor of keeping Hintz in the line-up, since they need to ice the best possible team every night.
While Hintz and Smith are known quantities at this point, the real question is about Martin Hanzal. Hanzal hasn’t played all season and missed quite a bit of last season as well while dealing with an injury.
His signing was met with a heavy dose of skepticism from the fans. He has a history of injury, but the team needed a second-line center with Jason Spezza struggling. Instead of getting a solution to the Spezza problem, the Stars just ended up with two guys that couldn’t fill the role for different reasons.
Now, Spezza’s looking better and the Stars have Hintz up with the team. Hintz looks like he really could turn into their second-line center of the future while Tyler Seguin handles the top line and Radek Faksa takes the third. Hanzal’s return is a relief in many ways, but it isn’t the injury return that the Stars really need right now.
How Hanzal will play is a mystery. He’s missed a lot of time, so he’s bound to be rusty despite practicing with the team. It’s another new coach for him to work with and a new system to learn. He’s had time to work with Montgomery in practices, but that’s different than actual games.
Hanzal should make his season debut on Friday and that’s when fans and analysts can start to see how his return will play out, but in the meantime, we’ll see tomorrow if Smith clears waivers or not.