Andrej Sekera – Roman Polak
Rounding out the Dallas defense could be even trickier. After re-signing Roman Polak to a one-year extension in June and adding Andrej Sekera on July 1, the Stars now have a wealth of veteran defenders to fill the bottom of the lineup.
Polak was a bit of a surprise addition by the Dallas Stars on July 1, 2018 when he signed a one-year contract worth $1.3 million. It didn’t seem as though they needed another veteran defender at the time, but Polak quickly proved his value in the unexpected absence of Stephen Johns and played 77 games in 2018-19.
Stars and Sticks
He spent most of those games on the second pairing alongside Miro Heiskanen. And while the pairing wasn’t the most dynamic and Polak struggled at times, he made it work and helped round out a young defense by adding some grittiness and certain physical elements.
And when the Stars re-signed him, it was under the premise that he would play the 2019-20 season in a more limited role to better fit his own skill set and maximize his potential.
As a result, it seems like the third pairing is the best spot for the 33-year-old moving forward. Adding Sekera to his left should only further benefit him.
While Sekera might play on the second pairing alongside Heiskanen (considering Johns is still a question mark), putting him on the bottom pairing alongside Polak should create a solid third unit for the Stars.
Sekera is a puck-moving defenseman and has served as a top-four defender for much of his 13-year NHL career. He can be relied upon to play big shifts and contribute on both sides of the puck (he’s two years removed from an eight-goal, 35-point campaign in Edmonton). After suffering a knee injury in 2017-18 and an Achilles injury in 2018-19, the Oilers decided to buy him out just before July 1 in order to free up more cap space.
But at the age of 33, there still seems to be plenty of mileage left for the veteran defender to use in Dallas.
“What we like is his ability to move pucks and his ability that he has been a top-two and a top-four his whole career in the NHL,” Montgomery said of Sekera on July 1. “That’s something to know how to play those minutes in the NHL, manage your ice time, and excel. He was Edmonton’s number one defenseman for a couple of years and was so in Carolina before they had those young guys come in that are there currently. This is a guy that has been leaned upon by a lot of coaches. It’s really healthy for us.”
Combining his ability to move pucks and read different defensive and offensive situations with Polak’s physical, stay-at-home nature should round out the Dallas blue line in an effective and diverse way.
Finally, we have Jamie Oleksiak to fit into the picture.
The Stars reacquired Oleksiak in January after a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins that came less than 14 months after Dallas initially shipped him to Pittsburgh. He played in a seventh man role for Dallas for most of the season, skating in 21 games and playing in four playoff games before suffering a knee injury that ultimately ended his year.
He’ll likely play in a similar role this season, occasionally rotating into the lineup for Polak depending on the matchup or the usage of Polak at the time. He’s a big-bodied, left-handed defenseman that uses his size, reach, and physicality in a shutdown role whenever he’s in the lineup.
Having the 26-year-old on the roster will give Montgomery a chance to further balance out the playing time of Dallas defenders while also allowing him to maximize Polak’s abilities without the fear of overusing him.
With that being said, the Dallas Stars defense will be fun to watch as training camp gets underway. There will be position battles, young players trying to secure a spot on the roster, and plenty of different combinations to further access the skills and abilities of each member.
That’s a pretty good problem to have.