DALLAS (AP) – The Dallas Stars will move forward with their new coach and a familiar young face after missing out on the NHL’s top free agent.
General manager Jim Nill started another long offseason for the Stars without postseason play by hiring coach Jim Montgomery out of the college ranks in early May. On the first day of free agency Sunday, right wing Valeri Nichushkin signed a $5.9 million, two-year contract to return to Dallas after the last two seasons playing at home in Russia.
Nichushkin was the 10th overall pick by the Stars in the 2013 draft, and had 64 points (23 goals, 41 assists) while playing 166 games in three seasons by time he was 21 before returning to Russia and playing in the Kontinental Hockey League. Now he is back in the NHL at age 23.
“Over his past two seasons in the KHL and with the national team, he has continued his growth and development as a hockey player,” Nill said. “He is a fantastic addition to our depth at forward and we look forward to his return to our club.”
The Stars were one of six teams who met last week with John Tavares, the New York Islanders captain who on Sunday agreed to a $77 million, seven-year deal to play for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs.
Tavares could have been a big boost for the Stars, who have missed the playoffs eight of the last 10 seasons. Dallas still has high-scoring All-Star forwards in captain Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. They also have goaltender Ben Bishop, who got a new backup Sunday.
Free agent goaltender Anton Khudobin signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Stars after a backup role in Boston last season behind Tuukka Rask. Khudobin has played in 147 games with 135 starts over the past nine seasons with four different teams.
Dallas also signed 12-year veteran right wing Blake Comeau to a $7.2 million, three-year contract after he spent the past three seasons in Colorado. Defenseman Roman Polak got a $1.3 million, one-year deal after 54 games for Toronto last season.
The 32-year-old Comeau, the Islanders’ second-round draft pick in 2004, had 13 goals and 21 assists last season with the Avalanche. That included three short-handed goals.
“His elite speed makes him a disruptive defensive presence and he fits well with what head coach Jim Montgomery is trying to accomplish,” Nill said.
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who is second in Stars history with 215 wins but had become a backup to Bishop, is an unrestricted free agent.
The Stars lost left wings Antoine Roussel ($12 million, four years with Vancouver) and Curtis McKenzie ($3 million, two years with Vegas), and defenseman Greg Pateryn ($6.75 million, three years with Minnesota) in free agency Sunday.
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