Bill Meltzer: Star Gazing: Roussel Signs, Lines

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STAR GAZING: JULY 22, 2014

* The Dallas Stars avoided arbitration with left winger Antoine Roussel, agreeing to a new four-year contract. The deal will carry a $2 million cap hit with escalating real-dollar salaries of $1.6 million in 2014-15, $1.8 million in 2015-16, $2.2 million in 2016-17 and $2.4 million in the final year of the deal. He can become an unrestricted free agent in July 2018.

The 24-year-old Frenchman is coming off a strong second season in the NHL that saw him compile 14 goals and 29 points in a third-line role. Roussel also emerged as one of the NHL’s prime agitators and pests, finishing third in the NHL with 209 penalty minutes. While Lindy Ruff would sometimes like to see Roussel pick his spots better and cut down on some unnecessary penalties, Roussel is the type of player who has to push the envelope in order to be effective.

* In Eliotte Friedman’s most recent 30 Thoughts for CBC.ca, there was interesting quote from Stars general manager Jim Nill explaining why the club plans to put Ales Hemsky on Tyler Seguin’s line and Valeri Nichushkin with Jason Spezza at the start of training camp.

“They are shooters,” Nill told Friedman, referring to Seguin and Jamie Benn. “We need a passer with them.”

When the Stars traded for Spezza and signed Hemsky as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, the immediate assumption was that the two players would be linemates. They played very well together in Ottawa last season after Hemsky came over from Edmonton.

Of course, training camp is a time for experimentation with different combinations. Line combos are also sure to change through the inevitable ups and downs of the regular season. Things could still ultimately play out that Nichushkin plays with Seguin and Benn and Hemsky flanks Spezza.

From a Dallas standpoint, it is nice to have those sorts of options available. It’s been a long time since the Stars have had the sort of forward depth that the 2014-15 roster appears to have.

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.