The Dallas Stars have announced that forward Martin Hanzal will be undergoing season-ending back surgery in the coming days. The recovery time for the procedure is expected to be six to seven months which would put the veteran in line for a return in early-September to early-October if all goes well.
Stars GM Jim Nill said that in the coming days, Martin Hanzal will be having season ending back surgery. Recovery time is expected to be 6-7 months.
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) March 9, 2018
Hanzal’s last appearance of the 2017-18 season came on Feb. 21 in a 2-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. As Scott Burnside mentioned on Twitter, the initial injury occurred in late November which led to Hanzal receiving injections in his back to manage the pain on three occasions. With the pain serving as too much to handle, the decision that surgery would be the best course of action was made.
Due to the fact that this will be a major procedure, the Stars are taking a wait-and-see approach to how things will go before entirely committing to the likelihood of Hanzal playing again, though general manager Jim Nill did seem optimistic when originally asked.
“As long as surgery goes well and we’re anticipating it will, no problem,” Nill said. “But it is a major surgery so we’ll wait and see.”
A Look at Hanzal’s Career to Date
The 31-year-old center spent the first nine-plus seasons of his career with the Arizona Coyotes who spent the 17th overall selection on him in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. In 608 games with the Coyotes franchise, Hanzal scored 117 goals and 313 points and was known as a very good defensive center.
Due to an expiring contract, the Coyotes elected to trade Hanzal to the Minnesota Wild along with Ryan White and a 2017 fourth-round pick in a deal that saw a 2017 first-round pick, a 2018 second-round pick, a conditional 2019 fourth-round pick and Grayson Downing sent to the Coyotes.
The cost was a lot to pay for a forward who would contribute in a defensive role on the club, but the Wild were committed to going all in for a chance at winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history as general manager Chuck Fletcher would mention.
“We’re just putting our chips in the middle of the table for this year,” Fletcher said on a conference call at the time. “We like our group, and we think our players deserve the best chance possible to compete and see what we can do.”
Hanzal did go on to score four goals and 13 points in 20 games with the Wild before recording one goal in a five-game series loss to the St. Louis Blues in the postseason. It wasn’t the result the Stars were hoping for, but with the cost of business for rentals always seeming to come at an inflated rate, it also isn’t terribly surprising that they invested so much at the time for a player they wouldn’t re-sign.
Hanzal in His First Season in Dallas
Hanzal is in the first of a three-year deal with the Stars after signing with the franchise in free agency last offseason. In his first season with the club, Hanzal scored five goals and 10 points in 38 games for a Stars team that currently holds the first wildcard spot in the Western Conference.
When the Stars signed Hanzal, the deal wasn’t as easily explainable as some of their other recent deals in the offseason. As The Hockey Writers’ own Matt Pryor would go on to explain, however, is the fact that Hanzal’s defensive ability and the Stars depth down the middle of the ice could ultimately lead to a Jason Spezza trade.
While Spezza remains on the Stars team this season, having played in 66 of the teams 67 games, his seven goals, 17 assists and 24 points put him on pace for his lowest totals in each of those categories since his rookie season in 2002-03. The 34-year-old has spent time on the Stars’ third-line this year and has seen his ice time drop in each of his last eight seasons with the Ottawa Senators and Stars from 20:12 to 13:11 this season.
If Hanzal’s surgery does end up being successful, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Stars try and trade Spezza following this season as he’s set to be a free agent following the 2018-19 campaign with Hanzal taking the reigns for the remainder of his contract.