32-Year-Old Right Wing – Florida Panthers
Jiri Hudler Contract Information:
Signed a four-year, $16 million contract with Calgary in July 2012.
On Saturday, the Panthers will not have any lineup changes among their skaters compared to their last game played against the Devils, George Richards of the Miami Herald reports. As a result, Hudler (groin) is expected to be in the lineup.
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Jiri Hudler: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Hudler nearly matched his career-high in points last season, garnering 54 points (17 goals and 37 assists) in 75 games. He is a first-line stalwart for the Flames and is perhaps their best offensive weapon. Hudlerís a solid -- if unspectacular -- fantasy winger and should end up with 50-60 points again in 2014-15.
Hudler started his Calgary career with a bang in 2012-13, scoring seven points in his first five games. And while he didn't continue that pace throughout the season, he still wound up with a respectable 27 points in 42 games. Translated over a full season, he likely would have topped the 50-point mark, a pretty good season for the Czech winger. As one of the senior players on a very young Calgary team, he will be a top-six forward -- if not top three -- and should end up with around 50 points once again.
Hudler had carved a niche as a second to third-line winger in Detroit since 2006-07, and had one of his most prolific seasons in 2011-12 with 25 goals and 25 assists in 81 games. He may not have quite the star power around him in Calgary, but will likely book-end the second line with Curtis Glencross, who had similar numbers to Hudler last season. If Calgary can find a decent center to put in between the two, Hudler has the chance to put up another 50-60 points this season.
Hudler returned from his one-year hiatus in the KHL and flopped miserably following preseason expectations of a breakout from head coach Mike Babcock. He spent stretches of the regular season in the press box as a healthy scratch, and never seemed to get off the ground on a third-line centered by veteran Mike Modano. He's still just 27, but Hudler's time in Detroit may be running out as he's entering the final year of his contract and his plus/minus rating has tumbled in each of his last three seasons in Detroit. Keep an eye on him during training camp, the 57-point player we saw before his season in Russia could emerge and provide an upgrade over Todd Bertuzzi and Tomas Holmstrom, but he'll need to play a consistent and responsible two-way game in order to return to Babcock's good graces.
As if losing Marian Hossa weren't enough, Hudler's decision to spurn the Wings last season to play for Dynamo Moscow of the KHL last season resulted in a lack of secondary offense behind the team's big guns on the top line. Prior to leaving his NHL club, Hudler showed steady growth in his three seasons with Detroit and was poised for a full season on one of the team's scoring lines prior to leaving for Russia. At press time, he's poised to begin the year on a line with Mike Modano and Dan Cleary, but head coach Mike Babcock is more of a "Dixon Ticonderoga" type than a "Bic" guy when it comes to his line assignments, and it wouldn't be all that surprising to see Hudler in the mix for power-play time and top-six minutes as the season unfolds.
Unhappy that he wasn't getting a longer deal in Detroit, Hudler took a tax-free deal worth $5 million per season to play the 2009-10 in Russia. If he returns to North America in the future, his rights will still belong to the Red Wings.
Hudler parlayed an offensively productive postseason (5 G, 9 A in 22 games) into an opportunity on the second line with Henrik Zetterberg to open training camp. If he's able to retain that spot over the course of the season, he'll have a great chance to significantly improve upon his 42 points from a season ago. Keep an eye on his progress throughout training camp, as he'd be skating 16-18 minutes per game on the second line while emerging as a 20-goal, 60-point threat.
He's capable of pushing 40 points if the Red Wings keep him in the rotation all year, but he won't see enough primary time on the power play for us to make him a targetable guy. Like a lot of players on this roster, Hudler would be worth more on a thinner club, where he would be given more chances to play, and even make mistakes. Keep in mind Mike Babcock appeared to lose confidence in Hudler at the end of last spring's playoff run. Then again, Hudler broke camp skating on the Henrik Zetterberg line, so it looks like he's starting with a clean slate. Watch him closely in October.
There are questions on his size and strength, but there's offensive skill here as well; Hudlerís 96 points were third in the AHL last year. The Red Wings will give him a lengthy audition in training camp, as the 22-year-old center is out of options.
He's got a chance to stick on one of the back lines, but there's no reason to expect that Hudler will score enough to matter in most leagues.