The Stars added some punch to their forward group with the signing of Michael Ryder, some punch to the blue line with the big shot of Sheldon Souray and a different kind of punch with the addition of their most recent free agent signing, right wing Eric Godard.
“He is elite level in the toughness department,” said Stars assistant GM Frank Provenzano.
While the Stars have had plenty of players willing to fight over recent years, the 6-4, 214 pound Godard is a heavyweight among those who drop the gloves in the NHL. That’s something the Stars haven’t had. And Godard is an accomplished NHL heavyweight.
According to hockeyfights.com, which tracks fighting in hockey and who wins the bouts, Godard has a 21-10-5 record in his 36 fights over the last three seasons. The site’s message board, which has a running poll ranking the league’s top fighters, placed him as the fifth best in the NHL last season.
Stars defenseman Adam Pardy played with Godard in Calgary and had high praise for the big winger as a teammate and fighter.
“He’s an awesome guy, just a great team player. Always there for his teammates,” said Pardy. “He’s always smiling, joking. He’s very serious about the game, but he keeps it loose. Everyone knows what kind of fighter he is. He’s not really a big guy, but he can tilt with anyone. “
Godard played just 19 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, registering three assists and 105 penalty minutes. He missed time due to a ten-game suspension for leaving the bench to protect Penguins goalie Brent Johnson, who was being challenged to a fight by Islanders forward Michael Haley. He also missed 13 games with a fractured orbital bone suffered in a fight with Ottawa’s Matt Carkner.
Godard’s two-year contract is a two-way deal ($750,000/$105,000) in the first year and one-way ($700,000) in the second year. That’s key for the Stars, who solidified their roster early in free agency and have 13 forward spots filled, 12 by players with one-way contracts and the other by Jamie Benn, who is still on his entry-level deal.
“We wanted some roster flexibility. Because of the position [Godard] plays, he is likely not an everyday player,” said Provenzano. “He gave us the roster flexibility this year by agreeing to the two-way and we agreed to the second year. We’ll have some expiring contracts and we can manage our flexibility a year from now by making those decisions. “
The decisions this year will be where Godard ends up. The two-way contract gives the Stars the flexibility to shuttle Godard between the NHL and AHL, especially if they carry 13 forwards. Godard would have to go through waivers, though.
The Stars goal this offseason was to become a deeper team with good role players, and Godard plays his role well. Krys Barch has been a willing combatant for the Stars in recent years, but there could be games when they need a guy like Godard in the lineup.
“He brings depth in the toughness department,” said Provenzano.