Can Stars’ Sekera Stay Healthy and Strengthen the Blue Line?

Coming off a tumultuous two years, Andrej Sekera will be given the opportunity to make a difference on a well-balanced defensive unit of youth and veteran grit. The 33-year-old Slovak was signed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Dallas Stars in July as part of a trio of free-agent acquisitions.

Joining Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski, Sekera will be tasked with adding a veteran presence to an already seasoned Stars roster. If he can stay on the ice, that is.

Health Concerns

It is no secret that Sekera has had his career derailed by a pair of career-threatening injuries. In 2017, during the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Edmonton Oilers, Sekera suffered a torn ACL, leaving him sidelined until December 2018. As if the journey back to the ice wasn’t difficult enough, Sekera’s career was put in jeopardy as he injured his Achilles tendon while training in the offseason of 2018.

“I know I have a lot of things to prove and that’s the engine that drives me, I’m still a young guy and I want to play hockey as long as I can. I will do all I can in my power to make sure that I’m ready for 120 percent.”

Andrej Sekera (Mike Heika

While some would have hung the skates up for greener pastures, Sekera showed tremendous fortitude and made a return to the ice in February of 2019. In a shortened season. Sekera willed himself to amass four assists in 24 games, primarily with the third pairing. Leading to his eventual contract buyout for the final two years of a six-year deal.

Oilers defensemen Andrej Sekera
Stars defenseman Andrej Sekera (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY)

Fitting Into the Stars Lineup

Andrej Sekera is a bit of an undersized blueliner. Coming in at 6-foot tall and weighing 204 pounds, Sekera would likely see time on the third pairing with fellow Slovak, Roman Polak. Polak is likely to see a considerable reduction in ice time, so it would make sense to pair these two together in limited roles. When you have a three-headed defensive monster with Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, and John Klingberg, one can only expect Sekera to be the type of defensemen that will serve in the role of giving young producers much needed rest between shifts.

Another option would be to pair Sekera with Stephen Johns. Assuming Johns makes his return to the ice after head injuries forced him to miss all of the 2018-19 season, Sekera could be a nice complement to Johns’ larger frame. Pairing a veteran like Sekera with a younger skater has shown to work out surprisingly well in recent memory. If the Stars align, we could see a similar situation presented in 2019-20.

Stars defenseman Andrej Sekera (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Ideally, Sekera will become a mentor to a young core group of blueliners. Even on nights when he is a healthy scratch, the knowledge of the game is another reason Sekera is a smart signing. He has the playoff experience, and, having played for four franchises (Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings, and Oilers) up to this point, he has soaked in multiple coaching styles, meaning Sekera can have an almost Reggie Dunlop-type role as a player-coach from the movie Slap Shot.

Worst comes to worst, if Sekera remains healthy, you get a good 30 to 40 games out of him. With a low-risk contract, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the aging D-man placed on waivers if he underperforms. All in all, Sekera is a low risk, high reward type signing that could either be a small chink in general manager Jim Nill’s signing armor, or a secret weapon during a playoff run.