The Dallas Stars have finished some business with one of their pending restricted free agents, signing Rhett Gardner to a new two-year contract that will keep him in the organization through the 2022-23 season. The deal will be a two-way contract in the first year, one-way in the second, and carries an NHL salary of $750K in each.
Gardner, 25, is coming off his entry-level deal with the Stars, signed in 2019 after he finished his four years at the University of North Dakota. The fourth-round pick played in 28 games for the Stars this season, but managed just a single goal and two points. Offense has never really been the calling card of the 6’3″ forward, but he served as a reliable depth checker whenever needed.
Of course, he’ll have to provide a little more scoring to stay in the lineup over the length of this next contract, or at least establish himself as a reliable option on the penalty kill. More likely, Gardner will keep his role as the 13th or 14th forward for the Stars, if not go back to the AHL full-time.
Interestingly, though this kind of deal may appear to be expansion-related, Gardner is actually not even eligible for the upcoming Seattle draft because he has just two years of professional experience. The 11 games he played for the Texas Stars at the end of the 2018-19 season were under an amateur tryout contract, not his entry-level contract, and thus do not make up a year of service time in regards to the draft. Instead, this is simply a move to retain a depth forward that has a little versatility and size.