Dallas Stars defenseman Jani Hakanpää is slated for offseason knee surgery, general manager Jim Nill said Thursday morning. The 31-year-old defensive stalwart missed four playoff games, including Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference Final, with a lower-body injury.
Nill also mentioned Hakanpää was dealing with a separate back injury during the postseason, which will not require further action. While the team hasn’t confirmed his recovery timeline, don’t expect the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Finn to be ready for training camp in September.
Dallas’ shutdown pairing of Hakanpää and his fellow countryman, Esa Lindell, was among the most-used pairings in the league this season. They spent nearly 1,000 minutes paired together during the regular season and were the only pairing to see the ice together in all 82 games, per MoneyPuck.
The physical defensive specialist developed into a legitimate top-four defender in 2022-23, recording career-highs in nearly every category. While averaging over 19 minutes per game, Hakanpää recorded 16 points and a +18 rating in all 82 games.
It’s been a very long path to the NHL for Hakanpää, and hopefully, he can return to form for the Stars after fully recovering. Originally part of the St. Louis Blues’ 2010 draft class, Hakanpää didn’t make his NHL debut until nearly a decade later, playing five games at the tail end of the 2019-20 season with the Anaheim Ducks.
He’s made strong defensive impacts since, playing over 200 games during the past few seasons with the Ducks, Stars, and Carolina Hurricanes. He’s locked in at a $1.5MM cap hit for next season and is slated for unrestricted free agency in 2024.
If Hakanpää is not available to start the regular season, expect more opportunities for youngster Nils Lundkvist to begin 2023-24. The 22-year-old stayed in the NHL full-time this year, recording 16 points in 60 games, but was a healthy scratch for the entirety of Dallas’ run to the Western Conference Final.
Nill also told reporters that pending UFA forward Evgenii Dadonov, who left in the first period of Dallas’ Game 3 loss to Vegas, sustained a Grade 2 MCL strain in his knee and likely would not have played in the Stanley Cup Final, had Dallas advanced. The 34-year-old found new life in Dallas after coming over near the trade deadline from the Montreal Canadiens, recording seven goals and 25 points in 39 combined regular season and playoff games.