DALLAS – Veteran winger Jamie Langenbrunner is returning to Dallas after the last-place New Jersey Devils traded their captain to the Pacific Division-leading Stars.
Langenbrunner was drafted by the Stars in 1993 and was part of their only Stanley Cup championship in 1999, then another Western Conference title the following season. He was traded to New Jersey in 2002 and on the Devils’ Stanley Cup-winning team in 2003.
“I’m excited to come back to Dallas. I have a lot of great memories of playing in that organization, that city,” Langenbrunner said Friday. “I’m excited about where the team is headed and ready to come be a part of it.”
New Jersey gets a conditional third-round 2011 draft pick from Dallas. That could become a second-round pick if the Stars win a first-round playoff series or they re-sign Langenbrunner, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The 35-year-old Langenbrunner was expected to be in North Texas by Friday night, but the Stars said he wouldn’t play when they open the second half of their season against the New York Rangers. He was a healthy scratch for the Devils on Thursday night amid trade rumours.
“He fits the mould of the type of players we want on this roster—strong work ethic, tough, passionate and hard to play against,” said Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, who was Langenbrunner’s teammate in Dallas and New Jersey. “We are thrilled to be able to bring him back to Dallas.”
Since owner Tom Hicks is looking for a buyer for the Stars and the NHL is helping run the financially strapped organization, the league had to approve the deal. Hicks Sports Group sold the AL champion Texas Rangers last year.
“Lenders and the league realize our situation,” Nieuwendyk said. “They know the situation we’re facing. They’ve given us the go-ahead to do what we think is right for the hockey club. “
The Devils have won only 10 of 40 games this season, and their 22 points are 11 fewer than any other NHL team. Langenbrunner had only four goals and 10 assists through 31 games, but still considered it bittersweet to be leaving New Jersey.
“We had high expectations coming into the season. Obviously we have not lived up to those,” he said. “This city has been home seven or eight years for me, this organization has been great. … It was tough to leave (Dallas) when that happened, but I grew to love New Jersey.”
Langenbrunner is returning to Dallas—”a comfortable spot for me,” he said—after the deal completed by Nieuwendyk, now in his second season as the Stars general manager.
Dallas traded Langenbrunner and Nieuwendyk to New Jersey in March 2002.
“He’s the boss,” Langenbrunner said. “I have a lot of respect for Joe. … I agree with a lot of his philosophy and respect what he has done.”
The Stars last week signed defenceman Trevor Daley to a $19.8 million, six-year contract extension through 2017. Stars top scorer Brad Richards can become a free agent after the season and Nieuwendyk reiterated Friday his desire to re-sign the centre.
Nieuwendyk also expressed his hope to keep Langenbrunner past this season, though the immediate impact will be the winger’s veteran leadership on the ice and in the locker room.
“We’re halfway through the season and I think all of us are really happy where we’re at,” Nieuwendyk said. “There is a good feeling in the locker room, a belief in the locker room. I think this move will strengthen that belief.
“We’re doing everything possible to win hockey games.”
Langenbrunner said it would be on his “wish list” to stay in Dallas longer than this season, but that he was “more focused on just right now.”
Chosen by Dallas in the second round of the 1993 draft, Langenbrunner has 232 goals and 388 assists in 996 career NHL games since 1995. He set a career high with 42 assists last season.
Langenbrunner has been to the playoffs in 13 consecutive NHL seasons, five with the Stars and eight with the Devils. His four playoff overtime goals are tied with Chris Drury for the most among active players.
Last winter, Langenbrunner served as captain for the Americans in the Vancouver Olympics. It was his second time in the Olympics.