With free agency on hold, Texas Stars set to have youthful defense core

Matt Mangene will be a key cog in the Texas Stars defense next season. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Matt Mangene will be a key cog in the Texas Stars defense next season. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

After signing five players Tuesday, including two offensive-minded defensemen, the Texas Stars are now in a holding pattern during free agency.

“I’m on hold for now,” Texas Stars general manager Scott White said. “I believe in our group of players we have now. Will I add a forward? A D? A goalie? You know, that depends on how the rest of the market plays out.”

That leaves Texas with a very young defensive core for next season.

Three of Texas’ projected defensemen will be 21 or younger on opening night. The group’s average age is 22 years, four months, with today’s signings — Matt Mangene and Jesse Blacker — bringing up the average.

Mangene will be the eldest member of the group at 26, while Blacker will be the games-played leader with 235 career AHL games.

Blacker also made his NHL debut last season with Anaheim, but couldn’t find an NHL contract this summer in free agency.

“He’s looking to re-establish himself,” White said. “We were in contact on July 1 and, after he didn’t get re-upped to an NHL deal, it turned out to be a good fit. He’s only 24, but he’s going to add some experience to the group.”

Texas got a first-hand look at Blacker last season after he was traded from the Anaheim Ducks to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Colby Robak. In 40 games with San Antonio he had 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) and impressed White with his ability to move the puck and push the play.

“He has the elements that will help our coaches,” White said. “It’s become a game where you have to be quick and move the puck with your defensemen.”

Mangene provides a similar set of skills.

Mangene had 17 points in 36 games with Texas last season. He also showed he could quarterback the power play and stepped in at forward when Texas was hampered by injuries.

“He had decent production in limited time,” White said. “He’s part of the group now. He won’t be waking up in the morning and having to worry about where he stands (next season).”

In the current holding pattern, Texas’ defense consists of Julius Honka, Esa Lindell, Ludwig Bystrom, Mattias Backman, Mangene, and Blacker.

White said defenseman Zack Kamrass, and forward Cam Braes, who signed a standard AHL contract last week, are depth players who have to “come into camp and impress. If they don’t they’ll go to Idaho.”

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