Dallas Stars forward Roope Hintz is a rare breed.
A true number-one center that can play on both ends of the ice, kill penalties, produce on the power play, and be trusted in every situation of a game. On top of that, he is 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, and can skate with any player in the league. He is the complete package and exactly what teams look for in that role.
After signing an eight-year, $67.6 million contract extension on Tuesday, Hintz becomes the most tenured player on the club and the Dallas Stars have secured their shooting star for a long, long time.
"Roope Hintz has shown that he’s a No. 1 center in the league, and those guys are hard to find,” Stars General Manager Jim Nill said. “Whenever you build a team, you have to have a good goalie, you have to have a good solid corps of defensemen, and then you’ve got to be good down the middle.”
“He plays hard. He’s a big, strong man. He plays big minutes, he plays all situations,” Nill added.
Hintz has been listed as one of the most underrated players across the league before each of the last three seasons. With his elite production, skill, and now the hefty contract to back it up, that should change rather quickly.
The 26-year-old forward has produced at a high rate since being placed on the Stars top line with Joe Pavelski and Jason Robertson in 2021. He hit career-highs with 37 goals and 72 points last season, is averaging more than a point per game this year, and in his breakout year of 2020-21, he tallied 43 points in 41 games all while playing through an injury.
Injuries are something that Hintz has grown accustomed to. But so is playing through them.
In the 2019 playoffs, he fractured his ankle ahead of Game 7 in St. Louis. In the 2020 bubble, he played through a lower-body injury all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. During the shortened 2020-21 season, he played 41 games with a groin injury that kept him out 15 times and required major offseason surgery. And then he missed Game 7 against the Calgary Flames last spring.
That can be concerning for a player that has only played 261 total games in his career.
But does that worry Nill and the Stars?
“I’m not too worried about that,” Nill said. “That’s part of the game, that’s part of the business. Injuries are part of our business, but you deal with those. He’s shown that he can play through injuries.”
“That’s what probably impresses me most about Roope. “A lot of people don’t know, four years ago when we played the second round against St. Louis, he had a fractured ankle. In the end, he was able to get his skate on and played with the broken ankle and was one of our better players.”
Hintz's two-way game is certainly his most underrated aspect. The Finnish center is constantly matched up against the opponents’ best players and put into the game’s biggest situations. So far, he has met every challenge with extraordinary success. That puts him in an elite club with only a few other players in the NHL.
“There’s no delay in his game when we don't have the puck,” Joe Pavelski said. “It’s not like ‘oh, we've got to go defend, I don’t really want to go down low’. He makes it pretty easy on his linemates in that sense. He is back there battling, helping with the breakouts. And then he can come from that low slot area and drive the play the other way.”
Locking up a Top 15 Center in Roope Hintz throughout most of his prime at 8.45 Million…
— Nathan “Grav" (@NathanGraviteh) November 29, 2022
“When you are signing a number one center, they have to be able to create offense, make other people better. But they also have to be able to go against the best players in the league and tilt the ice in your favor,” Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer said. “There’s only a handful of guys that can do that.”
Not many players have the tools to put themselves in the conversation for the Art Ross, Hart, Lady Byng, Ted Lindsay, and Selke Trophies all at the same time. Roope Hintz has those tools and is one of the few that make that a reality.