The journey from Scott Wedgewood is one that every fan will appreciate.
The 29-year-old goaltender has played for 11 teams in the ECHL, AHL and NHL, so signing a two-year deal with Dallas Stars this week was a big deal. Wedgewood played for New Jersey, Arizona and Dallas last season and went 0-2-1 with the Devils, 10-12-2 with the Coyotes and 3-1-3 with the Stars.
It was a big step up for the reserve goalkeeper and a great glimpse of what he could achieve with this team in the future.
“Looking back over my career, I didn’t really have a winning record in the NHL,” Wedgewood said on a Zoom call Friday morning. “I played well, I don’t think I had any problems, but I didn’t play for these teams. If you’re thinking about the future and what I want my career to be like, come back to Dallas with a competitive team and a chance to make a run, I think being on that team is going to be a real statement and a chance to see myself to prove.”
[WORTH A CLICK: WEDGEWOOD SIGNS TWO-YEAR CONTRACT EXTENSION]
Wedgewood is 23-33-14 in his NHL career but said he’s looking forward to better times. He’s not alone as the stars feel they’ve found a great partner for him Jake Oettinger and a reliable backup.
“I truly believe that if Scott doesn’t play like he did, we won’t make the playoffs,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “We rode Jake very hard, we needed a keeper to step up and he did everything we wanted. He’s had some big wins where he saved us quite a bit and I just think that calmed everything down and allowed us to get our game back on track.”
Wedgewood defeated Carolina 4-3 in a shootout after 44 saves and became an instant fan favorite. Then he knocked out Tampa Bay 1-0. Equally importantly, he forged a great relationship with Oettinger and helped the 23-year-old gain even more confidence to end a great season.
“It’s huge and we want to keep it that way in the future,” said Nill.
Dallas still have Anton Khudobin under contract and the hope is he is healthy and ready for training camp after missing much of last season. Nevertheless, Nill knows how important goalkeepers are.
“We saw last year how unpredictable things can be, so we want to be prepared,” he said.
Wedgewood is a big part of that. The former Devils third-round draft pick was in the New Jersey organization when new Stars coach Pete DeBoer was also with the Devils. Wedgewood has shown in his relationship with goalkeeping coach Jeff Reese that he can rekindle chemistry fairly easily, so the relationship makes sense on paper.
“It’s going to be something I lean on. It’s something Jeff [Reese] and I talked about it when I got there,” Wedgewood said of the relationship and the trust they have in each other. “When I got here he said, ‘You’ve progressed into an NHL goalie, your game has improved and It’s like you’ve found your step.’ It kind of just kick-started me and put more confidence in my corner .”
Of course, a one-way contract for two seasons doesn’t hurt. Wedgewood will be making $1 million a year for each of the next two seasons no matter where he plays. That’s important for a guy who’s been bouncing around with the minors and been traded a few times. Now he and his wife are considering moving their home base from Michigan to Dallas.
And while he could have tested the free-agent market this summer, he said he felt he could get everything he needed from the stars.
“I’ve thought about it,” he said. “I was thinking about the ‘what ifs’. I’m a big what-if guy. But a big part of that was the relationship with Jake and Jeff and when I think I could play. And it is one Chance to shine for two years was a lot and I think the relationships I had in Dallas were key.”
Playing on a team with Oettinger is a great opportunity to see how Wedgewood can be both a mentor and a good teammate. That’s one of the strengths he sees in himself.
“I fit into that space and on the ice I don’t shy away from work,” he said. “I love helping guys. I said it [Oettinger] early on that I’m not here to steal your job. I just want my own I haven’t really had one of my own yet. I kind of held onto a thread, but it was really fun to push each other and just feel that when we’re better as a duo, the team is better. It just fitted.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or the Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has been covering the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.