The Dallas Stars took another step to solidify their fourth line for the 2017-18 season on Friday.
Two days after signing Adam Cracknell to a one-year contract extension, left winger Curtis McKenzie inked a similar one-year, one-way deal at $700,000 that will keep him in Dallas next season.
“Nice for sure,” McKenzie said. “This whole year it’s been wondering if or what was going to happen for next season. I was pretty happy when they offered it to me yesterday. So it’s nice to have that in the back pocket for next year.”
A sixth-round pick in 2009, McKenzie has had to earn everything on his way to a full-time NHL role.
He wasn’t a highly-sought-after prospect, but still earned a scholarship to Miami of Ohio and spent four years as a reliable winger that killed penalties and put up the occasional point for the RedHawks.
McKenzie was then named the AHL Rookie of the Year during the 2013-14 season with the Texas Stars and won a Calder Cup, but didn’t get his full-time NHL role until this season. During the 2014-15 season, he played 36 NHL games, last season he played just three and spent most of the season in the AHL.
This season, McKenzie has appeared in 43 games for Dallas and has 11 points. More importantly he hasn’t stepped foot in the AHL and he’s been a reliable lineup option, even after getting scratched from time to time.
McKenzie reflected on that journey after practice on Friday at the Stars’ practice facility in Frisco.
“Absolutely, it’s been just the work ethic and biding my time to get here and the four years of college, and then the time in the minors there,” McKenzie said. “It’s nice to get here and get rewarded for it.”
McKenzie admits he’d like to have played in more games this season, but he believes that he’s laid the groundwork to play closer to a full season during the 2017-18 campaign.
“It’s been a little different than how I drew it up. There’s been a few more games that I like to be playing in,” McKenzie said. “But I’ve been playing well when I’ve got the opportunities and I think knowing now going into next season I can play here. I feel like an NHL player.”
Follow Sean Shapiro on Twitter @SeanShapiro.