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Stars invest in Zubov: 5 years, $25 million
By Mike Heika / The Dallas Morning News
Four years ago, Sergei Zubov wasn't sure he wanted to come to Texas. Now he's not sure if he ever wants to leave.
The Stars defenseman, who stonewalled the Stars for two months after a 1996 trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins, on Tuesday signed the richest contract for a defenseman in Stars history - five years at $25 million. The monster deal, in which Zubov will get $5 million per season, puts him in range with other Stars leaders Mike Modano, Brett Hull, Joe Nieuwendyk and Ed Belfour, and also puts him ahead of the four-year $16 million deal signed by captain Derian Hatcher last season.
"This is where I want to end my career; I am very happy here," said the 29-year-old native of Moscow, who will be under contract until just before his 35th birthday. "My family is happy here; I am happy with the team. It's been very good for me here."
Louis DeLuca / DMN Sergei Zubov is looking at finishing his career in Dallas. Zubov, who has won two Stanley Cups - one last season with the Stars and one with the 1993 New York Rangers - wasn't so sure about coming to Dallas in 1996 when he was acquired in exchange for Kevin Hatcher. However, the Stars worked hard to make the transition as easy as possible. They scouted out Russian culture, assimilated Zubov and his family into a foreign locale and generally made the defenseman feel welcome.
"We tried to break down any barriers, real or perceived, and show him that this would be a good place for him," Stars general manager Bob Gainey said. "And then it was his responsibility to give it a fair chance."
Zubov did just that, and now he said his comfort level with his teammates has as much to do with the signing as the money.
He said Gainey and assistant GM Doug Armstrong have sent a good message to the players by locking up the team's four top defensemen for the next three years. Hatcher is under contract until 2004, Darryl Sydor signed a four-year, $10 million deal last season and Richard Matvichuk signed a four-year deal for $7.8 million at the beginning of this season.
In addition, Modano is wrapped up for four more years, and Joe Nieuwendyk is under contract for three more seasons.
"What Bob and Doug have been working for is getting this team together, and now a lot of us don't have anything to worry about other than playing," Zubov said. "This group of players is very good together, and I feel good about being here. I hate losing more than anything; I always want to win. Here, we always have a chance."
Zubov has been a big reason for the Stars' transition from 23rd in the league in 1995-96 to two-time Presidents' Trophy winners and 1999 Stanley Cup champions. The skilled passer has allowed the Stars to work the puck out of their own end and get into an aggressive forecheck quickly.
In addition to quarterbacking the Stars' power play, Zubov is one of the team's best penalty killers and always is on the ice in situations when the team is two men down. He leads the Stars in time on ice at 29:10 per game this season and he's also the only Stars player to appear in every game this season.
"I think he brings easily definable skills and elements to his position," Gainey said. "He also brings some elements that aren't so definable, like how he helps the players around him and how he's difficult for opponents to play against. We feel he's a valuable player for us."
Valuable enough to deserve a huge investment in the future.
"There's a lot that goes into these kinds of things," Gainey said. "He is close to being an unrestricted free agent [Zubov would have been free next summer], and he gave up that opportunity; that's obviously worth something. We wanted him for the long term."
A term that should have Zubov retiring in a Stars uniform.
"That's what I want," he said.
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15 октября. Русский ковбой. (Сергей Зубов) - "Советский
15 сентября. Stars' Zubov may benefit from rules changes - The Dallas Morning News
6 декабря. Сергей Зубов - "Так кто же отправил меня в "Ак Барс" // "Спорт-Экспресс"
23 июня. Сергей Зубов: "В блокаде нахожусь уже два года" - Спорт-Экспресс.
17 января. Сергей Зубов: Будет локаут – поеду на рыбалку - Советский Спорт
15 октября. Русский ковбой. (Сергей Зубов) - "Советский Спорт"