John Klingberg is facing down quite the predicament this season. Playing on an expiring contract – a contract that has made him a bargain for the Dallas Stars for many years – Klingberg is planning his future. The talented defenseman has watched a number of defensemen, unrestricted and restricted free agents alike, sign massive, long-term extensions over the past few months. Unsurprisingly, Klingberg has expressed his interest in joining this group with his next deal. Klingberg, 29, would be one of, if not the top defender on the open market if he makes it there this summer and could command such a contract. Yet, Klingberg has also been adamant about his desire to stay in Dallas. The Stars just gave fellow rearguard Miro Heiskanen an eight-year, $67.6MM extension and have both Esa Lindell and Ryan Suter signed for three more years beyond 2021-22 at substantial cap numbers. Can Klingberg land the deal he wants in Dallas?
Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek was the first to put hard numbers to the hypothetical, reporting that Klingberg was seeking a a max-term deal in the $62-66MM range. This would put him just below his young teammate Heiskanen over the same number of years. This would likely be a palatable scenario for the Stars to keep their elite top-four together without paying more for Klingberg, who would be 37 when his next deal expired, than for Heiskanen, who will be as old as Klingberg is now.
Unfortunately, that may be a pipedream for the Stars. Klingberg is among the top ten scoring defensemen in the NHL over the course of his current contract. Why should he settle for an AAV of $7.75-8.25MM as Marek suggests when he has outscored the likes of Dougie Hamilton, Seth Jones, and Darnell Nurse – all of similar age and experience – and they each came in at $9MM+ on recent deals? The Athletic’s Saad Yousef claims that Marek’s numbers are merely a starting point. He has heard from sources that Klingberg is chasing that $9-9.5MM AAV and on a long-term deal, knowing this could be his last chance at a big pay day given his age.
Klingberg’s camp has not drawn a line in the sand on their numbers just yet as the defenseman truly does wish to stay in Dallas. Yousef also notes that even at this elevated, fair-market asking price, the Stars can still afford to re-sign Klingberg and likely will do just that if he performs well early this season. There could be some wiggle room for Klingberg to take a slightly shorter deal or come in a little lower than his comparable given his age and the “hometown discount” factor. However, the pressure is on for the Stars to work out those kinks and come to an agreement. The longer the season wears on, the longer Klingberg has to prove he is elite and the prize of the free agent class, driving up his bargaining power on contract talks. Both sides want to see the relationship extended, but those odds go down the longer they wait. Dallas is prepared for that possibility, but that would make it no less of a major blow if Klingberg walks away.