Dallas has a pair of important contracts on the back end to look at this offseason with Miro Heiskanen set to become a restricted free agent while John Klingberg will be entering the final year of his contract, making him eligible to sign an extension at that time. Speaking with reporters including Mike Heika of the Stars’ team site, GM Jim Nill provided some comments about the situations for both of them.
With Heiskanen needing a new deal for next season, it stands to reason that his file should be the priority. To that end, Nill indicated that discussions have already started on that front. When asked about Klingberg’s case, he noted the challenges that lie ahead in those talks, ones that can be easily applied to Heiskanen as well:
On their end, they have to figure out…we have a flat cap, is this cap going to be flat for the next three, four, five years? We know businesses have been hit hard and sports businesses have been hit hard. We know there is a flat cap, how long does it stay flat? We don’t know. From their point of view, are they better off to do a short-term contract hoping that revenues are going to grow? If we talk a lot about a long-term deal? What that’s number? There’s a lot of unknowns.
From our end, we have to sit down and we’re trying to project the same thing. What number works for both parties? We’re open to both ways. The short-term, we’re comfortable and I think they are, too. If it’s long term, what’s the number long-term? We’ll just have to walk through this.
This is something that started coming into play last offseason with the flattened salary cap and since then, it has only intensified. Even with plenty of deals coming off the books this summer, most of those players will be replaced by similarly-priced ones; the cap troubles aren’t going away. The question of when league revenues jump up to the point where the escrow shortfall is paid off which will pave the way for an eventual cap increase is a big one. No one really knows for sure when that will happen which leads to plenty of uncertainty.
Also creating some uncertainty is what type of offensive upside Heiskanen has. His point per game rate this season ticked up only slightly over his first couple of seasons and while there is still plenty of value in a 35-point defenseman that can do as much as he can in terms of controlling possession and logging heavy minutes (nearly 25 minutes a night), that’s not the type of production that will get him the elite money for a defender. If Heiskanen’s camp thinks that the 21-year-old can find another level on that front, it would make sense for them to push for a short-term deal and try their hand again a couple of years from now when they have arbitration eligibility.
As for Klingberg, he has been a fixture on the back end for Dallas since breaking into the league in the 2014-15 season and has been on an extremely team-friendly deal since 2015-16 with a cap hit of just $4.25MM. With that contract having another year on it, he will be 30 when he first takes to the ice on his next deal. While there could be a temptation to sign a shorter-term deal in the hopes of getting more money in a couple of years assuming revenue stabilizes by then, Klingberg would also be at the age where teams are a bit more hesitant to hand out big money, long-term contracts. Accordingly, taking a bit of a discount in terms of the AAV but getting closer to a max-term agreement may be his best course of action.
Either way, both blueliners will soon be in for significant raises. Fortunately for Dallas, they will have some flexibility on the cap front this summer with Andrew Cogliano and Blake Comeau ($5.65MM combined) coming off the books to help cover Heiskanen’s deal. Meanwhile, in the 2022 offseason when Klingberg will need his new contract, Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov ($13.25MM combined) will be UFAs as well, providing plenty of wiggle room for Nill to work with. Their back end will soon be getting a lot more expensive although they should still be worth the higher price tag.