The 2021-22 season is a vital one for Dallas Stars’ defenseman John Klingberg. In the final season of his seven-year contract, he will look to prove he is worthy of an extension as well as a raise.
Klingberg’s Bargain Contract
When Klingberg signed his seven-year, $29.75 million deal in 2015, it was a good price for a defenseman who had just begun showing his potential. Looking at those numbers now, it is a massive bargain for the Stars for one of the top defensemen in the entire league. With his skill and offensive capabilities, his low $4.25 million salary-cap hit has been a massive win for the Stars. Now, he enters the final season of his contract as he approaches the age of 30.
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While his numbers show he is worthy of a hefty raise, the details of his next deal are yet to be determined. Klingberg would likely prefer to sign another long-term agreement around six years, but teams may not want to take a chance on a long-term contract at his age. While he is only 29 years old, a long-term deal could take him around 36 or older, a risk for any team. Looking around the league, defensemen are making more money than ever, with the top players cashing in around $9 million annually. With Klingberg in the middle of his prime, It will be a tricky negotiation as he will likely need to sacrifice either in salary or term.
“It’s something that I think about, obviously, for sure. I’ll sit down with Jim and my agent and we’ll see where we’re at. It’s a little emotional, for sure. I can’t really control what happens with the COVID world right now, flat cap and all of that. It’s different times.– Stars defenseman John Klingberg
Can the Stars Afford Him?
Both Klingberg and the Stars staff have made it clear they want him to sign an extension in Dallas. However, with the NHL using a flat salary cap due to COVID and the recent signing of Miro Heiskanen, many more factors will come into play.
“I’ve had discussions with his representatives. 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.”– Stars general manager Jim Nill
Dallas recently watched this summer as multiple players signed larger deals than they could afford. It started with Seth Jones being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, followed by Jamie Oleksiak with the Seattle Kraken, and Blake Coleman chose the Calgary Flames. While the interest may have been high on both sides, the money was simply not there. Now, after signing Heiskanen to a massive eight-year, $67.6 million contract this summer, money will once again be an issue when approaching free agents next summer. For Klingberg, he knows where he wants to be but also knows as a new father, he needs to find the right deal.
“Ever since I came in the league, I’ve been a Dallas Star, and that’s what I want to be, but it also has to be the right fit for me and my family and for the organization. Take it day by day here and then see where we’re at.”– Stars defenseman John Klingberg
2021-22 Outlook for Klingberg
While Klingberg has been a dynamic player for the Stars, there is more to his game than he has shown the past few seasons. Mainly, he has the ability to increase his offensive production along with his overall plus/minus. Averaging a minus-13 over the last two seasons is not good enough, especially for a player among the NHL elite. If he can find a way to tally a few more points and improve his overall game, he has the chance to earn a hefty raise next summer.
Lucky for him, the Stars have one of the best defensive units in the NHL this season. With the addition of Ryan Suter to Klingberg, Heiskanen, and Esa Lindell, the top four will be a dangerous group. So far throughout camp, Klingberg has been paired with Suter after playing alongside Lindell for many years. While Lindell is an excellent shutdown defender, Suter is a 16-year veteran with an extremely high hockey IQ that should help Klingberg increase his production on the offensive side. Not only will Suter allow him the freedom to roam and take risks, but he has the ability to chip in as well.
“You play within the system and then you be creative, let his skill take over. When he’s up in the play, I’m obviously going to be covering for him. I think everyone tries to make things so complicated. It’s a pretty simple thing. You put your players on the ice, and you let them go out and do their thing.”– Stars defenseman Ryan Suter
Both players feel this will be a seamless transition and a great partnership moving forward. Not only that, they feel they are steps ahead because of their knowledge of each others’ games.
“I remember talking to him (former Stars assistant coach Rick Wilson who coached Suter in Minnesota), and he explained a lot about what Suter did and what made him so good. I feel like I know a lot about him. Obviously, you know him a little bit different when you see him like this, but as a player, I feel like I know pretty good how he plays. It’s just about getting to know him as a person. I feel like we’re steps ahead there.”– Stars defenseman John Klingberg
For Klingberg, the approach is simple. Play your best hockey this season and get rewarded with an excellent deal next summer. While there are questions about the salary, term, and if he will sign in Dallas or test free agency, the focus now needs to be only one thing. Playing well and helping a stacked Stars lineup make a run at the Stanley Cup will go a long way. The rest will work itself out.
Sam Nestler is a Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the NHL and NCAA. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!