Miro Heiskanen will become a restricted free agent this summer after his entry-level contract comes to an end. During his young career, he has proven to be an elite defenseman with the potential to be among the best. In three seasons with the Dallas Stars, he has racked up 28 goals and 95 points. He surpassed the 200 game mark this season, and even during a year that saw his production dip, he was often the Stars’ best player once again. If the hockey world did not know about the young Finnish defenseman before the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they certainly found out during the Stars’ run to the Final.
Heiskanen was a dominant force, tallying 27 points in 28 playoff games, leading the team, and finishing third overall. Along with the points, he has shown his toughness, missing only two games in his first three seasons, including the playoffs. It is clear that his potential is through the roof, and he will continue to drive his name into the Norris Trophy conversation year after year. While there is no question that the Dallas Stars will re-sign him, there is a question on what type of deal gets done.
The two options for the Stars and Heiskanen include a long-term extension that would range from seven to eight years and a shorter bridge deal that would most likely cover three years. Normally, his play at this point in his career would earn him a large, long-term deal. However, with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the salary cap, this is no longer a guarantee.
From the Stars’ perspective, they would most likely benefit from a shorter deal so that they could invest in bringing back key players such as Jamie Oleksiak this summer and John Klingberg next summer. It would also allow them to seek further help from potential free agents this offseason if they choose. From the side of Heiskanen and his team, he could benefit from signing a shorter deal as well while the salary cap is flat. This would give him the chance to cash in on a huge deal in a few years when everything is hopefully back to normal. Either way, it will be determined in the coming weeks which deal is best for both parties, so here is a look at each option.
The larger, long-term deals that seem to fit Heiskanen’s situation usually fall in the range of seven or eight years. To get an understanding of these deals, let’s look at a couple of examples. Sticking with Dallas, Klingberg signed a very cheap seven-year, $29.8 million extension with the Stars in 2015. This included a $350,000 signing bonus and an average annual salary of $4.2 million. In contrast, Erik Karlsson signed an eight-year, $92 million deal with a $53,000 signing bonus, leaving him with an outstanding $11.5 million average annual salary. Keep in mind, he is one of the highest-paid players in the league, and these are some of the more extremes as far as contracts go.
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More realistically, Heiskanen would see his contract nearing that of Roman Josi with the Nashville Predators. Josi signed an eight-year, $72.4 million deal that included a $34 million signing bonus. This would leave him somewhere between the $8.5 and $9 million annual salary, which seems fitting for his impact on the ice.
Seemingly the smarter option for both sides would be to sign a short-term deal and wait on the large, long-term payout. If that is the case, here are the contracts that could be similar to what Heiskanen would receive this summer. Zach Werenski signed a three-year, $15 million bridge deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, which was nearly identical to that of Charlie McAvoy with the Boston Bruins ($14.7 million). While Heiskanen is arguably a better player than both, he is also very young (21), and these numbers should keep both sides happy while allowing Heiskanen to prove his worth over the following three seasons.
“I’ve had discussions with his representatives,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said. “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.”
We can do all of the guessing and predicting we want. But realistically, in the current state of the salary cap and league, it is mostly unknown. The part that is not unknown is that the Stars will find a way to sign Heiskanen to a new contract before training camp kicks off in September. As far as the further details are concerned, we will need to wait and see.