Jim Nill is off to a quick start.
The Dallas Stars general manager kicked off what is expected to be a busy summer by signing three players to contract extensions in less than a week. At first glance, the moves look savvy, affordable and in accordance with his overall long-term plan.
Jyrki Jokipakka signed a two-year extension Monday that will pay the 23-year-old defenseman $900,000 a year. Fellow 23-year-old defenseman Patrik Nemeth signed a similar contract Wednesday worth $900,000 for each of the next two seasons. Goaltending prospect Jack Campbell, also 23, signed a one-year, two-way contract on Wednesday as well.
I’m hearing $900,000 a year for Nemeth on one-way deal. Campbell is two-way deal with $650,000 in NHL and $90,000 in minors.
— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) June 17, 2015
The Impressive Young Defense
Signing Jokipakka and Nemeth to two-year, one-way extensions gives the Stars seven capable NHL defensemen signed through next season. Including John Klingberg, three of Dallas’ top defensive NHL-ready prospects are now signed through 2016-2017. The one-way contracts show a commitment and confidence to a young defense with a bright future.
Jokipakka was impressive as a rookie this season. He skated in 51 games and racked up 10 assists, 40 shots, eight penalty minutes and a -2. Though he did not produce much, he fit in well and held his own. His play improved as the season moved along. He began the season with less than 15 minutes of ice time in six of his first seven games, which were spread out over a month. By the end of the season, Jokipakka earned a regular role in the lineup and played over 15 minutes in 14 of his last 15 games. He played more than 18 minutes in six of his last eight games.
Jokipakka earned that extension. Now he need to earn a top 4 position on the D-corp during this upcoming contract.
— Bruce LeVine (@BruceLeVinePuck) June 15, 2015
Nemeth burst onto the scene late last season. He was sturdy in front of the net and smart with the puck and earned a full-time role and increased ice time over the last eight games of the 2013-2014 season. He even skated in all six of the Stars’ playoff games.
Nemeth’s 2014-2015 season was shortened due to a gruesome arm laceration in October. He returned in March, but it took a while to get back up to speed, and he struggled with consistency. His ice time fluctuated in the 22 games he skated in this season, but there was a stretch in March where Nemeth played over 18 minutes in nine out of 11 games. He finished with three assists, 16 shots, six penalty minutes and an even plus/minus.
The Goalie and the Future
Signing Campbell to a one-year extension provides an opportunity for the former first-round pick to prove himself and the direction he is heading. He spent most of this season with the Texas Stars in the AHL, but was not able to land the starting role full-time. In 35 AHL games, Campbell earned 14 wins, a 3.03 goals against average and .907 save percentage. With Jussi Rynnas headed to the KHL, Campbell has a chance to take the reigns as the number one goalie in Cedar Park.
All three signings so far keep intact key young pieces to the Stars’ future. Both Jokipakka and Nemeth look to be staples on the defense for years to come, and Campbell can take a step toward the NHL with a consistent season. Nill is working fast this summer, but there is still a lot of work to do as the roster gets set for the upcoming season and beyond. Jamie Oleksiak could, and should, be next in line.