Behind finding the next head coach, the John Klingberg situation is the hottest topic surrounding the Dallas Stars this summer. The 29-year-old defenseman is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer after spending his entire eight-year career with the Stars. Klingberg has repeatedly stated his interest in staying in Dallas and the Stars have expressed theirs as well, but sometimes, there is simply too much reality standing in the way.
Klingberg & Stars Want to Make a Deal
One thing that is not in question is the interest from both sides. Klingberg has stuck to his guns throughout the entire process, showing that he wants to remain in Dallas for his entire career.
“At the end of the day, I’ve always wanted to stay here,” Klingberg said during Stars exit interviews. “This is the only team I’ve been talking to, obviously with Jim. On our side, we’ve been trying to find different ways to get it done: year-length, money-wise to just try to get something that we’re both happy with. We haven’t been able to.”
On the flip side, the Stars also want to make a deal happen, and why wouldn’t they? Klingberg has been one of their best players since 2014, recording 374 points in 552 career games. He was the leader of their power play, wore an ‘A’ on his sweater often, and jolted the team’s offense when they needed it most. He also played a huge role in the Stars 2020 cup run when he dropped 21 points in 26 playoff games in the Edmonton bubble. For a team that struggles to score goals, he is everything they need.
“At the end of the day, it’s a business,” Klingberg continued. “I understand it’s a business on both sides. I’ve got to take care of my part as well. It’s been standing still. After last season, I was pretty clear that I wanted to start negotiating right away and see where we were out. They wanted some time with free agency and draft and stuff like that. I understand that. At the same time, I feel like I’ve been here proving what kind of player I’ve been for eight years now.”
Reality Stands in the Way for Dallas & Klingberg
Yet, no deal has been made as we inch into the second offseason since these negotiations began. Things heated up around Christmas but still, no decision has been made either way. With Klingberg looking for a fairly large and deserved long-term deal in the area of eight years and $8 million per year, the Stars may simply not be able to afford him.
With the expiring contracts of many young players and some holes that seemingly need to be filled, Dallas is in a position where they need to choose their priorities. What those are is anyone’s guess right now, as the entire team is surrounded by uncertainty waiting to find out their next coaching staff. Right now as it stands, it seems that no decision will be made before allowing Klingberg to test free agency in July.
“I’m going to keep in touch with John’s representative,” Jim Nill said. “We talked, and John’s got an opportunity to be a free agent and I don’t blame him. He’s got to look after his family and that. He’s going to see what the market is. We’ll see what the market is, and get a feel for that and see if it’s a fit for both parties or not.”
I think it is worth repeating how much Klingberg wants to stay in Dallas. Can that desire and belief in this organization result in him accepting a lower deal than he really wants? Will that compromise come in term, salary, or both?
“I don’t know really where they’re at, if they intend to sign me,” he said. “ I know that they want to sign me and I understand that there’s a lot of pieces that have to go into place and it’s a cap world and all that, as well. But they have to make a decision if they see me as a future Dallas Star or what’s going on here. On my side, on my agent’s side, I feel like we’ve been trying to move pieces, years, numbers, and stuff like that. On our part, I feel like we’ve been trying to meet them in different ways. More and more, as it comes down to, it’s been more quiet.”
The Stars certainly want to keep Klingberg around. Does that mean that maybe there is something that they can come up with this summer? I would not get my hopes too high because there are a lot of barriers forcing the two sides. If they cannot come to an agreement, Dallas will be letting go of one of the top defensemen in the league, while they gain nothing but some open cap space in return. It will be a tough loss, but is that worth not risking another lousy long-term deal that does not age well? We will wait and see.
Sam Nestler is a credentialed 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 Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!