Just over two weeks removed from John Klingberg expressing his frustration with contract negotiations and less than two months away from the trade deadline, things continue to hang in the balance for the Stars defenseman and his team.
At the beginning of this season, Stars general manager Jim Nill expressed interest in extending Klingberg, who was a fifth-round selection by the team in 2010 and has played his entire eight-year NHL career in Dallas. The last seven years of Klingberg’s career have come on a contract that paid him $4.25 million AAV, a bargain for the production he’s provided the Stars and his role as a top-pairing defenseman and the quarterback of the top power-play unit.
The Stars, however, have already invested heavily along the blue line — both financially with Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell and Ryan Suter, and in draft capital with Thomas Harley. Now dealing with a flat cap, they have to be more diligent in allocating a fourth big contract to an aging defenseman, especially with promising young forwards soon to be due for big extensions.
From Klingberg’s perspective, he’s 29 years old and is staring at his one big opportunity to cash out in his playing career. The two sides haven’t closed the book on working towards an extension that would keep Klingberg in Dallas, but Klingberg and his agent have been given the freedom to explore trade options, so a move in the coming weeks would not be surprising.
The Athletic’s resident prospect guru Corey Pronman teamed up with Stars beat writer Saad Yousuf to explore potential deals for Klingberg. We also invited a former NHL front office executive to offer thoughts on the proposed trade packages.
The two trade proposals we focused on for a comparable were the Jacob Trouba deal from Winnipeg to the Rangers and Justin Faulk moving from Carolina to St. Louis. No two trades are identical, of course. Klingberg’s stock is higher now than Faulk’s was at the time, and Trouba had an extra year of control as a pending RFA. NHL sources believe Dallas’ return will probably be closer to the Trouba haul, which was a first-round pick and Neal Pionk. Thus we will try to model proposals to include a quality, young NHL player and an A-grade future asset.
Potential trade package: LW Jake DeBrusk and Boston’s 2022 first-round pick.
Pronman’s thoughts: DeBrusk is a useful top-nine forward with good skill, hockey sense and scoring ability who competes well enough even though he’s not an amazing skater. His deal is up at the end of the season, but he has a few years left of control. He would be analogous to Pionk. The first-round pick by Boston will likely be in the 20s.
Yousuf’s thoughts: DeBrusk and the Bruins are at crossroads. DeBrusk, through his agent, has requested a trade, and his departure from Boston feels imminent. Though DeBrusk is a forward and Klingberg a defenseman, the Bruins would be getting a player who can help the offense while slotting in the top four on the depth chart. Meanwhile, the Stars would get a middle-six forward with some top-six potential who is a pending restricted free agent. With Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov pending unrestricted free agents, and the latter especially unlikely to return, the Stars would be in the market for a player like DeBrusk this summer anyway. This gives them more control over that situation at an affordable price, not to mention the accompanying draft pick. A pending restricted free agent, DeBrusk’s qualifying offer will be $4.41 million. Along with being cheaper in the present, DeBrusk will be 26 years old when next season begins, whereas Klingberg will be 30.
Front office perspective: Over the prior two seasons, DeBrusk’s boxcars are 11-16-27 in 74 games (which will depress his value in the eyes of some clubs) and his QO/projected arb number is higher than some might like, particularly amid a flat cap environment (a contrast with Klingberg, whose value exceeds his cap hit). That said, I think there is some upside that, like Sam Bennett, he raises his game in a greater role elsewhere. Style-wise, they’re not entirely dissimilar.
It’s not a home run, and there are lots of comps to make Dallas feel OK about it, but I bet there’s a better package out there.