Under Pressure: Tyler Seguin

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Dallas Stars.

It’s Aug. 10, and the NHL season doesn’t begin until Oct. 3. So there’s still time for Tyler Seguin to strike a deal with the Dallas Stars regarding a contract extension.

That said, as of this writing, Seguin’s entering the 2018-19 campaign with an expiring contract, and it’s easy to see why he might want to ride this out. You can simplify his reasoning in two ways:

1. Seguin probably wants to see if the Stars are capable of contending.

So far, Dallas hasn’t been able to accomplish a whole lot despite enjoying five seasons of Seguin’s services at a ludicrous bargain rate of $5.75 million per season. (Seguin’s cheap contract also intersected with the last years of Jamie Benn‘s own bargain, and is also joined by John Klingberg‘s dirt-cheap deal.)

The Stars have only won one playoff series since swindling the Boston Bruins in the Seguin deal, while they’ve missed out on the postseason altogether three of those five years.

[Looking back at 2017-18 | Building off breakthrough]

Before you come up with a convoluted explanation for why Seguin is to blame for Dallas’ disappointments, consider the outstanding work he’s put in for the Stars. In 387 games with the Stars since joining their ranks in 2013-14, Seguin ranks sixth in points with 384 (tied with Nicklas Backstrom, who played in 402 games) and second in goals (tied with Sidney Crosby, who played in 394) with 173.

That’s pretty incredible work, even if you ignore how underpaid Seguin has been. At 26, Seguin’s never received a chance to choose where he plays NHL hockey. Maybe he wants to at least explore his options?

[MORE: Should Seguin re-sign with the Stars?]

2. Seguin might roll the dice to see if he can get a bigger contract.

Here’s where the pressure starts to really build.

If Seguin signed a deal this summer, or sometime during the 2018-19 season, it’s plausible that he’d leave some money on the table. You can certainly make that argument, with, say Nikita Kucherov.

(Imagine what a 100-point, prime-age forward like Kucherov could have made as a UFA?)

Before you paint Kucherov and other extension-signers as fools, there’s the obvious drawback of playing out your contract without a new deal: a career-altering injury could mean a massive loss in money, and the security that goes with it. Such worries can’t be totally disregarded in a violent, dangerous sport like hockey.

Still, Seguin’s about to close off his sixth year of carrying that $5.75M cap hit, which can’t feel great considering the fact that he’s essentially been a $10M player. (And probably worth more than that, if the Sidney Crosby’s and Connor McDavid‘s of the world didn’t sign deals that are relatively team-friendly.)

Seguin could really rake it in, particularly if the market falls the right way. If Auston Matthews, Erik Karlsson, Artemi Panarin, and other high-level free agents (UFA or RFA, really) end up cashing in, it could set a new high bar for someone like Seguin.

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On one hand, it probably seems a little zany not to get millions when they’re guaranteed. Such thoughts surely inspired Viktor Arvidsson to accept a longer deal despite an honestly laughable $4.25M AAV.

It’s understandable if Seguin wants to follow in the footsteps of John Tavares, another star center who was grotesquely underpaid (the Islanders squandered Tavares’ Seguin-like six years at $5.5M), hit free agency, and called his shot for a nice deal.

Like Tavares, it might not be about every cent for Seguin. Instead, it could be about getting the closest answer to the best of both worlds: receiving a contract in the ballpark of what he deserves, with the team he wants to play for.

With that in mind, there’s just about as much pressure on the Stars to convince Seguin to stay, as there is pressure on Seguin to earn his next deal.

Still, it’s Seguin who will feel the heat if his gamble doesn’t pay off.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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