What John Klingberg’s next contract could look like for Stars

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For the past six seasons John Klingberg has given the Stars one of the best bargain contracts in the NHL.

An elite, offensive defenseman who drives possession and plays big minutes while counting just $4.25 million against the salary cap. That cap number is 71st among all NHL defensemen. There are not 70 defensemen in the league better than him.

Klingberg is entering the final year of his seven-year contract and is now eligible for an extension, and you can be sure it is going to be significantly more expensive. Not only because he has wildly outperformed that deal and is deserving of a significant raise, but also because of the current market for NHL defensemen.

Already this offseason we have seen Cale Makar, Dougie Hamilton, Zach Werenski, and Seth Jones all sign contracts with cap hits that are greater than $9 million per season.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

The Stars themselves already paid their other top defender, Miro Heiskanen, whose new deal brings an $8.45 million annual cap hit for the next eight years.

Quinn Hughes of the Canucks is another defenseman in line for a significant contract extension this offseason.

But players like Makar, Hughes, Werenski, and Heiskanen are not really apples-to-apples comparisons for Klingberg given that they were still years away from unrestricted free agency. Jones and Hamilton are probably far better comparisons since they would have been eligible for UFA status (or already were a UFA).

So let’s compare Klingberg’s recent play and production to that of Jones and Hamilton.

The numbers

The table below looks at the past three years performance for each player.

If you are John Klingberg and his agent how can you possibly look at the contracts given to Hamilton and Jones this offseason and not conclude that you are worth something similar? He is right there across the board in every category. And while Jones has similar numbers for this three year stretch, he has been trending downward the past two years while Klingberg has remained steady and consistent.

Age is the wild card

Given Klingberg’s recent play and the market it should be a safe bet that his next contract will place him among the top-10 salary cap numbers in the league for defenders. So more than $8 million per season.

Here is a list of the top-10 salary cap numbers for defensemen in the NHL, in order: Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, Roman Josi, Cale Makar, Dougie Hamilton, P.K. Subban, Alex Pietrangelo, Miro Heiskanen, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, John Carlson.

Jacob Trouba and Brent Burns are the next two players immediately outside of that group.

Out of those 12 players mentioned Burns is the oldest player at 36, followed by Subban at 32. Everybody else is 31 or younger.

[Related: Next NHL defensemen in line for contract]

Here is the question: How many players on that list would you be comfortable having on your salary cap at their current price for the duration of their contracts?

Makar and Heiskanen probably for sure given their ages. Maybe Hamilton, Josi, and Pietrangelo right now? Who knows how that looks in another couple of years. The rest are players that have not aged gracefully or maintained the level of play that earned them those contracts into their 30s. Klingberg will be 30 years old when this next contract begins. You do not like to think that his career will decline that rapidly. But nobody really expected Erik Karlsson or P.K. Subban to have their careers follow the paths they did.

The Stars’ cap situation

With new contracts for Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, and the addition of Ryan Suter the Stars already have a pretty significant investment in their blue line. An $8-10 million contract for Klingberg will only add to that and eat a significant portion of their salary cap space. They would have roughly $30 million invested in their defense, which would put them at the top of the NHL in terms of allotted salary cap space going to their blue line.

They do have some significant money coming off the books after this season with Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov playing on expiring deals, but those top-six spots would still need to be replaced by somebody else. They will not be easy spots to replace. They could also shed a goalie salary for Ben Bishop or Anton Khudobin if Jake Oettinger proves capable of playing a major role.

The Stars can make this work, and there should be a lot of incentive for them to try. Klingberg is still a top-pairing player and with him, Heiskanen, Suter, and Lindell they should have what is one of the better defense groups in the NHL, and that does not even include the prospect of 2019 first-round pick Thomas Harley.

It will be expensive, it might carry some risk, but if the Stars want to keep him that is the price it is going to be.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.