Trade or contract extension? Stars face tough call with Klingberg

Trade or contract extension? Stars face tough call with Klingberg
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Really, how can you blame Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg for feeling frustrated?

While other defensemen such as Seth Jones and Zach Werenski loaded up with enormous contract extensions during the offseason, Klingberg was left out in the cold. If that wasn’t bad enough, consider that the Stars signed Klingberg to a steal of a deal, with Klingberg’s $4.25M cap hit running from 2015-16 through this season.

Of course Klingberg wants to get paid. It’s been a long time coming. Yet, he must wait. At 29 years old, this next contract is his big chance to join in the feeding frenzy, but he instead has little to chew on.

Following the Stars’ 3-2 win over the Penguins on Saturday, Klingberg addressed rumors that he requested a trade from the Stars, and also addressed a lack of progress in contract extension negotiations.

Sportsnet shared full video of Klingberg commenting on his status with the Stars:

Klingberg frustrated with slow Stars contract negotiations, addresses rumors of trade request

While Klingberg called rumors about a trade request from the Stars not “entirely true,” he didn’t exactly cement his place in Dallas, either.

“I don’t think it’s entirely true. It’s not like I’ve been going out there and asking ‘I want to get traded now,’ or something like that,” Klingberg said on Saturday. “It’s something that’s been going on with the negotiations and stuff like that. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a few frustrating years individually.”

“… For me, as a player, I don’t feel that I’ve been appreciated in that way when we don’t even negotiate. It’s quiet. For me, as a player, my agent, we talked to Jim (Nill) a couple months back. He agreed that we could start talking with other GMs and see where we were at. Negotiation-wise, the Stars have been very quiet.”

If you want Klingberg’s full comments (instead of video), here’s a transcription from Matthew DeFranks of the Dallas Morning News:

Trade Klingberg or sign him to an extension? Tricky situation for Stars

This isn’t the first we’ve heard about the Stars, a Klingberg contract extension, and the situation possibly prompting a trade. In late November, Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek reported that the Hurricanes called the Stars about Klingberg, but noted Dallas wasn’t eager to trade him.

Things would be simpler if the Stars were clearly a contender, or clearly a cellar dweller. Instead, they’re in a murky spot. Projections range between the Stars having a 25% and 50% chance to make the playoffs, with a four-game winning streak only complicating the outlook.

[Where Stars sit in Power Rankings]

While the short-term is fuzzy, the longer view seems clear: Klingberg got bumped down the lineup as Miro Heiskanen returned. From 2016-17 through 2018-19, Klingberg averaged 23:21 to 24:32 minutes per night. During that span, Klingberg often emerged as a stealth Norris Trophy candidate.

By no means has he been buried lately, but during the past three seasons, Klingberg’s consistently received less ice time than Heiskanen and Esa Lindell.

One could understand if Klingberg sensed a creeping inevitability to a Stars exit. Last July, the Stars signed Heiskanen to an eight-year, $67.6M contract. In May 2019, the Stars somewhat surprisingly inked Lindell at $5.8M per year through 2024-25. Maybe most tellingly, the Stars brought in Ryan Suter during the offseason at a $3.65M clip until 2024-25.

Could the Stars make things work with long-term deals for Heiskanen, Lindell, Suter, and Klingberg? It’s not totally unthinkable.

[An earlier look at how a Klingberg contract might work from PHT’s Adam Gretz]

That said, it’s fair to wonder if a Klingberg extension would be the best idea for the Stars. After all, Cap Friendly projects the Stars to allot about $57.17M to just 12 roster spots for 2022-23, and that’s before a possible Klingberg extension.

(Fascinatingly, in early November, Steve Greeley projected a seven-year contract and $8.25M for Klingberg in a piece for Daily Faceoff. Months later, the Stars hired Greeley.)

Could it be that Klingberg is too useful to trade, but not the right fit for a big extension with the Stars?

Memorably, a very different version of this Stars franchise balked at trading Brad Richards around a trade deadline, missed the playoffs, and saw Richards leave in free agency. (Plenty would argue that most people lost in that situation, except maybe for Brad Richards and his accountant[s]?)

Could a similar situation play out with Klingberg and the Stars? Or will it either be a Klingberg trade or contract extension with the Stars?

For all we know, the Stars may still need to figure out the best move here. In case you were wondering, the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is March 21 at 3 p.m. ET.

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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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

    avalanche injuries
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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.