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:
John Klingberg spoke out on his rumoured trade request. 👀 pic.twitter.com/rhqqzcjsV1
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 8, 2022
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:
John Klingberg on his contract talks with the Stars. He said he has permission to speak to other teams. pic.twitter.com/4Qxqz7SVUC
— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) January 8, 2022
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?
John Klingberg, reportedly desiring a trade, is an offensive defenceman with excellent puck skills who hasn't quite been his best self since Rick Bowness took over in Dallas. One of the higher-ceiling rentals out there. #TexasHockey pic.twitter.com/pI0naqlIF7
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) January 7, 2022
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.