For the first time in a while, the stars could be an interesting squad to watch as the trading market heats up ahead of the March trading deadline.
The Superstars are currently in the playoff bubble in the Western Conference, winning back-to-back road matches for the first time this season. But even as the post-season controversy continues, there’s one name that won’t leave the trade rumor mill: John Klingberg.
Klingberg, 29, will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer and has publicly expressed his disappointment over his contract extension negotiations with the stars recently. Klingberg and his agent Peter Wallen have been given permission to talk to other teams about the extension, and Sportsnet reported last week that the stars had stepped up their efforts to trade in Klingberg.
Klingberg is in the final year of a seven-year contract worth $4.25 million. He is eligible to sign a maximum eight-year extension with Dallas, and is said to want $63 million on that contract. The stars held back on that number, creating an environment in which Klingberg wanted to find his next deal, and the stars could get ransom to trade him away.
While things look untenable – coach Rick Bowness likely scratched Klingberg last week in Tampa had the stars had enough healthy defenders, as Klingberg’s playing style slid recently – it’s hard to say if general manager Jim Neil will actually pull the trigger, and when will Klingberg sell.
For example, Neil doesn’t take major contributors off the NHL roster while this team is chasing the playoffs. It’s something he never did in Dallas, and the two times he sold stars under Neal, his current assets have included Johnny O’Dea, Jordi Bean, Patrick Ives and Eric Cole.
Until last season, when the stars were in a similar position in the standings, Neil stood apart from charging with expired contracts as Jamie Oleksiak, Andrew Cogliano and Blake Comeau elsewhere. None of these players hold the oomph that Klingberg has, and none of them can run a power game like Klingberg.
Klingberg is the defense’s responsibility, absolutely, especially in the case of the rush of the last few games. But he can’t turn anything into something, especially in terms of manipulating power and getting out of his own territory. Additionally, he will have a personal motivation to play for his next decade.
Neil’s personal future could also influence his decision with Klingberg. If the Superstars had to make the playoffs in order to keep his job, would he reduce those chances by trading Klingberg? While an alarm like that might not be present in Dallas, another year without a post-season would be like two in a row, as the Stars were a team without an accessory berth.
If the stars decide they should trade Klingberg, there are internal questions they must answer. Will they be willing to keep the salary? Will they trade it inside the department? What are the important needs to get it in return: a young shooter, a potential defenseman, or a venture capitalist?
Superstars have historically not gained the other team’s prospects because they haven’t sold enough to bring in young players. Under Nill, the stars were traded to four players under the age of 25 at the time of trading. They were two huge defensive backs (Dillon Hetherington and Stephen Jones). One was a player drafted by Detroit’s Neil (Matthias Janmark). The other was once second overall (Tyler Seguin).
Instead of odds, the stars relied on drafting players themselves and developing them while they were on entry contracts.
With all that said, there seem to be four ways to trade Klingberg, depending on how the stars see themselves.
Classic rental deal
You know the deal: a first-round pick, a prospect and perhaps an in-depth player to help out right away. It’s the kind of deal that can pay immediate dividends (if the prospect is ready to play in the NHL) and long-term (watching the development of a potential first-round pick), as long as the acquiring team is in their way-it mode.
Last year, Columbus received a first- and third-round pick for duo defenseman David Savard, who was bought by Tampa Bay as a rental. Brandon Muntur deserved to be a third-round pick. Oleksiak could have been a precious rent somewhere (was it worth the third-round pick Dallas got for Jason Dickinson before the expansion draft?).
Neil has previously placed contingent terms on rental deals, as he did when the stars acquired Mats Zuccarello from New York. Rangers would have taken first (instead of second) if the Stars advanced to the Western Conference Final, and would have taken first (instead of third) if the Stars re-signed Zuccarello as a free agent after the season. Conditions may follow choices in the Klingberg trade.
straight hockey trade
That would be the way to go if the stars thought they could be a better team now without Klingberg. That would leave a huge gaping hole at the back end in the transition and at the point of playing the powerhouse, but if Neil wanted to compete in the spring and get rid of Klingberg, they would chase after an immediate asset.
The obvious caveat is that teams looking to land a lease like Klingberg may be reluctant to drop pieces off their roster. The stars want instant contributors that hopefully will be manageable assets, and it’s hard to keep them away from competitors.
For example, good luck getting Sam Bennett out of Florida, Teuvo Teravainen out of Carolina, William Nylander out of Toronto, Pierre-Luc Dubois out of Winnipeg, etc.
In theory, the Stars could exchange Klingberg for another lease, but that doesn’t make sense unless Dallas plans to trade in Klingberg early on, then flip the new lease later.
Withheld salary transaction
If stars are sellers, they should arm their hat space, if Tom Gaglardi allows them to spend money on players they don’t play with. Klingberg’s hit can already be controlled at $4.25 million, but if the stars keep the $2.125 million cap, the revenue grows even more, especially for teams with big belts like Toronto or Carolina or any really serious competitor.
In the world of flat-capital companies, ceiling space is becoming more and more valuable, especially around the trade deadline. There were three deals last year in which a third team took part in order to keep the salary and nothing else. Those deals offered market rates to keep the salary. San Jose took home the fifth round prize for holding $562,500 and fourth to keep $1.375 million. Detroit came in fourth for holding $1.062 million.
If the stars keep $2.125 million of Klingberg’s salary, it could be worth another second- or third-round pick in the trade. It also means that superstars aren’t natively gaining to fill this cap space, turning into sellers as they fade from the playoff chase.
Fill out a negative original
This is the least attractive option, without a doubt. The value of Klingberg’s trade is high, and pairing her with someone like Anton Khudobin would weaken her. The deal will remove Khudubin’s contract for next year, but it will also limit the stars’ ability to maximize Kellenberg’s revenue.
In addition, many competing teams will not be able to create enough ceiling space for both Klingberg and Khudobin ($3.333 million over the next season).
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