The messy saga between John Klingberg and the Dallas Stars is moving full-speed ahead toward a conclusion. The fan-favourite defenseman has been publicly at odds with management in recent weeks regarding his contract situation. At 29-years old, Klingberg is seeking a stable, long-term deal. One that will last until the tail end of his career (similar to what Morgan Rielly received this season.) Dallas, led by general manager Jim Nill, seems to have other plans.
Klingberg’s Future in Dallas is in Question
With the trade deadline fast approaching, Dallas seems keen on off-loading the disgruntled defenseman. As the end to this long-term relationship seems inevitable, questions will be asked on how Klingberg rose to great heights and fell so low within the organization. As well as where both parties go from here.
John Klingberg is a Star, both literally and metaphorically. Drafted by the organization in the 5th round of the 2010 NHL Draft, Dallas is all Klingberg has ever known. After continuing to play in his native Sweden after the draft, Klingberg made his debut in 2014. He had an instant impact on the Stars’ blueline at that time.
His play as a rookie garnered him a spot on the All-Rookie team, fifth place in Calder Trophy voting, and a seven-year, $4,250,000 AAV contract. Although this is a large contract to give a 22-year old, the investment paid off. Between 2014-15 and 2018-19, Klingberg scored over 40 points per season and ate up over 21-minutes per game for Dallas. Klingberg’s reliability, consistency, and ability to create offence from the defensive position also led to his appointment as an alternate captain in 2017. This is a title he has held ever since.
Although Klingberg’s production numbers have fallen slightly since the 2018-19 season, there are some legitimate reasons for that. Injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a toll on everyone. Klingberg is no exception to this. Couple that with the cycling of defensive personnel, and it is understandable why Klingberg hasn’t had the stability he once did with the team.
This season marks the last year on Klingberg’s team-friendly contract. Klingberg is looking to be rewarded for his loyalty and low cost to the Stars for what may have been the prime years of his career. However, business decisions seem to have come in the way of that. Dallas is in a peculiar spot regarding their salary cap.
While the Stars are gaining cap space this offseason with Joe Pavelski ($7,000,000 AAV) and Alexander Radulov ($6,250,000 AAV) coming off the books, they have to look toward the future. Dallas has a young group with high potential that it needs to take care of in the coming years. Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, Jake Oettinger, and Denis Gurianov will all be seeking (and deserving) substantial pay raises soon. Combined with the fact that the Stars struggle more on the offensive end than defensive, it puts Klingberg in a tough spot.
Tensions have risen in recent days, culminating with Stars coach Rick Bowness voicing his frustration with Klingberg’s play. With the situation looking bleak, both sides must look to the future, for better or worse.
This morning, I asked Rick Bowness about John Klingberg, in light of his rough game last night in which he made some careless plays and some overly aggressive plays that hurt the Stars.
— Saad Yousuf (@SaadYousuf126) January 16, 2022
For the Dallas Stars, a blue line without Klingberg will be worse off, but they were prepared for this scenario. Knowing that Klingberg’s contract was expiring, the Stars signed defenseman Ryan Suter and Jani Hakanpaa last summer. While the thought of losing Klingberg is unsettling for Stars fans, management has prepared for a scenario just like this.
For John Klingberg, as sad as it may be to leave the only home you’ve ever known in North America, the opportunity to get traded to a contender is tempting. Matt Larkin of The Hockey News recently suggested that the Boston Bruins, a team in need of more depth on defence, maybe in the hunt for the Swede. Other outlets have suggested Klingberg may peak the interests of the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Los Angeles Kings. Whatever sweater Klingberg ends up wearing, it will be one that’s worn well into April this year.
John Klingberg’s time in Dallas looks to have succumbed to a familiar proverb, all good things must come to an end. Both parties are poised for success in the future, but it will be strange seeing Klingberg wearing something other than victory green on the ice.