After keeping the fanbase biting their nails all summer and into early October, the Dallas Stars finally completed deals with both of their restricted free agent (RFA) priorities. Those deals will keep both Jake Oettinger and Jason Robertson in Dallas for the next few years. Whatever your thoughts are on Jim Nill and his cap management, there is no denying his savvy pedigree as one of the best contract negotiators in the league.
With other inflated RFA signings across the NHL this summer, the value Nill delivered with Oettinger and Robertson is almost unfathomable. But Nill has a history of getting amazing value for this organization with prime players not only from a financial standpoint but also on the term. Evidence of that can be found in the last deal John Klingberg signed. Or the current deal for Miro Heiskanen. Both were considered unbelievably team-friendly.
Looking ahead to the summer of 2023, what might Nill’s next round of RFA magic look like with a Roope Hintz contract?
Looking at Context for a New Roope Hintz Contract
It’s important to look at the context of where Roope is in his NHL career. Next summer, he’ll be 26 years old. Being under 27 and with less than seven years of NHL experience, Hintz will still be classified as an RFA when he signs his next contract. That provides the Stars with the same type of leverage they had this past offseason with Oettinger and Robertson.
While Hintz’s salary for this season is $4.45 million, it only counts as $3.15 million against the salary cap. If Roope can replicate or even expand on his performance from last season, he will be due a large pay raise. And the situation is perfect for both Hintz and the Stars to cash in.
Managing the Cap
Following this season, the Stars will have several contracts coming off the books that will give them enough flexibility to sign their top-line center in Hintz, as well as any potential deals for other RFA roster mainstays like Denis Gurianov, Ty Dellandrea, and Jacob Peterson.
With current contracts to Joe Pavelski, Luke Glendening, Joel Kiviranta, and Anton Khudobin likely coming off the books in 2023 either via in-season trade or in offseason free agency, the Stars will gain just over $10 million in additional cap space for next season.
That additional cap space should be more than enough to give Nill and the Stars a bit more breathing room than they had this summer to sign their RFAs, with Hintz being the top priority.
Something that kept fans with short fingernails this summer was how the market seemed to be inflating rapidly with the signing of other RFAs around the league. Looking at a few other similar RFAs of age and performance to Roope, the signings vary with many signing an eight-year deal with an AAV of between $6.5 million and $9.5 million. A couple of the most recent notable comparisons are Brayden Point, who signed an eight-year deal in the summer of 2021 with an AAV of $9.5 million, and, more recently, Mathew Barzal, who just signed an eight-year deal at an AAV of $9.15 million. Something to note is both of those players were 26 when those contracts started/will start, and both had recorded over 300 points in their careers at the time the deal was signed.
Roope currently sits at 170 points, so he won’t have the same amount of points when he signs next summer at the same age as Point and Barzal. However, Roope’s stock is currently on a steep incline and the free agent market will likely look much different in nine to 11 months.
Projecting a Roope Hintz Contract
Nill has not shown a lot of desire to sign players to long-term extensions during the season. And with Hintz, much like Oettinger and Robertson, the Stars still hold the leverage with Roope being an RFA next summer.
Assuming Hintz maintains or improves his recent performance, what will be different about his contract versus Oettinger and Robertson is that his deal likely will not be a short-term or “bridge” deal. He will have earned a sizeable promotion and he will be coming into the prime of his NHL career. He will also only have one year of RFA status remaining, meaning any multi-year deal he signs will take him into UFA territory. It would be in the interest of both the Stars and Hintz to land a long-term deal.
Looking at the comparable players and contracts and taking Nill’s savvy negotiating into account, an eight-year deal with an AAV of around $9 million seems like a fair deal for both sides. With Hintz’s current AAV at $3.15 million, that’s a raise of $5.85 million per season. With just over $10 million in additional cap room coming off the books after this season, giving Hintz the raise he deserves while maintaining enough funds to sign other RFAs like Gurianov, Dellandrea and Peterson should make next summer much less nerve-wracking for Stars fans.
And with Nill’s negotiating magic, it will be exciting to see what he is able to get done with a Roope Hintz contract next summer. Whatever the contract ends up being, there is no doubt that Hintz will be a member of the Dallas Stars for many years to come.
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