Dallas will lose a player to the expansion Seattle Kraken on Wednesday and still must deal with potential contract negotiations before the opening of free agency on July 28, but this is the first step in allowing the pieces to fall into place for the 2021-22 roster.
Heiskanen was the linchpin to the summer negotiation plan, and the team's leading minute man committed to the NHL's maximum length deal a day before his 22nd birthday. Heiskanen will have an average value on his contract of $8.45 million, making him the third highest cap hit on the team behind Tyler Seguin ($9.85 million) and Jamie Benn ($9.5 million). The Stars will get the prime of Heiskanen's career on this deal, and general manager Jim Nill said Heiskanen definitely wanted a long-term contract and not a shorter-term "bridge deal" that could've had a lower AAV.
Nill said both sides were able to find the right balance in negotiations.
"They respected our position, and I understood their position," Nill said. "They have a unique player here. His upside is untapped, and they know that he's getting better. His projection is on the rise, so they had to protect themselves that way. In the end, we found that sweet spot. It works for everybody."
Video: Nill on Heiskanen contract extension, Dickinson trade
Heiskanen has tallied 95 points (28 goals, 67 assists) in 205 career NHL regular-season games. He also has 30 points (eight goals, 22 assists) in 40 playoff games. He led the Stars in time on ice last season at 24:58 per game, which ranked ninth overall in the league.
After posting almost a point per game in 27 playoff contests in the Edmonton bubble, Heiskanen saw his scoring drop to 0.49 points per game last season. Both Nill and head coach Rick Bowness said they weren't concerned with the drop in Heiskanen's scoring.
"Miro is just a very good all-around player to start with, and I think we saw Miro's offensive talent in the bubble. So that's there," Nill said. "When we talk about his maturing as a player, he's going to figure it out. That's part of the evolution of experience and figuring out the league a little more. There's more offense there, so we're not too worried about that."
Bowness said in his year-end availability that Heiskanen is a talented all-around defenseman and that his numbers will come up.
"His play was better than his numbers," Bowness said. "He was snakebit a little bit, so those numbers will get better. He's a young defenseman and you don't hit your stride as an NHL defenseman until five six, seven years in the league, so he'll just keeping better. He's a great kid and he loves the game. He's a huge part of the future of this franchise. He plays against the top players every night and he does a really good job of that. I have no issues with Miro whatsoever. There's more offense, and that's going to come. He's three years in the league and he'll just keep getting better."
Heiskanen said a few weeks back he felt he had a solid year defensively, but needed to work on improving his numbers.
"I think I played really well defensively, but of course I want to do more offensively and be more effective," he said. "That's the one thing I want to be better at. I think I had really good chances during the season where I didn't score, and I want to be better at that. I'm a defenseman and the first thing I want to do is play defense. That's what I want to do best. I think when you play well, you're going to get points."
Nill said he thinks Heiskanen is just scratching the surface of his potential and that he'll be a defenseman who's in the conversation for future Norris trophies. The third overall pick in 2017, Heiskanen has already become one of the Stars' most important players.
"He's a pretty complete package," Nill said. "He can play the game any way you want. He's an effortless skater, his hockey sense is off the charts, he's got a calmness to him. It's really just getting experience. He's only played three years in the league, so he's really just touching the early parts of his career and there is so much room for growth."
Nill said one of the great things about the negotiations was that Heiskanen said he wanted to be a Star for life.
"That's something Miro made very clear in our negotiations," Nill said. "Dallas is his home, he wants to be a Dallas Star and his representatives made it very clear in the negotiations."
The Stars still have to come up with a deal for restricted free agent forward Joel Kiviranta and ponder deals for UFA defensemen Jamie Oleksiak and Sami Vatanen. Getting Heiskanen's deal in place gives Dallas a framework to negotiate.
"There's going to be a challenge no matter what, and we know that," Nill said of fitting everyone under the salary cap. "But we have to make decisions, and the key thing is to make sure you have your core signed. We'll work around the edges and fill everything else in, but a player the stature of Miro Heiskanen, it's important to make sure they're looked after."
Dickinson traded to Vancouver
In preparation for Wednesday's expansion draft to stock the Kraken, the NHL put a trade freeze in place starting Saturday. The Stars beat that deadline by moving Dickinson to Vancouver for a third-round pick in the upcoming draft.
Dickinson was going to be exposed and the Stars could've lost him for nothing to Seattle. Now, however, they'll lose an additional player on Wednesday.
Among the players who could be selected are goalie Ben Bishop (who waived his no-movement clause so the Stars could protect Anton Khudobin), as well as Adam Mascherin, Nick Caamano, Blake Comeau, Tanner Kero, Andrej Sekera and Joel Hanley.
Nill said Dickinson should get a chance to further his career in Vancouver.
"He's a great young man and his career is just starting," Nill said. "He's got a great future ahead of him. I just want to publicly wish him all the best. Vancouver got a special player there. He's got high-end character, he's a great skater and he's very competitive."
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.