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Why Lindell's long-term deal with Stars is a win for both sides

Nill says the defenseman's age and performance made the six-year extension an easy decision

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Former Stars coach Lindy Ruff had one of the best descriptions of Esa Lindell when he was coaching the young defenseman back in 2016.

Asked to assess Lindell's strengths and weaknesses, Ruff paused for a second and said, "Y'know, not a lot bad stuff happens when Esa's on the ice."

That might be the quintessential description of Lindell, who signed a six-year contract Thursday with an average salary cap hit of $5.8 million. The deal, which starts next season and ends in 2025, makes Lindell the team's highest-paid defenseman, but that's more a matter of timing than anything else.

 

[ALL HE DOES IS 'LIN': Stars lock up Lindell through 2024-25 season with six-year megadeal]

 

Miro Heiskanen has two more years remaining on his rookie contract with a salary cap hit of $894,166, so he will get a big raise when that deal is over. John Klingberg signed a seven-year extension early in his career, so he has three years remaining at a salary cap hit of $4.25 million on that deal and also will be expecting a big raise in the future.

So getting Lindell done now was important for the team, general manager Jim Nill said.

"He was one of the top priority guys for us. He's one of our top players," Nill said. "They could have gone more or less, I could have gone more or less, but in the end, I think this is a deal that works well for both sides. He wants to be here, we want him to be here, and we're both happy with where we're at."

Video: DAL@STL: Lindell slides across to block a sure goal

Nill said Lindell's age and performance made the extension an easy decision. Lindell will turn 25 next Thursday. He was 14th among defensemen in the NHL in average time on ice during the regular season at 24:20 and was fourth in the league in the playoffs at 26:58. He led the team during the regular season in plus/minus at plus-14 and was second on the team in the playoffs at plus-4.

In addition, he led the Stars in average shorthanded time in the playoffs at 4:30 per game, and the Stars led the NHL in penalty killing success in the postseason at 94.6 percent.

"He does the things you need to do to win games," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "You have to have a player like Esa Lindell. He's an elite defenseman who helps you win every night."

 

[NEVER MISS A MOVE: Follow all the Stars' offseason deals with our official contract tracker]

 

Lindell saw his role increase significantly after injuries to Marc Methot and Stephen Johns. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, he is one of the bigger defensemen on the Stars, and was third on the team in hits at 143. He also led the team in blocked shots at 161.

Still, Montgomery said it's hard to measure what Lindell does with statistics or analytics.

"I'm not sure you can evaluate him properly with analytics," Montgomery said. "For the impact he has on us winning and losing, a lot of it is subtle stuff that's hard to measure. His ability to manage games, to break up plays, to end plays, that's where you notice his value. He sees the ice, he knows time and score, he knows where his teammates are on their shift, and he allows us to get out of our own zone at crucial times in games. That's his biggest strength."

Video: PHI@DAL: Lindell goes between the legs on deflection

Both Nill and Montgomery said they expect Lindell to improve going forward. He was given more time on the power play and tallied four goals among 11 points on the man advantage this season. Overall, he scored 11 goals, up from seven in 2017-18.

"The great news is he's only going to get better," Montgomery said. "We started to see on the power play that he has the ability to help us in front of the net. We've seen him take shots more from the point. And then, breaking out of his own end and making plays through the neutral zone, he improved this year, and I think there's room for even more improvement as we develop as a team."

Lindell will move into a high neighborhood next season in terms of comparable contracts. Matt Dumba of Minnesota makes $6 million a year on a five-year deal. Colton Parayko of St. Louis makes $5.5 million on a five-year deal. Brady Skjei of the Rangers makes $5.25 million on a six-year deal.

 

[RELATED: Under-the-radar Lindell 'becoming the man' for Stars]

 

And while a lot of research goes into every contract negotiation, Nill said there are times you simply have to ask if you would trade your player for an opponent's. He said Lindell brings a great deal to the Stars.

"A-plus character, you won't meet a better person. He's a hard worker, no maintenance, he works hard in practice, he's a good teammate. All of that comes into play," Nill said. "And then, on the ice, he can play any game you want. He's got enough skill to be a good offensive player -- and we're really just starting to see him do that -- and then, defensively, not a lot of players match up to him. He's as good a penalty killer as anyone in the league.

"He's strong, he's durable, he's good at shutting things down. We're very excited to have him."

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.

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