The Dallas Stars signed John Klingberg to a new contract, and it is a long one. The Stars announced Friday that they have locked up the 22-year-old defenseman for the next seven seasons. The contract is worth $4.25 million per season.
“He’s someone we are building the backend of our defense on,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “We think he is going to be a major part of our foundation as we build this team moving forward.”
Talks between the Stars and Klingberg’s agent started about two weeks ago. The deal keeps Klingberg, who was due to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, under contract until 2021-22.
“They thought it was good to go long-term and so did we,” Nill said. “We think it is great for the player and great for the team.”
Klingberg, a fifth-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, is coming off a superb rookie season. He led all NHL rookie defensemen in scoring with 40 points (11 goals, 29 assists) in 65 games. He ranked third among rookie defensemen in average ice time at 21:50 per game.
Klingberg was a highly regarded prospect as he came to North America from Sweden this season, but his performance still turned heads, and it wasn’t all about his offensive numbers.
“I didn’t expect that,” Nill said. “I thought he would have more trouble defensively and he didn’t. He’s got great hockey sense, he’s got a great stick and a great feel for the game. I knew he had elite talent offensively, but I didn’t realize how good he would be defensively. And that is only going to get better as he matures.”
Klingberg admitted he exceeded his own expectations.
“Yeah, I had a good start when I got the call up here, and I got a lot of good help from my teammates,” Klingberg said. “I didn’t expect myself to score that many points, but that’s just a bonus. I just wanted to get going here with the team, so [exceeded my expectations] a little bit maybe.”
Klingberg probably would have started the season with Dallas, but he was slowed by offseason hip surgery and started the season with Texas of the AHL. The Stars recalled Klingberg from Texas in November to add a much-needed right-handed shot, and he caught fire early. He registered eight points in his first eight games and ended up leading Dallas defensemen in scoring and his 40 points ranked fifth among all players on the team.
“Amazing,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “You don’t see that almost ever, a guy comes in and makes a splash like he has and be as good as he has consistently. It just tells you that he is going to be a great player. He was awesome.”
The Stars had three rookies play defense this season in Klingberg, Jyrki Jokipakka and Patrik Nemeth. Jamie Oleksiak, who is 22-years-old, wasn’t technically a rookie but played considerable time as well. And all four contributed as the Stars got things in order over the second half of the season.
“To be an elite team is where we want to be and to be an elite team you have to have good defense. We think we are building that,” Nill said. “As we got into January, February and March, the young defensemen were a big part of our success.”
With Klingberg under contract, he’ll now head to Europe to play for Sweden at the World Championship, which gets underway in two weeks in Czech Republic.
“It’s a great opportunity for him,” Nill said. “It’s always an honor to play for your country. It continues their development. They’re playing against the best players in the world. It’s high pressure, much like the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Young players that play over there come back better players. This is going to be good for him.”