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Before the season, the one Dallas Stars youngster who was garnering some buzz was forward Valeri Nichushkin. He played only eight games this season. In November, Swedish defenseman John Klingberg was called up and played his way into a full-time job with the team and into the Calder Trophy conversation.
After a campaign that saw Klingberg lead the Stars and all NHL rookie defensemen in scoring with 11 goals and 40 points, he was rewarded with a seven-year, $29.75 million extension on Friday.
"John is a very special player, possessing a creativity and skill level that few in this League can match," said Nill. "He fits in perfectly with where our core is at age-wise and his impact on our team was felt immediately. We expect him to build off of his rookie season and continue his development towards becoming an elite all-around defenseman."
Klingberg could have become a restricted free agent on July 1, meaning the Stars had the right to match any offer for him. They could have tried to work for a more affordable short-term contract, as they have with past RFAs, but they clearly are making an investment in his potential.
At this time, Klingberg would have the sixth highest salary cap hit on the team next season, and second highest among defensemen. Alex Goligoski has one year remaining on his deal at $4.8 million.
Along with his offensive production, Klingberg was also a positive possession player, posting a 53.4 CF% and a 1.21 Corsi-Rel, via War on Ice.
The 22-year old Klingberg was a fifth-round pick in 2010 by the Stars and now owns the longest contract on the team. Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza are signed through 2019, while Klingberg's deal will take him to 2022, buying some UFA years along the way.
Klingberg is the first of what should be a busy summer for Stars GM Jim Nill. Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak and Jyrki Jokipakka are currently slated to become RFAs, while Shawn Horcoff, Jhonas Enroth and Patrick Eaves will be UFAs. (Rich Peverley is also set to become a UFA, but his future playing status is still up in the air.)
As Nill finishes his second year in charge of the Stars, his construction of the team continues, and he's slowly putting the right pieces in place to build a foundation for long-term success.
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