As the hockey world zoomed in on Dallas this week, the Stars chose to give people something to talk about right before the first round of the NHL draft got underway in the American Airlines Center on Friday. The Stars have just announced that they have signed RFA Stephen Johns to a three-year extension averaging $2.35 million per year.
The extension means that Johns will be a UFA in the summer of 2021. It also means that, with John Klingberg signed through 2022, the Stars will have two right-handed defensemen under control for the next three years.
For context, the extension is slightly more than Esa Lindell’s current $2.2 million deal he signed last summer, although Lindell will still be a restricted free agent (and two years younger than Johns) when his deal ends next year.
All told, this is bottom-four money for a 26-year-old who has done what’s been asked of him. After making a strong debut in the home stretch of the 2015-16 season (and racking up some solid playoff time), Johns fell out of favor with then-coach Lindy Ruff in 2016-17. Johns rebounded a bit last year under Ken Hitchcock, however, and if he’s going to start solidifying his place as a second-pairing defenseman, one would think it’s now or never for Johns.
The Stars still might make a move this summer to bring in some forward help, but this extension means the Stars will continue to reap solid NHL value from a piece of the Patrick Sharp/Trevor Daley trade a few summers ago. This is decent money for a decent player, and there is potential for a bargain in there if Johns really steps up in the back half of his twenties. But even if he doesn’t, these are the types of players you like having down the lineup. Now the Stars have one, for certain, for another three years.
Stephen Johns (3x2.35) is a third-pairing defender. pic.twitter.com/OGvsKGjZqp— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) June 22, 2018
Here’s the official release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed defenseman Stephen Johns to a three-year contract extension that has an annual average value of $2.35-million per year.
Johns, 26, registered a career-high 15 points (8-7=15) in 75 regular-season games during the 2017-18 campaign. He shared first among Stars defensemen with a career-high eight goals and finished tied for third among club blueliners with a career-high +10 plus/minus rating. Among League leaders, Johns finished tied for 20th with a Stars-leading 155 blocked shots, while he ranked 21st in the NHL and led the Stars with 201 hits.
In three NHL seasons, all with the Stars, he has appeared in 150 games and posted 28 points (13-15=28). The defenseman made his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut during the 2016 postseason, skating in 13 games and logging six penalty minutes.
”Stephen has developed into a solid contributor on our back-end,” said Nill. “He plays a very fast, physical game and is just starting to hit the prime of his career. We’re pleased to have him locked up for the next three seasons.”
Internationally, Johns won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2010 IIHF U18 World Junior Championships, notching three assists in seven games. He also competed in the 2012 IIHF U18 World Junior Championships, where he registered a goal and an assist in six games.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound native of Ellwood City, Pennsylvania was originally selected by Chicago in the second round (60th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft. He was acquired via trade by Dallas along with Patrick Sharp in exchange for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt on July 10, 2015.