Update: Jim Nill just made this statement to Sean Shapiro in response to Seguin’s comments at Biosteel camp:
Just spoke to Stars GM Jim Nill on Tyler Seguin's comments:— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) August 28, 2018
"No update. We continue to have dialogue. I'm not gonna negotiate in the media. It's a process and we continue to go through it."
The Stars may not have made a ton of huge moves this offseason—a first for Jim Nill in Dallas—but there was always the one big move: a Tyler Seguin extension.
As of Tuesday morning, no extension had been signed, and no substantial talks had been reported since the draft. Then, this happened:
Tyler Seguin said there have been no negotiation with the Dallas Stars since the draft and said several times he’s “disappointed” he doesn’t have a new deal yet.— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) August 28, 2018
Tyler Seguin just said repeatedly that he’s “disappointed” he doesn’t already have a long-term extension signed with Dallas.— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) August 28, 2018
“It’s disappointing. I didn’t expect to be in this situation.” - Tyler Seguin not happy to be going into a season sans new deal, says they spoke at draft but nothing since.— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) August 28, 2018
Seguin downplayed the Tavares comparison but he’s clearly frustrated. Dude’s probably going to light the league on fire this year in Dallas.— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) August 28, 2018
So, not exactly the “extension talks are progressing” report most of us had been hoping for. The word “disappointed” in particular conjures up images of disapproving parents, departing exes, and bosses as they get ready to lay you off. In other words, this is bad.
However, is this just part of the process between the Stars and Seguin as they work toward a deal that both sides can stomach? Is it really time to panic?
Your reaction to this report is probably pretty close to an angry panic. (Pangry?) And, well, you’re forgiven. These are the times that try our souls. Also the playoffs. And the lack of the playoffs. Those times also.
But still, what’s the holdup here? Extensions, after all, aren’t about trade pieces or term. The Stars want Seguin for as long as they can get him, and Seguin wants money commensurate with his performance as one of the best players in the NHL who just scored 40 goals at age 26 on a team that hasn’t given him as many playoff runs as he’d have hoped.
So, here are a couple of possible sticking points, as I can see them right now:
1) Annual Salary Dollars
First, let’s just remember that we don’t know what Seguin is asking for, or what the Stars are willing to pay right now. I’m sort of assuming, based on vague assertions over the summer from different beatfolk, that the Stars would prefer Seguin to match Benn’s deal, while Seguin would prefer to match Tavares’s. But we don’t know this. Dallas might already have offered $10-$11 million, and Seguin might be asking for even more than that right now. So, just take all this with a grain of salt, or maybe ten million grains. That’s a lot of salt!
In short, Seguin’s camp may well be pointing at the $11 million John Tavares just got and saying, “I’m younger, and you don’t exactly have an Auston Matthews as a backup plan here.”
The Stars, meanwhile, would love to sign Seguin to a deal matching Jamie Benn’s $9.5 million. A sort of Chicago-lite pair of salaries, if you will.
If this were salary arbitration, the Stars might try to make a case along the lines of, “Seguin hasn’t been a big playoff performer for us (1G, 2A, 7GP).” And, uh, maybe like, “he hasn’t won any trophies, and Benn has an Art Ross.” And, uh, maybe like, “Jamie Benn has outscored Seguin since 2013-14 anyway, and besides, Seguin has gotten a couple of freak injuries.”
And, well, that’s about it. Seguin’s camp, on the other hand, can point to the higher salary cap today vs. two years ago, the traditionally higher value of centers over wingers, and the fact that Seguin has matched Benn’s goal totals (173 vs. 172) in 17 fewer regular season games.
Oh, and also Seguin’s camp can point to the fact that this isn’t salary arbitration, and the Stars are royally screwed (hockey analytics term) if Seguin leaves next summer, which he can totally do. Hometown discounts are nice and all, but superstar players can demand superstar money, and it’s not like playing in Dallas has afforded Seguin the same benefits that playing in more hockey-centric markets can do in terms of lucrative sponsorships and notoriety. The Stars need Seguin a whole lot more than he needs Dallas, as much as it pains us to admit it.
So, yeah. If salary were all it boiled down to, one would certainly hope the Stars would’ve already inked a $10.5-$11m deal and been done with it. To that end, this statement from Seguin today might just be some posturing by his camp to increase pressure on the Stars and get them to the higher salary number. Use your leverage when you’ve got it, and all that.
But there’s also the matter of...
2) The Structure of the Deal (i.e. Signing Bonus/Lockout Protection Money)
Just as a reminder, here is the John Tavares deal: Seven years, $77 million, with $70 million paid in signing bonuses. The signing bonuses are key for NHL players, as they protect them from losing that salary during a lockout year (that seems all-but-certain to come in 2020-21).
For further reference, here is the Jamie Benn extension: Eight years, $76 million, with $56 million paid in signing bonuses. So, the Tavares deal has 90% of the money paid in signing bonuses, while the Benn extension has closer to 75% so paid. Perhaps the Stars are pushing for Seguin to have lockout protection akin to Benn’s, while Seguin’s camp is again looking at Tavares.
In fact, it’s not just about lockout protection, but also the distribution of those signing bonuses. While Benn’s deal is relatively frontloaded ($39 million of the $76 million paid in the first three years), Tavares’s is even more absurdly weighted: $43 million of the $77 million paid in the first three years, all but $2.4 million of which is signing bonus money.
The structure of the deal is much more of a concern for Tom Gaglardi than Jim Nill, from what I can see. The cap hit will likely be identical (Again, $10.5 or $11 million), but it’s just about when and how the dollars are distributed.
The only real concern for Jim Nill here would be a sobering one: how easy it would be to buy Seguin out down the road if things went horribly, terribly sideways. But somehow I doubt either side is really engaging in negotiations with Seguin’s aging curve as a prime concern.
(Side note: Also, I’d need a professional sports tax expert to confirm, but I would think signing bonuses would be taxed more heavily than salary dollars. But perhaps when you’re in that salary bracket, you aren’t as concerned with taxes as with the initial dollar amount attached to your name around the league.)
And finally, there is one other thing that could be going on...
3) One Side or the Other Isn’t Budging, and This Is Just Part of the Process (AKA Hold on to Your Butts)
First, let’s just acknowledge the truth: things could go badly. Seguin might leave, because that’s this prerogative. Because of that possibility, we fans are all going to scream at Jim Nill when things like this happen, begging him and Tom Gaglardi to just Pay the Man Already. After all, the Stars have been a tough team to follow over the last two years, and that was with Tyler Seguin. Fans are in no mood to play the waiting game, especially when we all just saw how devastated the Islanders fanbase was by the departure of John Tavares. The Worst can, and does happen sometimes.
Still, let’s also be real: as much as the Stars, like all NHL teams, have outsmarted themselves here and there, this is also an organization that understands what it takes to be a top-tier team. This is a team that got Jason Spezza one year after trading for Tyler Seguin, a team that signed Alex Radulov knowing the term probably wasn’t to their advantage, and a team that is probably still trying to trade for Erik Karlsson (inasmuch as Ottawa is willing to take their phone calls) despite having John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen on the roster.
In other words, the Stars know they need to stack this team, and stack it now. Letting Seguin depart is the last thing Jim Nill wants to do, in no small part because if Seguin leaves, he likely takes Nill’s job with him.
The Stars are surely trying to use what leverage they have to sign a deal they can stomach, and somehow I doubt Tom Gaglardi wants Seguin to leave any more than you do. So if there’s any consolation in this process, consider this my apologia for the Stars: they know more than we do about what Seguin wants, and it will hurt them even more than us if they fail to sign him.
Superstar extensions are tricky, and risky. Tyler Seguin is as close to a sure thing as any extension could be, but handing a player close to $100 million is a Big Deal.
You can look at Steve Yzerman’s work with Steven Stamkos, who waited and finally re-signed with Tampa for arguably less money after his contract season (though before July 1st). Yzerman is widely seen as a top GM in the league, but he also went through this process and came out alive after waiting the player out. The Islanders, of course, did not. The Stars probably have more pressure on them than the Bolts, and deservedly so; in the end, they don’t really have a choice here, but fans also can’t force all parties involved (owner, player, GM) to just “get a deal done” every time a reason to panic sets in. After all, even Jamie Benn sat out five games before his previous deal. There is still room to work with.
In conclusion, the Stars either know what they’re doing here, and they’re using their leverage while they still have some time to work with, or else the two sides are already on such different pages that the passage of time won’t help anything, and we should all just “walk into the ocean right now,” as one friend put it today.
And as a reminder, we can’t talk about this without also understanding that, if Tyler Seguin doesn’t really believe he can win in Dallas, nothing the Stars can do this summer can change his mind anyway, outside of a huge trade. So, as much as it’s a sort of last hope, maybe Jim Montgomery (and Jim Nill) can make some moves that get Seguin’s heart warming and Tom Gaglardi’s checkbook opening. It’s not where we wanted to be, but it is where we are, and there’s nothing for it but to hope better days are ahead.
Here’s hoping the Stars have a hastily scheduled party in the park right before training camp. Hey, it could happen.