It’s official: Miro Heiskanen is settling down in Big D for the rest of the decade.
The Dallas Stars have signed their No. 3 overall to an eight-year deal at $8.45 million per year, as GM Jim Nill announced on Saturday morning:
Heiskanen, 21, recorded 27 points (8-19=27) in 55 regular-season games during the 2020-21 campaign. He finished the season ranked 9th in the NHL with a career-high 24:58 of ice time per game. Heiskanen was also tied for 13th among League defensemen and led Stars blueliners with eight goals, while he ranked second among club defensemen with 19 assists and 27 points. Additionally, he shared 10th among NHL blueliners, paced Stars defensemen and was tied for fourth among all club skaters with a career-high three power play goals. Heiskanen was tied for fourth on the Stars with 52 blocked shots and logged a career-high 47 hits in 2020-21.
Heiskanen has posted 95 points (28-67=95) in 205 career NHL regular-season games, all as a member of the Stars. The blueliner has also skated in 40 career postseason contests over two trips to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, recording 30 points (8-22=30). He currently ranks fourth among defensemen in franchise history in postseason goals (8), ranks seventh in assists (22) and points (30), and is tied for 15th in games played (40). Heiskanen has appeared in one NHL All-Star Game (2018-19) and was named to the 2018-19 NHL All-Rookie Team.
“We are excited to announce that we have signed Miro to a long-term contract,” said Nill. “Since joining us, it has been clear that Miro is part of a collection of young, rising stars that are now playing in the National Hockey League. As an organization, we truly feel that Miro has just scratched the surface of his ability and will be in the Norris Trophy discussion for years to come. On behalf of Tom Gagliardi, his family, and our organization, we want to thank Miro for his commitment to the team and we all look forward to watching him as he continues to evolve into one of the elite players of the game.”
The Stars and their fans aren’t the only ones bowled over by Heiskanen’s almost casually phenomenal performance since his 2018 arrival in the NHL. Fancy-stats aficionados have not been shy about expressing their appreciation for the 21-year-old Finnish prodigy, as shown here by The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn:
Miro Heiskanen is already one of the game's best defensive defencemen with plenty of offensive upside. He hasn't even hit his peak yet and should be well worth his new extension. pic.twitter.com/2qLmgdlatJ— dom at the athletic (@domluszczyszyn) July 17, 2021
Indeed, the new deal shows the Stars’ recognition of Heiskanen’s potential as well as his performance. Advanced-stats guru Corey Sznajder summed it up neatly:
Heiskanen isn’t the best defenseman in the league but he should be.— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) July 17, 2021
Certainly, as good as Miro is right now, the amount of room he has to get even better is noteworthy. There’s a case to be made that if the Stars can make a few adjustments to maximize his strengths, he could truly dominate the league.
**$8.45M— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 17, 2021
From @ShutdownLine's data he's definitely one of the most prolific puck carriers among NHL defencemen. And his shot contributions look solid as well. Interesting case here, maybe something in the system? Worth looking into. pic.twitter.com/h32NZNmPjQ
And there are few Stars fans – or anyone who watches the Stars with any regularity – who would argue that Heiskanen is not worth the money. But that $8.45 AAV will put a pretty big dent in the team’s $14.25 million in cap space for the coming season – and the experts generally held that Heiskanen could really cash in by signing a bridge deal now and getting a bigger contract in three years, when his offensive numbers would probably be up and the league cap would presumably be higher.
The Dallas Morning News’ Matthew DeFranks identified one scenario in which a long-term deal with Heiskanen would almost have to happen:
If teams know that the Stars would be hard-pressed to sign a long-term contract for Heiskanen because of the added cost, it could make Dallas a vulnerable target — if offer sheets were a tool that general managers, you know, actually used. It would have to be an offer sheet way above market value to even have a chance of swiping Heiskanen from Dallas, and there are plenty of teams around the league that also don’t have the cap space to do so.
Stars fans may never get confirmation of this one way or another. We’ll just have to settle for knowing that No. 4 will be wearing Victory Green for a long, long time.