Just as Jason Robertson put pen to paper and signed the four-year deal with the Dallas Stars, a mere week before the start of the 2022-23 season, all pending business seemed to be done for Jim Nill, at least for the time being. But as it usually goes in the NHL, business never sleeps and there are always things you are actively working on, be it monitoring players for potential call-ups, eventual trades or negotiating new deals with players eligible for them.
Speaking of such players, Roope Hintz is in the final year of his deal. Soon to be 26-year old Finnish center has become an integral part of the Dallas Stars team in recent years and underratedly one of their most important pieces also coming forward. When talking with Frank Serravalli on the DailyFaceoff podcast, Jim Nill said this about Roope Hintz:
“Roope is a big part of our core, he’s a great developmental story for us being a second round pick and becoming a part of what I call a secondary core that’s coming up for the Dallas Stars. You can put him in any situation and he’s been an exceptionally great fit with Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski. He’s a very underrated player.”
That part about the secondary core is especially true and merits a short explanation. The primary core of players in Victory Green consist of the old guard of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and possibly even Joe Pavelski that has been around for quite some time and their roles are slightly diminishing as the time flies by. Well, except for Pavelski. But how he defies time is a whole nother conversation.
A secondary core is made of Roope Hintz, Miro Heiskanen, Jason Roberson and Jake Oettinger right now. They are already stars, each in their own dimension and are just entering their primes, meaning they’re set to be with the Dallas Stars for many more years down the line. A couple of years ago, you could also include Denis Gurianov as a part of this group, as he was drafted a round earlier than Roope Hintz in that stacked 2015 draft, but we know his journey has hit quite a lot of speed bumps so far.
Just for a completion, the up and coming players such as Wyatt Johnston, Ty Dellandrea, Nils Lundkvist, Mavrik Bourque, Thomas Harley, Logan Stankoven but possibly also the likes of Artem Grushnikov or even Lian Bichsel should take care of establishing the so-called third level core and all together create a franchise well fed with draft picks that everybody around the Stars universe is generally excited about. Because that’s how you build an ultimate contender at the end of the day.
Another thing contenders tend to share? A great quality asset and cap management. In order to continue on this process of becoming a major force, Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill has been very prudent when it comes to cap management because he’s well aware that especially in a flat cap period, you cannot make the same cap mistakes twice.
That’s why he prioritized signing the duo of expiring RFAs this summer before he initiated negotiations with Roope Hintz’s representatives, although he’s eligible for an extension since the start of free agency this summer, as mentioned on the DFO Rundown show by Nill himself:
“We’ve touched base a couple of times with his (Hintz’s) agent, as I wanted to get through the situation with Jake Oettinger and Jason Robertson this summer first, but it’s something we’re going to work on moving forward.”
Now, with the Oettinger and Robertson contracts done, all eyes should be centered around getting the deal done also for Roope Hintz, the last man unsigned for the next season from the secondary core pieces. I feel that projecting his next deal is easy and difficult at the same time. The easy part is the term. Hintz went the usual trajectory of a player who after expiring his ELC signed a bridge deal and now is poised for a big payday that will be spread around seven or even potentially maximum eight years.
That much is clear. But what is he worth? That’s the multi-million dollar question. Low-key he’s been one of the best players in the game, becoming a key carrier for one of the best lines in all of hockey while maintaining a point per game pace for the last couple of seasons.
Among potential direct comparables as far as the next deal goes, I’ve often mentioned the name Matt Barzal. They were selected in the same draft and both started playing professionally in North America during the 2017-18 season. While Barzal torched the NHL in his rookie year, Hintz took his time and honed his craft in the AHL for the Texas Stars during that year.
Hintz took the center stage in the NHL during the 2019 playoffs, when Barzal had already scored 147 points during two regular seasons played. However, Hintz had caught Barzal’s tempo in the previous two seasons, scoring 115 points in 111 games while the Islander appeared on the scoresheet “only” 104 times in 128 games. This season so far, both are replicating pretty much that same point per game pace that has surrounded Barzal almost his entire NHL career and has been present for Hintz in the last three years and is projected to continue.
Maybe that’s why Lou Lamoriello didn’t hesitate and signed Barzal to an eight-year deal worth 9.15 million in AAV early in October this year. Upon signing, the contract projected to be an overpayment, but the Islanders were betting on Matt Barzal bouncing back and getting back to his elite playmaking ways under Lane Lambert. After all, he is The Guy on the island and will be the major driving force on that team that has mostly thirty-year olds on their roster currently.
I think it also sets the tone on what kind of deal we can expect Jim Nill to offer Roope Hintz, but there are few caveats that can influence the overall value of the contract. Yes, Roope Hintz will be a major driving force on the Stars offense too, but he is not the only one there to provide it. Apart from his linemate Jason Robertson, generational talents in Bourque, Johnston or Stanoven are expected to arrive in Dallas sooner rather than later. Moreover, his fellow countryman Miro Heiskanen signed a rather team-friendly deal for eight years last summer. I wonder whether Hintz and his representatives would be bold in their proposal to exceed the number Heiskanen got from Jim Nill.
His agent, Markus Lehto, was responsible also for Esa Lindell’s latest deal as well as signing Jesperi Kotkaniemi to a rather unprecedented long-term deal for a still unproven commodity. Hintz’s deal will definitely become the largest one he ever negotiated and it will be interesting to see how aggressive he will decide to be in the negotiations.
I think the sooner Jim Nill starts doing the groundwork the better eventually for the cap situation of the whole organization as Hintz’s value will probably even improve as the season goes on. He is projected to be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights by the end of it, but would you really want to go into the arbitration with Roope Hintz? His qualifying offer is set to be $3,780,000 and he is guaranteed to make more than a double of the amount.
Honestly, I really see both parties using the Heiskanen deal as some sort of a benchmark here. For Nill it creates a good negotiating position as Miro is widely and rightfully glorified not only in the DFW area but even more so in Finland. Getting the same deal for his client as Miro Heiskanen got could be considered a fair value for Markus Lehto, even though analytically, Hintz is probably worth much more.
That’s why I project Roope Hintz to sign an exact deal that Heiskanen signed on July 17, 2021 with the Dallas Stars – 8 year contract worth 8.45 million in average annual value. We‘ll see if this prediction hold value come decision time around the Stars universe.