Stars Sign Esa Lindell To New Contract

John Klingberg’s most consistent partner last season got a shiny new contract.

Dallas Stars rookie blueliner Esa Lindell played his first NHL season last year after getting four cups of coffee the season prior. After his call-up, he never really looked back, logging 73 games as part of the Stars defensive pairs (just ignore that five game stint where he sat in November and then was sent down to the Texas Stars on a conditioning assignment...just another fun side affect of carrying eight defensemen this past season.)

The majority of those games, Lindell played next to John Klingberg, the offensive machine of the Dallas backend. The results of the Lindell-Klingberg pairing could be looked at through two lenses: the eyeball test, and what the advanced stats say about the underlying numbers.

When Lindell came up to Dallas, Klingberg was captain of the struggle bus. Having spent his first two professional seasons paired with veteran Alex Goligoski before he departed via a trade of his rights to Arizona last summer, Klingberg had a rotation of defensive partners to start the season. Dan Hamhuis, who was envisioned to be the proverbial Goose to Klingberg’s Maverick, never seemed to gel with the young blueliner, finding himself more comfortable slotted down the defensive pairings depth chart.

The coaching staff eventually settled on Lindell playing next to Klingberg, who was then thrust into the position of being mentor/veteran to Lindell as he entered the NHL. Right around that time, Klingberg’s game started to level out and he started to put points back up again. So the eyeball test attributed this change to the pairing with Lindell due to the timing of the two event occurrences.

However, the underlying stats have showed that Lindell brought Klingberg’s possession down when they were on the ice together, as discussed in David’s analysis back in February and in Ann’s review of Lindell’s season. However, you could chalk part of it up to coaching decisions and the fact that Lindell went from the AHL to top-pair defensemen with little time for adjustment. That’s probably part of the contributing factor as to why the Stars signed him to a two year, $4.4 million contract that carries a $2.2 million cap hit as a restricted free agent this summer.

At the end of the contract, Lindell will still be a restricted free agent. It’s a nice bridge contract that allows the team to see the progress Lindell will make as he gains more comfort at the NHL level and what he can be under new head coach Ken Hitchcock’s system. It also gives Lindell a decent contract and allows the team to maintain some cost certainty on the backend.