John Klingberg excited about Ducks’ possibilities

View Original Notice ? John Klingberg excited about Ducks’ possibilities

In the NHL, free agency is often as fast-paced as the game on the ice, with even halfway notable names seldom lingering beyond the first day.

Yet defenseman John Klingberg, who was ranked in the top five among available free agents by many analysts, spent more than two weeks on the open market before he signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Ducks on Friday.

“Going into free agency, we were looking for a long term, that’s not a secret,” Klingberg said. “The market is what it is right now and we had to switch up the tactics a little bit.”

Klingberg reevaluated more than just his approach as he also changed representation shortly before putting pen to paper with the Ducks. He severed ties with longtime agent Peter Wallen and signed with powerhouse Newport Sports Management, with Craig Oster handling Klingberg’s contract for them.

“At the end of the day, it’s a business and I made a decision that I felt was the best for me and for my family at the time,” Klingberg said. “It’s tough to make that call with a guy that I feel like I’m very close to and have been for 12 years.”

Later this month Klingberg will turn 30. He came to the Ducks after spending his entire career with the Dallas Stars. Klingberg aided their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020. Since he entered the league in 2014, only seven defensemen have accumulated more points than the Swede and former fifth-round pick.

While this will be his first change of scenery, the relationship with Dallas seemed destined for an end for some time as Klingberg said that he had been prepared to switch teams for “more than a year.” There were rumblings of trade requests and other friction throughout 2021-22.

Klingberg said that while initially he had explored possibilities for multi-year deals, they did not materialize. The upper limit of the NHL’s salary cap was $81.5 million for three straight seasons as a result of pandemic-related revenue disruption, and this season it rose by a relatively modest $1 million. Teams had not foreseen such stagnation when they were doling out long extensions prior to the pandemic.

“I haven’t been a free agent before so I can’t really compare to anything, but obviously I think with the COVID world and the flat cap and all that, it’s a little bit different than it has been in years past,” Klingberg said.

In time, negotiations shifted toward a shorter duration, with the Ducks’ offer proving the most appealing. Last season, they surprised early behind breakthrough performances by rookie center Trevor Zegras, who was a finalist for the Calder Trophy, and winger Troy Terry, who scored 37 of his 52 career goals last year. Defenseman Jamie Drysdale also impressed in his first full campaign.

COVID protocol-related absences, injuries and perhaps inexperience all stung the Ducks as the season progressed, leading to an 11-game winless streak, a selloff at the trade deadline (including two veteran defensemen) and a finish that saw them win just four of their final 24 games.

Klingberg said he understood the role absences played in the Ducks’ second-half misfortune and that he had productive talks with General Manager Pat Verbeek in the days leading up to their agreement. Klingberg focused instead on the potential and positives for the young group, as well as other additions they’d made this summer.

“With (Trevor) Zegras and Troy Terry, what they did last year, I think that’s exciting for the future,” Klingberg said. “If you look at the signings they (made) in free agency as well, with Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano, I think those are two really good signings. If you look at their D corps with Drysdale I think it’s very exciting too. He’s young and it looks like he can have a real bright future in the league.”

While most other marquee free agents signed promptly, headlined by new Columbus Blue Jackets winger Johnny Gaudreau, Klingberg was not alone on the market. Center Nazem Kadri, who had a career campaign and helped the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup, remained unsigned. The fit between player and team has been oddly elusive in the cases of Kadri and Klingberg, as well as those of veterans like Phil Kessel and P.K. Subban, who were also still unsigned Monday.

“It’s a different market now. That’s kind of where we’re at, and I understand that,” Klingberg said. “So, it’s just going to be up to me to have a good year, to help the team win and help myself to put myself in a good situation moving forward.”