Clearly, Tyler Seguin is disappointed he has not been signed to a long-term, megabucks deal. Meeting with reporters in Toronto last week, Seguin said it again and again.
Disappointing is understandable. What it isn’t is surprising. That next step up Seguin is set to take in the league’s pay hierarchy is going to be a doozy.
Seguin is entering the final year of his contract, but he told reporters there have been no negotiations with Dallas management this summer on an extension. One of the things that made the Seguin trade of 2013 with the Bruins so good for GM Jim Nill and the Stars is Peter Chiarelli already had done some of the heavy lifting, trading Seguin a year after signing him to a team friendly extension. The cap hit of $5.75 million annually for six years was about to kick in — Seguin’s salary for the upcoming year will be $6.5 million, according to capfriendly.com.
He not only has lived up to his paycheck, he’s outperformed it, at least on the personal stat sheet. Seguin has 173 goals in five years for Dallas, including a career-high 40 last year. He has proved doubters (including this one) wrong by becoming a decent centerman. A Selke award may not be in his future, but he’s improved greatly in his faceoffs — above 50 percent the last four years — and he’s not a complete liability in his own zone.
Still, despite all his growth as a player, should Seguin be the NHL’s next $10 million-plus man? In one sense, the answer is a resounding yes. John Tavares, who has 18 fewer points than Seguin and just one more playoff series win the last five years, signed with Toronto for $11 million annually for seven years.
There is obviously a place for stats and analytics, and those have to be in line for such a big contract to be bestowed on a player. (For you Corsi fans, Seguin’s was a so-so 50.63 last year.) But for a team to dish out that kind of contract, the GM needs to go beyond the sheer numbers and ask, ‘Can this player lead us to a Stanley Cup?’ And for all the good things Seguin has brought to Dallas, the Stars have missed the playoffs three of the last five years and are yet to win a playoff round.
All that, of course, cannot be heaped on Seguin’s shoulders. Does anyone blame Patrice Bergeron for the Bruins missing the playoffs two years in a row? For much of Seguin’s time there, the Stars have had poor to middling goaltending and, beyond John Klingberg, the defense has been decidedly meh.
But there are weapons around him, starting with the captain Jamie Benn, who got his own eight-year deal worth $9.5 million two summers ago — that one might have been a gun-jump, too — and Alex Radulov, who was added last year and contributed a 72-point campaign. Under veteran coach Ken Hitchcock, the Stars looked very much like Cup contenders in the first half of the season.
The Stars faded badly, however. Facing the Bruins at American Airlines Center on March 23, with the season hanging in the balance, Seguin was a non-factor in a 3-2 Stars loss. That one game doesn’t wipe out a whole season, but it is a telling snapshot.
When Chiarelli decided to move on from Seguin, the reasons were two-fold. He was a no-show in the 2013 playoffs, scoring just one goal in 22 games (in addition to him not scoring in the last five regular-season games, when the B’s were jockeying for playoff position), plus the way Seguin was ripping it up off the ice gave the appearance he wasn’t all that bothered by the first issue.
Chiarelli jumped too soon, no doubt. Seguin was 21 years old. Whether or not he turned into an choir boy in Dallas, he’s put up impressive numbers that would have served the B’s well these past five years, especially given their leadership structure. The negative impact of the trade wasn’t immediately felt — the B’s won the Presidents’ Trophy the next year and should have gone further in the playoffs — but once Jarome Iginla signed a three-year deal in Colorado, the B’s were in the wilderness for a couple of seasons. It’s a good bet that if he hadn’t made the Seguin deal, Chiarelli would still be in the B’s GM chair, facing the tough decision that Nill is right now.
Maybe Nill is waiting to see if he can land Erik Karlsson, which would be a whopper of a deal that would surely affect the Stars’ salary structure. Or maybe he’s waiting to see how Seguin meshes with new coach Jim Montgomery.
But whatever the reason, Nill has been hesitant to take the plunge with Seguin. Can’t blame him.
If he makes it all the way to free agency next summer, would I take the plunge if I was running the Bruins? It would have to be a no. A long, much-deliberated no, but a no nonetheless. But if the Stars find themselves out of the playoff race come February and Seguin becomes available as a rental? Absolutely. And there wouldn’t be much need for deliberation.
LAUZON ADDS WEIGHT
Jeremy Lauzon, one of the Bruins’ three second-round selections in 2015, showed up at captains’ practice last week looking a good deal beefier. He said he was weighing in at around 215 pounds, up from 202 at this time last year.
After his previous two offseasons were cut short — his junior team went all the way to the Memorial Cup in 2016 and he had hernia surgery in 2017 — Lauzon was pleased with his summer workouts. The left defenseman turned some heads at training camp last year, but missed 26 games because of a concussion.
“It was nice having a little longer in the gym, getting better, getting stronger,” said the 6-foot-2 Lauzon. “It was like I had double the time, which was nice. . . . I feel like I’m growing into my body.”
With eight NHL defensemen in camp, making the varsity roster will be a tall task for the likes of Lauzon, 2015 first-rounder Jakub Zboril and 2017 first-rounder Urho Vaakanainen.
“I’m just trying not to think about it and just focus on myself,” said Lauzon. “If I start thinking of who’s in front of me, I might lose my mind. I’m just going to concentrate on myself. I know what I’m able to do and I know what I can do for the Boston organization. I don’t want to overthink things.”
SIMMONDS STILL WAITING
Speaking of players who have outperformed their contracts and are heading into their walk years, Wayne Simmonds is going into the last season of a six-year deal that paid him $3.975 million a season. Not a bad price for a player who averaged 28 goals a season in the first five years of the deal. Last season, though, he mustered only 24 while battling through injuries.
There has been some discussion about a new deal, but Simmonds didn’t sound overly optimistic.
“It is what it is at this point,” Simmonds told reporters last week. “I’ve got to get healthy first and foremost and show that I am the same player that I was two years ago. For being injured, I didn’t have a bad season last year, but it’s still not to the best of my ability.”
The Flyers signed James van Riemsdyk in July. Net-front presence on the power-play is the specialty of both van Riemsdyk and Simmonds, and it’s a good bet that the man with a five-year, $35 million deal will get the bulk of the time.
Just wondering. Are there actually people out there who think Hayley Wickenheiser has nothing to offer the Toronto Maple Leafs or another NHL franchise?