The hottest topic of the Stars’ offseason is approaching a white glow, as preseason positions are postulated. To ensure the Star in question is not in retrograde, Jason Robertson has sat out training camp and any preseason exhibitions the Stars have participated in to focus solely on contract negotiations. Based on his capabilities, the quasi-holdout does nothing more than providing another stage for someone in the organization to showcase their skills in hopes of gaining traction at the professional level.
Nevertheless, the fans in victory green are starting to get a little uneasy regarding their potential supernova of a left wing’s orbital patterns. As rational observers, we all know that Jason Robertson will be locked up for years to come in the Lone Star State. The uncertainty lies more in the intangible realms of how, why, and when; but we have numerous surrounding galaxies to borrow information from that point to what the correct contract decision is for young Robo.
To apply some context, it’s important to understand what the mindset regarding Jason Robertson’s signing is. Tom Gaglardi came out in opposition to giving budding star players long-term, expensive contracts. Instead, Tom’s view is one of caution. Signing a bridge deal of a 4×4-7, similar to what we got Otter for, and allowing the talented young bucks to earn that top dollar deal that everyone’s pursuing when they decide to chase their dream as a professional athlete.
Elliotte Friedman has stuck to his opinion that this approach is the one being utilized in negotiations as he predicts a 3-year, $7.5 AAV deal to be finalized eventually. However, it should also be known that this is the reason for entry-level contracts. Not every prospect is going to produce 40 goals in year one but if they did, you’d probably pay them the world to stay on with your club. One might imagine that if you produce that number at the expiration of your entry-level deal, it’d be time to back up the Brink’s truck.
First, a comparison of talent, potential, and possibly compensation was brought to completion when Tim Stutzle put pen to paper in Ottawa this offseason. After Tage Thompson set the market prospect extension market floor with his $7.15 million AAV deal, Stutzle became the ceiling with his $8.5 million AAV deal. Whether or not you speculate that this is Ottawa overpaying for the potential of the German forward is a different story.
In his first two years, he’s notched 87 points in 132 games and he still can’t legally purchase alcohol in the US (turns 21 in January). The age at signing is slightly askew, yet Stutzle has shown similar flash that Robertson has since his draft year. It would be easier to compare Robertson to someone in his draft class, like the deal Petterson got during the last offseason, but the Stutzle deal was made this offseason under the same parameters.
To elaborate on said parameters, this offseason did not have any cap movement. The $82.5 million alotted to each team to build their cup contender is only a $1 million increase from the last offseason, which saw no increase from the year prior. So the cap increase has been scarce and an, albeit slightly, lesser talent is making $8.5 million AAV while Robo remains unsigned. However, for the Stars to truly configure a number satisfactory to a player of Jason’s caliber they need to look at a different contract.
The second deal that impacts the salary-capped landscape of the National Hockey League the most was made the last offseason with ESPN. The NHL and Turner Sports (ESPN) signed a seven-year deal worth $225 million per year to allow the sports media, Goliath, the ability to broadcast their exhibitions. More so than any star player, the NHL needed to get their sport at the forefront of sports conversations.
Since ESPN is the Walmart of sports media, it was only rational to put your product on sale at the most famous emporium for grabbing goods or substitutes for goods when you’re in need of a changeup. This move has done wonders for putting hockey back in the spotlight of American media. The number of viewers for the Stanley Cup finals from 2021 to 2022 almost doubled on the channels it was being provided, to serve as a microcosm for what rate the game has grown.
What does this have to do with Jason Robertson’s deal? In short, it reveals the road ahead for what the salary cap will do for each of these NHL teams. The league is much more marketable, dare I say profitable as well, and the owners are much more likely to have bigger purses to fork over the cash with.
The amount of cap increase the coffers will see is not certain, but some have forecasted a $4 million increase in a year, with a $10 million increase by ‘25-‘26. With that amount of money coming in, the asking price of top-level players is sure to skyrocket. With all of this extra pocket change, the Stars need to borrow a concept from the reigning Stanley Cup Champions.
Finally, Nathan Mackinnon has signed an extension with the Colorado Avalanche to make him the highest-paid player in the league. The details of the contract are 8 more years at $100,800,000, putting him a measly $100k in AAV over Connor McDavid. While I would love to compare our sweet angel of a left winger to the two best forwards in the world right now, talent is not the key factor when discussing numbers and ironing out the contracts.
The concept that the Avalanche employed when they locked up Mackinnon for the next 9 years needs to be lauded. They gave him top salary league-wide, above McDavid whose deal expires in 2026 when he’ll reset the market for about $13.5 million AAV. Mackinnon will be 5 years away from signing a new deal at that point, and who knows how much the cap will have ballooned to when his deal expires. Mackinnon got his well-deserved payday at a perfect time for Joe Sakic, where he can pay the pied piper without sacrificing his cap flexibility in the coming half-decade.
Jason Robertson won’t be getting Nathan Mackinnon money but if Jim Nill wanted to keep from kicking the can down the road, he’ll sign Jason Robertson for the term. We may remember the word “term” playing a factor in salary cap casualty John Klingberg’s negotiations just a Summer ago. Jason Robertson has stated that he wants to be in Dallas for his career and he’s the type of talent that you don’t let go of.
He’s a great dude, and any bit of media content that you can find on the internet will reinforce that. He’s a 40-goal scorer still building his brand, and the Stars would be wise to sign him for around +$9 million AAV for 7+ years. Contracts will need to be moved to free up the space and the Stars have the ability to do so for the upcoming year.
It makes no sense to sign a talent like Jason Robertson to a bridge, knowing that you’re going to owe him more or potentially sour his attitude further on down the line. I shudder to think what Luka would say if Nico Harrison and Marc Cuban approached him with the idea of a bridge deal. Now that the NHL is sharing the screen with the other leagues, the wise GMs are adapting their thinking accordingly.
Nill and Gaglardi have a chance to show the rest of the league that they’re willing to make player-friendly deals while locking down a skilled forward whose playing style ages very well in this league. 9-9.5 would be big money like Mackinnon that will scale over the years, it would be a stark increase from the offseason’s next best prospect in Stutzle, and it’ll only appreciate in salary percentage as the cap projections come to fruition. We will see if Gaglardi is ready to make the change by locking Jason Robertson up long-term now.