Stars unlikely to trade Klingberg, won’t move Holtby before deadline

Stars unlikely to trade Klingberg, won't move Holtby before deadline thumbnail

The Dallas Stars are unlikely to trade John Klingberg and will not move goalie Braden Holtby before the NHL Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, general manager Jim Nill said. 

The defenseman can become an unrestricted free agent July 13. He said Jan. 9 he was unhappy with negotiations on a new contract, but Nill said the 29-year-old will stay put unless the Stars get an offer he described as “one that would blow me away.”

“Let’s be clear, I’m not calling teams about him,” Nill told on Wednesday. “Again, if someone overwhelms me with a proposal, hey, I’m going to do what’s best for the team.

“We’ve talked to some people and you always have to look at things. But our focus is on making the playoffs. That’s very important to our franchise. John’s a big part of that and we’ll just move forward.”

Following a 4-0 loss at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, the Stars (32-23-3) have lost three in a row but are one point behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. 

Keeping a prominent pending unrestricted free agent defenseman for a playoff run in lieu of a trade has been a trend the past couple of seasons. The St. Louis Blues in 2020 (Alex Pietrangelo) and Carolina Hurricanes in 2021 (Dougie Hamilton) opted not to move those assets before the deadline and ended up watching them leave during free agency in the offseason.

“John and I have had open communication,” Nill said. “I’ve just told him to play well, and good things are going to happen.”

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Klingberg’s value to the Stars’ postseason push escalated when defenseman Miro Heiskanen, who leads them in ice time with 24: 46 per game, was ruled out indefinitely with mononucleosis March 10. Klingberg leads Dallas defensemen with 31 points (two goals, 29 assists) in 51 games. 

“John’s a big part of our team,” Nill said. “For us to have continued success we need to have him.”

As for Holtby, Nill said he was not looking to trade him even before third-string goalie Anton Khudobin had surgery on his right hip Monday and is out for the season.

Holtby is 10-10-1 with a 2.78 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 24 games (22 starts). Jake Oettinger is 19-9-1 with a 2.45 GAA, .918 save percentage and one shutout in 31 games (29 starts). 

“I was never really actively shopping him,” Nill said of the 32-year-old. “That was kind of more of the media. People were looking at our situation thinking we had an extra goalie. You never say never in case you get an overwhelming offer but the Khudobin surgery solidifies that Holtby is staying put.”

With the deadline approaching, Nill discussed the Stars’ plans, the value of recently re-signed forward Joe Pavelski and several other topics in a Q&A with

You’ve been on record the past few weeks that you’d like to add a depth forward if possible. But if nothing materializes over the next five days, would you be optimistic going into the playoffs, should you make it, with the roster you have right now?

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“If I have an opportunity to add something, we’d like to, but we’ll see how the market dictates if anything will happen. If not, well, I like our depth, both at this level and the minors. The playoffs are grueling and there will be attrition. I think we’re deep at both levels and that is very important.”

The Stars are 9-5-1 in their past 15 games and it’s perhaps shifted the narrative around the team from being sellers to buyers. Can you discuss how things have changed?

“At a certain point you understand which of two directions you can go. If the playoffs are a realistic chance you can look to add, to supplement, what you have, whereas if you’re short of the playoffs you’re faced with going in the other direction and prepare to make some moves to stockpile draft picks and build depth. So our players have done a good job. We’ve been, for the most part, on a good run and they’ve made it clear that they want to get to the playoffs. And so that’s where we are now. The players made it easy for me, but we’ll continue to monitor how things go up until the deadline.”

What have been the keys in the past couple of months that have got you back in the race?

“Again, it’s depth. Up front there were seasons where we relied offensively on guys like Tyler Seguin, before he was hurt, of course, Jamie Benn, guys like that. Now we have guys like Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, to name a couple, who continue to ascend. Oettinger has played very well since being called up early in the season, and so has Holtby. And Joe Pavelski has been everything we could ask for.”

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You announced March 11 the signing of Pavelski to a one-year contract for next season. He has scored 60 points (23 goals, 37 assists) in 58 games, stats you normally don’t see from a 37-year-old. How important was it to get this deal done?

“He’s meshed so well with Hintz and Robertson. They’ve got great chemistry. He’s meant so much to us. It’s not just about the points. He’s been a team leader. What he’s meant to our dressing room has been so important. He’s a great asset to our young guys because they can see how he conducts himself. He wanted to stay, and we wanted him to stay, so it worked out for both parties.”

Finally, how much pressure is there to make the playoffs?

“The postseason is important to this franchise for a number of reasons. When the opportunity is there, you have to take it. It’s always been the goal and it continues to be.”

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