Jake Oettinger’s contract: What are the sticking points with the Dallas Stars?

In the final present of Stars hockey, Jake Oettinger was the star of the present. There had been “welcome to the NHL” moments — standing on his head in Colorado on Feb. 15 or outdueling future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury in Chicago on Feb. 18 — however a .954 save share over a seven-game playoff sequence towards Calgary — and towards a few 100-point scorers whereas matching up towards a Vezina finalist — was the signature introductory second.

That efficiency couldn’t have come at a greater time for Oettinger, who entered the offseason as a restricted free agent due for a brand new contract. While Oettinger’s playoff efficiency introduced his arrival to the hockey world, there’s nonetheless no new contract, and that might trigger affordable concern with the coaching camp set to open subsequent month.

By all indications, there was little dialogue between the two sides, though all sides has made its emotions about the different very clear. According to sources on either side, Oettinger, who trusts his brokers with the enterprise aspect and isn’t straight concerned in negotiations, needs to stay with the Stars. The Stars, who traded up in the first spherical of the 2017 draft to pick Oettinger, imagine he’s their future and haven’t any reservations about Oettinger as an individual.

What, then, is inflicting the deadlock?

One problem is the lack of comparable contracts. Of the high 40 goaltenders in common annual values, starting from Carey Price’s $10.5 million to Kaapo Kahkonen’s $2.75 million, just one goaltender was as younger as Oettinger when he signed his deal. That goaltender is Carter Hart, who agreed to a three-year, $11.9 million ($3.979 million AAV) final summer time, simply days earlier than his twenty third birthday. Oettinger turned 23 on Dec. 18.

Hart had a bigger pattern dimension than Oettinger, beginning 95 video games in three seasons earlier than touchdown his deal. In his first two seasons, he had .917 and .914 save percentages whereas beginning 30 and 40 video games, respectively. However, in the season main into his contract summer time final 12 months, Hart had a .877 save share in 25 begins throughout the 56-game season.

In 2020-21, Oettinger began 24 video games as a rookie in the 56-game season and was the Stars’ greatest goaltender as he posted a .911 save share and a couple of.36 goals-against common. Despite being relegated to the AHL to start the season, Oettinger began 46 video games final season and had a .914 save share, together with stretches wherein he carried out like one among the high goaltenders in the NHL and a major stretch late in the season wherein he was requested to hold the Stars alone due to an absence of choices behind him. He adopted that up with one among the biggest goaltending performances in NHL postseason historical past.

Oettinger has 25 fewer common season begins to his title than Hart did when he signed his deal final summer time, however he is primarily the similar age and coming off a a lot better season and postseason. Hart’s $3.979 million is just not the solely knowledge level, however given the parallels in age and manufacturing, Hart is seen as a place to begin for what Oettinger deserves.

If $3.979 million is the baseline, how excessive does Oettinger’s quantity go? Midway by way of the 2020-21 season, Vancouver handed fellow American goaltender Thatcher Demko a five-year, $25 million deal for a $5 million AAV. At the time Demko signed his deal, he was older than Oettinger right this moment (25 to 23), had a smaller pattern dimension (59 begins to 70 begins) and had inferior profession statistics (.911 save share and a couple of.92 GAA to .913 save share and a couple of.46 GAA).

The 13 netminders above the $5 million AAV mark are a few of the extra established gamers, many with Stanley Cup and/or Vezina issues. There have been numerous different gamers thought-about by Oettinger’s camp as comps, however these couple of transactions from final 12 months present the place the valuation of a contract between $4 million AAV and someplace round $5 million AAV comes into play.

The Stars have their very own issues that make assembly that value level considerably difficult. The first is their salary-cap scenario. Dallas has $11.4 million in cap house however has to slot in Oettinger and Jason Robertson, who’s coming off a Calder Trophy runner-up season and a 40-goal season to start his NHL profession. Robertson’s contract will definitely be dearer than Oettinger’s. According to a supply, these negotiations have had their very own obstacles.

If the Stars met Oettinger’s camp at their minimal desired value level, it will depart the staff slightly over $7 million to signal Robertson. That may nonetheless be sufficient to get Robertson signed on a bridge deal however barring a hometown low cost, a long-term deal would require north of $8 million. Oettinger’s camp is knowing of the Stars’ cap scenario, together with the alternative to probably money in in 2025, however that will not lead to a steep low cost.

The different issue for the Stars is warning. Arguably greater than with every other place in hockey, the growth path for goaltenders will be peculiar. Oettinger’s rookie season is an effective instance of that. Oettinger did not get any Calder votes, however six goaltenders did in the 2020-21 season. Of these six, 4 are now not on the staff they performed for as a rookie, simply two seasons in the past. The different two guys completed top-six in Vezina voting final season, together with 2022 winner Igor Shesterkin. While the Stars have preferred what they’ve seen from Oettinger to this point, they are tasked with making certain they do not overreact to the Calgary playoff sequence — or simply the basic pattern dimension of two seasons, one among which was shortened.

Where the Stars’ reasoning of warning with Oettinger loses weight is that they’ve had a cautious method with Oettinger, arguably to a fault, all through his younger profession to this point. At every flip, Oettinger has risen above their fears. The Stars did not need Oettinger enjoying in the NHL in 2020-21, however Ben Bishop’s harm scenario and an absence of different choices pressured their hand. The staff then needed to shelter Oettinger as the No. 2 however Anton Khudobin’s struggles, alongside with Oettinger’s NHL readiness, led to a much bigger function as a rookie.

Despite Oettinger proving to be NHL-caliber, the Stars nonetheless needed to take it sluggish. They signed Braden Holtby final summer time, which unofficially relegated Oettinger to the AHL, the place he would ultimately formally begin the season. Once Holtby’s harm and Khudobin’s ineffectiveness cracked the door open for Oettinger, he seized the alternative.

In contract negotiations, the participant and the staff typically get pitted towards one another. In conditions like the one with Oettinger and the Stars, there’s a widespread intention. Oettinger needs to be the greatest goaltender he can presumably be; the Stars need that very same factor. The notion {that a} franchise that is been starved for a proficient younger goaltender and moved as much as choose one in the first spherical of the draft would not wish to set him as much as succeed is a misplaced emotion. The Stars and Oettinger have merely gone about issues in several methods.

Dallas has dealt with issues with warning and skepticism whereas Oettinger has dealt with issues with confidence. Oettinger’s confidence has held up to this point, on the ice. Now, the similar dynamic is at play at the negotiating desk.

Jake Oettinger. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today)

Where do issues go from right here?

In any contract negotiation, there are two main sticking points: Term and AAV. A supply stated Oettinger’s camp is open relating to time period. Oettinger needs to be in Dallas long-term and if a long-term deal is ready to be completed, that is nice. If the numbers recreation leads to a shorter provide, they’re open to that as nicely. The AAV is the place there is not unconditional flexibility. Given the Stars’ cap scenario, it is unlikely Oettinger’s camp will be capable to get precisely what they need however they will not accept one thing they deem to be unfair relative to the market that has already been set.

A participant in Oettinger’s place, as a restricted free agent with out arbitration rights, is the place the staff has the most leverage. A restricted free agent with arbitration rights or an unrestricted free agent are conditions wherein the participant features extra leverage on the staff. Still, Oettinger is the staff’s No. 1 goaltender and if the Stars went into the season with Scott Wedgewood and Khudobin as the duo, they might clearly be a worse staff than if Oettinger was in the image.

While either side want to attain a decision as quickly as doable, the Stars are in no rush. Training camp begins in a month and a half and the season begins in slightly over two months. Those are the main strain points at which deadlines may result in a deal. Until then, there is not a lot urgency. However, that does not imply the timeline is unimportant. Because of the Stars’ cap scenario and Robertson’s looming contract, there’s the potential for an additional wrench to be thrown in the combine, and that’s the risk of a suggestion sheet.

Offer sheets are a uncommon incidence in the NHL, however so is the provide of proficient 23-year-old goaltenders who’ve proven potential to be franchise cornerstones. If Robertson’s deal will get completed first, it will give any groups a agency quantity as to how excessive they should go to be able to put the Stars in a bind. At that time, the Stars can be pressured to dump participant(s) to be able to create cap house to maintain Oettinger.

While this looks like a dicey proposition, a Stars entrance workplace supply expressed no concern about potential provide sheets with Oettinger. For one, the participant additionally has to signal the provide sheet, and Oettinger has proven no indication of being sad in Dallas. Second, the Stars would have the alternative to match, which they might for any affordable tag. The solely approach a staff may really handicap the Stars or make them think about the compensation return can be if that staff supplied Oettinger greater than $6.3 million AAV (a first-, second- and third-round picks compensation package deal) or greater than $8.4 million AAV (two firsts, a second and a third-round choose compensation package deal).

One vital, real looking risk that must be thought-about is a training-camp holdout. As famous, Oettinger would not have a lot leverage on this scenario, however a holdout can be one method to put strain on the Stars.

Sometimes, it solely takes one main breaking level to get issues rolling in a negotiation. That level has not been reached but between Oettinger and the Stars. Oettinger has been enterprise as normal this offseason, making ready at dwelling in Minnesota for the upcoming season whereas his camp handles the enterprise aspect.

(Top photograph of Jake Oettinger: Dave Sandford / NHLI by way of Getty Images)


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