Ryan Johansen isn’t the only key player still missing from his club’s training camp.
With the start of the NHL’s regular season just one week away, Dallas Stars defenceman Brenden Dillon is also mired in tough negotiations with his team.
The Stars turned down Dillon’s latest offer—a two-year, $3.8-million contract—Tuesday, Dillon’s agent, Jarrett Bousquet, told Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News.
Bousquet also represents Stars forward Cody Eakin, who settled on a two-year, $3.8-million contract earlier this week after missing the start of camp.
The 23-year-old Dillon, a bruising blueliner from Surrey, B.C., has been skating with the Vancouver Giants alongside Johansen as his agent tries to work out a new contract. His entry-level contract, which carried a $900,000 salary cap hit, expired on July 1. And he is coming off a career season in which he registered 17 points, threw a team-best 168 hits, played 21:05 minutes per game and helped the Stars reach the postseason for the first time in five years.
Bousquet told Heika the Stars’ offer is below market value for Dillon, whom the agent argued is a top-four defenceman. He put forth Florida defenceman Erik Gudbranson ($2.5 million) and Detroit defenceman Danny DeKeyser ($2.1875 million) as comparables to Dillon.
“It’s frustrating and disappointing, and I know Brenden feels that way,” Bousquet said. “There is a market out there for him to be paid even more than this, so this is an offer that we think should get things done.”
Dallas general manager Jim Nill declined comment, refusing to “negotiate in public.”
Three things work in Nill’s favour here.
Torey Krug, a defenceman widely viewed as more talented than Dillon, recently agreed to a one-year, $1.4-million deal with the cap-crunched Boston Bruins. The Stars have a wealth of young, hungry defencemen—namely Kevin Connauton, Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak and John Klingberg—eager for ice time. And Dillon has no arbitration rights; his only leverage is to sit and wait from Vancouver.
Dillon spoke to the Vancouver Sun on Sept. 22 about playing the waiting game: “You grow up playing hockey and you’re thinking ‘Oh, I just want to play the game, it’s so much fun.’ Then you realize it is your job. For me, I don’t want to think of it as a holdout, I want to think of it as hopefully getting closer to playing and I’m really confident things are going to get done sooner than later. It’s one of those things where it can go from not talking to all of the sudden having a deal done in a day.”