Eyeing long-term deal, Ducks’ Klingberg enters critical season with new team

Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg takes a shot at the net in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Edmonton Oilers in Dallas, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021 (Tony Gutierrez/AP).

Sometimes the stars don’t perfectly align. Sometimes you can’t get all your ducks in a row.

After signing a one-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks, former Dallas Stars defenceman John Klingberg is looking for long-term security, but understands he can’t get too far ahead of himself.

“I mean it’s probably part of the plan, but I’m not going to look too far ahead,” Klingberg said Monday. “I want to get long term at the end of the day. Right now, I’m signing (for) one year at Anaheim and we’re going to have to take it from here. I can’t focus on what’s going to be there in one year. It has to be this season.”

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While the exact financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed by the team — though the contract reportedly carries a $7-million value — the length was. Ideally, Klingberg would’ve liked to see a couple more years added to that total.

Considering Tampa Bay Lightning defencemen Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak re-signed for eight years at $68 million, and eight years at $41.6 million, respectively, it is understandable why a blueliner of Klingberg’s status may be looking for more than one year.

But, the soon-to-be 30-year-old understands that he, along with his new team, will need to have a solid season for him to obtain a longer deal.

“Obviously, I’m going to need to have a good season and the team is going to need to have a good season as well. If the team’s successful, I’m going to be successful,” he said. “I had a great talk with (Ducks general manager) Pat Verbeek as well, with where we think it’s going to be at with the team in the future. We’re going to take this year to start off with and see where we’re at.”

Klingberg is coming off a 2021-22 campaign in which he scored six goals and recorded 41 assists with a career-worst minus-28 rating.

After registering a 2021-22 regular season record of 46-30-6, the Stars claimed a wild card spot and met the Calgary Flames in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, eventually falling in a hard-fought, low-scoring seven-game series.

The defenceman got into it a few times with then Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk during the series, dropping the gloves more than once, and providing some entertaining post-game sound following a fight with fellow Swedish defenceman Rasmus Andersson.

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The Ducks, meanwhile, went 31-37-14 in 2021-22, allowing 271 goals against — ranking 22nd in the league.

The Gothenburg, Swe., native could prove his worth on the back end by limiting prime scoring opportunities to potentially driving that goals-allowed total down. Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins believes Klingberg’s versatility could prove vital to the team’s improvement for next year.

“Where we were at with our defence at this time, adding John is huge for us,” Eakins said. “He is a well-rounded player, he’s got great experience in all aspects of the game.”

The Ducks were 14th in the NHL last season with the man-advantage (21.9 per cent) after being ranked last in 2020-21 (8.9 per cent).

Aside from his defensive abilities, Klingberg’s prowess on the power play caught the eye of Anaheim’s bench boss.

“I think everybody quickly looked at his ability to run a power play and a lot of teams are short on right-handed defencemen, and he brings that as well,” said Eakin. “We think we’ve got a real solid individual, somebody that is going to really fit in well with our group and help us out greatly on our back end.”

The former fifth-round pick was arguably the top defenceman available when free agency opened July 13, but remained on the market until he and the Ducks came to an agreement Friday.

Though it became apparent he was not going to get the sought-after long-term deal, Klingberg adjusted to the market’s conditions, and is confident he made the right decision.

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“For myself individually, with what I said with where I think the Ducks as a team are, where the organization is and what they’re trying to build on in the future, I think it’s exciting for me to start with one year and see where thing go [and] move on from there,” Klingberg said. “But that’s kind of the thought process I was going through, when we narrowed down teams, that it was going to be one year. Going into free agency, we were looking for long term. That’s not a secret. The market is what it is right now, and we had to switch up the tactics a little bit. At the end of the day, I realized it’s going to be a shorter-term deal here moving into the future.

“Obviously with the COVID world and the flat cap and all that, it’s a little bit different than it’s been in years past. The more and more during these 2-3 weeks, I understood that the long term and the fit, I was looking for probably wasn’t there this year, so we kind of narrowed down to a shorter-term contract. A few teams were interested in me and I was interested in them, but at the end of the day I narrowed it down and I think the Anaheim Ducks [are] going to be the best fit for me this year.”

With a full slate of 82 regular season games coming up, Klingberg has one year to prove his worth to the Ducks, and any other potential suitors.

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