Stars sign Roope Hintz to 8-year extension, lock in another core piece of Dallas’ future

In the last three seasons, Hintz has morphed into a point-per-game player for the Stars, with 139 points in 143 games.

The Stars secured another piece of their core on Tuesday, signing top-line center Roope Hintz to an eight-year contract extension worth $8.45 million annually.

Hintz, 26, was set to become a restricted free agent in the summer. His new extension buys out one year of restricted free agency, and seven years of unrestricted free agency. According to a person with knowledge of the deal, it includes a no-movement clause in the final seven years of the contract.

“Roope Hintz has shown that he’s a No. 1 center in the league, and those guys are hard to find,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said during a video call on Tuesday morning.

Hintz is currently in the final year of his three-year contract worth $3.15 million annually. The extension will begin next season and run through the 2030-31 season.

In the last three seasons, Hintz has morphed into a point-per-game player for the Stars, with 139 points in 143 games. He’s anchored the top line with Jason Robertson on his left, and Joe Pavelski on his right. Since the start of the 2020-21 season, Hintz is third on the team with 139 points.

Now, he’s under contract longer than any other Stars player.

“They, of course, wanted their eight years, which he should be asking for and he deserves,” Nill said. “We also agreed with that; then it was just finding the right number that was going to work for both parties.

“I think it’s a number he’s happy with, and it’s a number we’re happy with. The eight-year term was non-negotiable, we knew that was going to be part of the process with his age and where he’s at in his career.”

Nill said he touched base with Hintz’s agent, Markus Lehto, at the draft over the summer in Montreal. The Stars wanted to handle their pressing negotiations with Jake Oettinger and Robertson, and then circle back to Hintz’s situation. Since he was in the final year of his contract, Hintz became eligible to sign an extension when free agency opened in July.

Nill also said “we wanted to do something quick if we could, didn’t want this to drag on.”

The deal is the latest that locks in the Stars core.

In the last 16 months, Nill and his management team have signed Miro Heiskanen (eight years, $8.45 million cap hit), Oettinger (three years, $4 million cap hit), Robertson (four years, $7.75 million cap hit) and now Hintz.

It’s also not a coincidence that Hintz and Heiskanen signed matching eight-year deals worth a total of $67.6 million. Heiskanen signed his contract last summer, a deal which has set a standard in the Stars organization not to surpass.

“It does set a standard,” Nill said. “It’s not like it’s an old contract. It was signed a couple years ago, and he’s just getting into it now, so it does set a standard. I think it shows the respect on both ends.

“I think it shows the respect for Miro that he sets the bar for us. I think it also shows you the respect we that have for Roope Hintz that he’s at that same level. I think it’s a compliment to both players.”

The next Stars player to earn more money than Heiskanen could be Robertson, but that would come in four more seasons, after the salary cap would have increased. Plus, Robertson could have added some hardware to his argument, as he currently leads the NHL with 19 goals and is second in the league with 36 points.

This past summer, an eight-year extension for Robertson would have surpassed Heiskanen’s number, according to comparable RFA contracts. Plus, a deal like that would not have fit within the Stars’ salary cap situation.

Nill also said that general managers are expecting the salary cap to be between $83.5 million and $86 million next season. It is currently at $82.5 million.

As it relates to Hintz, the upside is clear.

He is one of the game’s elite play-drivers. He is probably the best skater on the Stars. He plays on the top power play unit. He kills penalties. He faces opponent’s top defensive pairings and top lines. And he produces.

Given his track record, the $8.45 million average annual value will look like a bargain in a few seasons — if it doesn’t already.

The downside is Hintz’s injury history.

Since he debuted in the NHL during the 2018-19 season, Hintz has never finished a season healthy. He played with a fracture foot during the 2019 postseason’s second round against St. Louis. He missed the end of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final with a hip injury. He played through a groin injury throughout the entire 2020-21 COVID-influenced season. Last year, he missed Game 7 against Calgary with an oblique injury.

Hintz will be 34 years old at the conclusion of the contract. Nill said Hintz is “too good of a player to worry about those types of situations.”

“I’m not too worried about that,” Nill said. “That’s part of the game, that’s part of the business. He plays hard. He’s a big, strong man. He plays big minutes, he plays all situations. Injuries are part of our business, but you deal with those. He’s shown that he can play through injuries.”

Now Pavelski? With Robertson and Hintz both signed, that leaves Pavelski as the only player on the top line with an uncertain future in Dallas. Pavelski signed a one-year extension last season worth $5.5 million that will expire at the end of this season.

“I think we’ll wait and see,” Nill said. “Joe’s playing very well, and let’s see how the season goes. That’s really probably going to be Joe’s call. If he still feels he can play at the high standard he wants to play at, then we’ll sit down and talk. At his age, what he’s done in his career, out of respect for him, I want to wait and see where he’s at.”

Nill said talks could commence in February, March or even the playoffs.

Pavelski, 38, had the best offensive season of his career last season with 81 points in 82 games. He has 24 points in 23 games this season.

Pavelski took a team-friendly extension in the spring that could have been worth more than $8 million on the open market. If he decides to continue his career in Dallas, it could be possible that a similarly team-friendly extension is on the horizon.

Year-by-year breakdown of Hintz’s extension:

2023-24: $7.5 million base salary, $4.5 million signing bonus.

2024-25: $8.25 million base salary, $3 million signing bonus (no-movement clause).

2025-26: $7 million base salary, $3 million signing bonus (no-movement clause).

2026-27: $5.25 million base salary, $2 million signing bonus (no-movement clause).

2027-28: $6.9 million base salary (no-movement clause).

2028-29: $6.9 million base salary (no-movement clause).

2029-30: $6.9 million base salary (no-movement clause).

2030-31: $6.9 million base salary (no-movement clause).

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