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Big Deal in Big 'D': Seguin gained wisdom on way to new contract with Stars

Tyler Seguin was never going to take the John Tavares track, but he learned a valuable lesson in choosing his words carefully.

The clapping starts the second Tyler Seguin boards the plane. He stares down the aisle to see all his teammates grinning. It’s a surreal moment that he says he’ll never forget.

The Stars, on their way to training camp in Boise, Idaho, are cheering Seguin because he’s just signed an eight-year, $78.8-million extension, announced this mid-September morning as part of the team’s start-of-camp media day in Dallas. They know they have their top center for close to the next decade, and they’re ecstatic.

It’s a 180-degree turn from what appeared to be a dicey situation between Seguin and the Stars just a few weeks earlier. Seguin was entering the final season of his contract, and while he still had a year to ink an extension, John Tavares’ decision to leave the New York Islanders and sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1 legitimized the idea that not every star player must be loyal to his current team. Pundits loaded Seguin into the chamber and fired off stories asking if he would be “The next Tavares” in July 2019. At the BioSteel camp in Toronto, asked about his contract in a media scrum, Seguin said he was “disappointed” at how the negotiations were going. That seemingly nudged the doomsday clock closer to midnight.

But all was not as it seemed. Stars GM Jim Nill said Seguin was simply caught off-guard by the question and blurted out the wrong answer, as he reassured Nill when they spoke afterward. “I said, ‘Don’t worry, Tyler, that’s part of life,’ ” Nill said. “It wasn’t an issue with me. But it gets hyped up because of the media.”

And Seguin gained something from the incident in hindsight. “I was confident that something was going to get done,” he said. “And after I talked at BioSteel camp, I learned from even watching how my words in media can go, and it was a learning experience with negotiations.”

The truth is neither party was alarmed by the slow summer negotiation. Nill hoped they’d have the ink dry by draft day so host city Dallas could’ve announced the signing on its own turf, but it didn’t work out. Then came July 1 and a lot of other roster tinkering to deal with. Nill never lost confidence he’d lock up Seguin. The Stars’ front office understood that Tavares might’ve set a new precedent and got Seguin thinking more, but Seguin always wanted to stay. “If there was any pause thinking about the open market, it wasn’t very long in my head,” he said. “My goal, my objective, really my dream all along was to stay in Dallas. Within the first few months of being traded here from Boston, I knew I wanted to be a Star for as long as I could be. I had to think about maybe playing out this year and being an unrestricted free agent. In a way, I was ready to do that, but it was something I never wanted to do, and I’m glad I never had to, because I wanted to be a Dallas Star through and through.”

Seguin loves Dallas as a city. He speaks of it protectively. He hypes it as a place not many mainstream hockey fans know about. He may not get the swarms of worshippers there that he did in Boston as a Bruin or as he does when he summers in Toronto, but he insists he does get stopped on the street or in shopping malls and congratulated by enthusiastic Texans after a previous night’s game. He loves the food scene and, now that he’s signed through 2026-27, sees himself growing long-term roots there with a permanent home.

He’s also grown significantly as a player since coming over in a lopsided off-season trade in 2013. As Nill puts it, Seguin arrived as a visibly “young” player, not just in the literal sense but on the ice, whereas now he’s someone the team counts on for penalty killing, defensive-zone faceoffs and leadership, on top of his signature scoring ability. Before last season, Seguin’s career high in shorthanded minutes per game was 0:03. Yes, three seconds per game. Last year, he played 1:31 per night. In his first season as a Star, he won just 41.5 percent of his draws. He won 54.9 percent across the next four campaigns. Last season, among the 123 forwards who played at least 1,000 minutes 5-on-5, he ranked 29th in defensive-zone start percentage. Seguin and linemates Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov were middle-of-the-pack in quality of competition as then-coach Ken Hitchcock tried to get easier matchups so they could score a bunch, but it’s still clear Seguin has made major strides as a 200-foot player.

The transformation mirrors that of another iconic Stars center: Hall of Famer Mike Modano, who became a complete two-way force under Hitchcock’s tough-love tutelage. Life wasn’t always easy with ‘Hitch,’ who retired after last season, but Seguin is grateful for the year they shared as teacher and pupil, because he felt Hitchcock never gave up on trusting him with a lot of responsibility and ice time. “My coaches in the past, when I made a mistake or had a bad game, they’d put me to the wing the next game, but Hitch didn’t let me off the hook,” Seguin said. “I’d have a bad game, and he’d say, ‘You’re going right back out there. You played like crap against Jonathan Toews last night, but you’ve got Sidney Crosby tomorrow night.’ He put me in that spot where I had to grab the opportunity, but he gave me the opportunity. I think I earned the respect of playing the position.”

Seguin, 26, remains one of the better scorers in the game. Raise your hand if you knew he and Benn were tied for second behind Alex Ovechkin in goals since Seguin’s debut as a Star in 2013-14. But on a top-heavy team with only one dominant line, Seguin must become as adept at stopping the opposition’s best players as he is at scoring on them. He appears ready to do just that. It may not be long before he earns another round of applause from his teammates – this time for winning a major individual award.



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