Following the Stars’ elimination from the post-season, Jamie Benn said there was no place he’d rather play than Dallas. And Friday, the Stars made sure that their captain wouldn’t have to even consider heading elsewhere.
Dallas announced Friday evening that Benn, 26, has inked a massive eight-year, $76-million deal which will make the high-scoring winger the fifth-highest paid player in the NHL come 2017-18. Considering few players — in fact, only one, Sidney Crosby — have been able to match Benn’s point total over the past three seasons, it’s no wonder he’ll become the NHL’s newest $9.5-million man.
"Jamie has evolved into one of the most complete players in the NHL and his ability to lead our team is second-to-none," Stars GM Jim Nill said in a release. "He impacts the game in so many ways and this signing was extremely important for the direction of the franchise. He's shown in the playoffs, and at international events like the Olympics and the World Championship, that he is up to any challenge and that his fingerprints will be left on every game. He's our leader and does things the right way, every day.”
It’s no surprise the two sides were able to come to terms on a new deal, either, especially as Benn likely took a little less than he could have earned on the open market, as hard as that may be to fathom. In May, Benn said he didn’t want the final season of his current contract to become a distraction on or off the ice for the Stars in their hunt for the Stanley Cup and he said coming to terms on a new deal wasn’t going to be a problem. He echoed that sentiment Friday.
"The Stars are the only organization I know and Dallas is home to me," Benn said in a release.
Benn said he was “happy to commit to that process for eight more years,” and there’s good reason to believe that this current crop of Stars could have something promising going.
Following a post-season miss in 2014-15, the Stars captured a Central Division title in 2015-16 and it led them into the second round before a heartbreaking seven-game defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Blues. While the defense and the goaltending have been scrutinized at times, there’s never been a doubt about the high-powered offense, which Benn and linemate Tyler Seguin are the catalysts of.
Over the past two seasons, no duo has been higher scoring than Benn and Seguin, who’ve notched a combined 146 goals and 326 points. They’re a terrifyingly solid one-two punch, and it’s a frightening prospect for the league’s other 29 goaltenders knowing the duo are signed on to play together for at least three more years.
Benn’s rise has been quick, and it’s hard to believe Dallas nabbed the 6-foot-2, 210-pound winger in the fifth round, 129th overall, at the 2007 draft. It seems only a matter of time before Benn, who took the Stars captaincy in 2013-14, cracks the 50-goal plateau. He started his career with 22, upped that to 26 by his third season and set a career-best with 41 this past season.
The only perceivable downside to Benn’s new deal is that now the Stars may need to get a bit more clever about how they operate under the salary cap. With Benn inked to his deal, the Stars now have only 11 players under contract for the 2017-18 campaign with slightly more than $24 million to operate. That may seem like a lot of wiggle room, but it’ll disappear quickly in the hunt to sign fresh faces or retain key players.
That the Stars were able to get Benn's deal done so early and keep the cap hit under $10 million is great news, though. Now the focus of Nill and the Stars front office can be on developing cheap, young talent to set Dallas up for the future — a future that they hope will see their captain hoisting the Stanley Cup in Victory Green.
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