Stars lock up key piece with signing of Jamie Benn

The Dallas Stars didn’t win on the ice Thursday night, but they scored big off it. The Stars finally agreed to terms with center Jamie Benn on a five-year, $26.25 million contract and locked up a key piece of their core.

“It’s really big,” said Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk. “We know how important he is to our hockey club. I think everybody in this building knows how important this is. At the end of the day, it is the right thing. It’s good for our franchise, it’s great for Jamie to be back in that locker room with his teammates, and tomorrow he will be.”

Benn, who has been skating with the Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League, is expected to join the Stars on Friday. He is not expected to play Saturday against St. Louis at American Airlines Center. The Stars are hoping he’ll be ready to play Monday in Columbus.  It’s a paper work thing.

“He’s on his way here tonight, so he is in the country,” said Nieuwendyk. “It’s a matter of immigration and getting a work visa and things like that. We’re hopeful that Monday night in Columbus he should be available.”

It was a long negotiation process with Benn and his agent Rich Evans. There were indications that the talks were at an impasse earlier on Thursday, but several hours later the two sides had a deal.

“Sometimes these things unfortunately take a little time, and it’s a process,” Nieuwendyk said. “I think at the end of the day everybody wanted what was best for Jamie and for our hockey club and that was to have him back with the guys. I couldn’t be happier.”

News of the signing broke in the second period of the Stars’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The crowd erupted when it was announced during a break in the action. Players were up to speed on the signing as well.

“Yeah, we saw it,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas. “It’s really good news. He’s a big part of our team. It wasn’t a distraction for us, but it’s good that now he’s with us. We’re just happy to have him back and hopefully we’ll have him back soon.”

Friday’s practice will give the coaching staff a chance to see where Benn, who missed training camp and the first four games, is as far as being ready to play.

“I know he’s going to be in here tomorrow for practice,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We’ve got to see what level he is at and get him up and running.”

Nieuwendyk expects Benn to be up and running quickly.

“I know he’s been skating with Victoria,” Nieuwendyk said. “He’s been off for about a month since playing in Germany (during the lockout). I don’t think it’s going to take him long. He’ll be energized.”

And the Stars should be energized now that Benn is back in the mix. Not just for the short-term, but for the long-term as well.

“I am really proud of the fact that we are identifying a core group of players that we think we can build with and win with. Jamie is obviously one of those players,” Nieuwendyk said. “To have Loui (Eriksson) signed up and Kari (Lehtonen), (Alex) Goligoski and Trevor Daley, I think it shows guys want to be here, they are committed and we are headed in the right direction. Having a player like Jamie is a big part of that.”

Key Stars under contract

Player Pos Cap Hit Signed through
Loui Eriksson LW $4.25 million 2015-16
Alex Goligoski D $4.6 million 2015-16
Jamie Benn C $5.25 million 2016-17
Trevor Daley D $3.3 million 2016-17
Kari Lehtonen G $5.9 million 2017-18

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