The Dallas Stars showed confidence in Jordie Benn this offseason, signing him to a three-year deal. But the 26-year-old defenseman isn’t about to hit the cruise control button because he’s got a new contract.
“It’s kind of nice not doing the one-year deals any more. Now I am locked up for a bit,” Benn said. “But there’s a lot of work to be done. It’s not like I can take it easy or anything. It just means I’ve got to work harder. There’s a lot of good D men here and I want to be a part of it for the next three years. There’s a lot of work to be done.”
Benn has put in a lot of work to get where he is now. He’s not that far removed from the Central Hockey League, where he played for the Allen Americans in 2009-10. He made his NHL debut in January 2012 and a year later he was on the opening night roster of the Dallas Stars.
“My dad said just never quit because you never know what can happen,” Benn said just before the start of last season. “A couple years ago I was really far away from the NHL. I knew that. I never stopped working and I am never going to stop working. I’ve always worked hard and I’ve worked hard for what I’ve got.”
Benn played 26 games for the Stars last season, registering six points (one goal, five assists). Benn is the first to admit he had some rough patches last season, but he’s ready to learn from those and move forward.
“There were some ups and downs. I had some pretty tough games there. I think I am the hardest on myself with how I play,” he said. “I just want to come in here with a fresh start, work hard and help the team win.”
Benn, who will have a two-way contract this year and a one-way deal the next two, has his sights on being a regular player for the Stars this season, but he knows there will be a lot of competition in training camp and the preseason.
The Stars have added Sergei Gonchar on the blue line, and Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley, Alex Goligoski, Brenden Dillon and Aaron Rome all return from last season’s team. Kevin Connauton, acquired from Vancouver just prior to last season’s trade deadline, received a three-year deal this offseason as well and is expected to be a strong contender for a roster spot. Jamie Oleksiak, the team’s first round pick in 2011, will get a strong look as well.
Even if the Stars carry eight defensemen to start the season, which is a possibility, there still will be strong competition for playing time.
“You know who is here, who is coming back and who you are up against,” Benn said. “You come into camp, work really hard and hopefully I can crack the top six. Obviously, you want to be in the lineup every night, you don’t want to be in and out. Crack the top six and work hard.”
Benn arrived in town last week and has been skating with other Stars players at the team’s practice facility in Frisco. He spent his summer in Kelowna, British Columbia, working out and spending some time with Stars center Vernon Fiddler.
“Quick workouts in the morning, skate and have some fun on his boat,” Benn said.
Now, he’s excited to be back and preparing for training camp, which starts in less than two weeks.
“Love being back. It was a short summer,” said Benn, who joined the Texas Stars after the NHL season ended and played into the middle of May as Texas made it to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. “It’s always nice when the summer is short. It’s nice to get back here, see the boys, get back skating and get back into the routine.”
Like the rest of his teammates, Benn is excited about the changes the Stars have gone through since the end of last season with the hiring of Jim Nill as GM and Lindy Ruff as head coach and the retooling of the roster.
“There’s kind of a different vibe in the dressing room,” Benn said. “There’s a new coach, new GM and a lot of new faces in here. After this weekend, I am sure everyone will be back and we can start molding as a team.”
And if Benn has his way, he’ll play a key role on the team this season and beyond.