The Dallas Stars and Jamie Benn have finally managed to end their stalemate. The Stars' forward has re-upped for five more years in Dallas, to the tune of $26.25M for an annual cap hit of $5.25 per year.
The first year of the deal is pro-rated.
The Stars have had a decent start without Benn in the lineup, going 2-1-0 in their first three games, but the winger (and occasional centre) provides a major injection of skill and size, the team is undoubtedly better when he's in the lineup. This signing should come as a relief to everyone in Dallas.
So what finally gave that this deal got done?
As Elliotte Friedman speculated earlier this week, among the unsigned three of Benn, P.K. Subban, and Ryan O'Reilly, Benn appeared to be the closest to a new deal. Unlike the other two, where the negotiations were getting personal, the primary issue in Dallas's negotiations with Benn was term. From the CBC:
This is purely a guess, but I think Benn gets done first, maybe because Stars owner Tom Gagliardi sounded optimistic about it last week. Agent Rich Evans is on-record as saying Benn, who is four seasons away from being an unrestricted free agent (UFA), wants three to five years. The Stars have discussed that, but it's believed they prefer an even longer term.
Whatever the case, they are still apart financially. Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk didn't really want to talk about it, saying: "We're going to focus on who we have here." This undoubtedly bothers Nieuwendyk, who has an excellent relationship with Benn.
This in mind, you can see how they'd come to five years. Dallas wanted a long-term deal, Benn wanted a short-term deal, and five years was the middle ground. (Although it sounds like Benn sort of got his way here.)
Why did the Stars want a longer-term deal? Because Joe Nieuwendyk believes Jamie Benn is going to be very, very good. From the Stars' release:
“Jamie Benn has proven in his short, but very productive NHL career, that he is not only this franchise’s cornerstone player, but also an emerging superstar in the league,” said General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. “We believe that Jamie has the necessary tools to continue his growth and lead this team into the next great era of Dallas Stars hockey.”
(If I'm Benn, I'm re-introducing myself to the entire locker room as "Jamie Benn, cornerstone player.")
It's a pretty affordable deal for a "cornerstone player", but if Benn is the superstar Nieuwendyk believes he is, no doubt the Stars would have preferred that the next round of contract negotiations was a little further down the road. Now Benn will be a free agent at 28, in the prime of his career. Count that as a win for Benn and agent Rich Evans.
But for now, the Stars get Jamie Benn back, and that's a win for them.