DALLAS — Fans hoping to see Stars center Jamie Benn back on Saturday night at home against St. Louis won’t be getting their wish. But they should be pretty happy after that — and for the next five years.
The 2012 All-Star and restricted free agent, who has been working out in Canada without a contract, on Thursday agreed to a five-year, $26.25 million with the team and is line to make his season debut Monday night at Columbus.
“It’s really big. We know how important he is to our hockey club and I think everybody in this building knows how important he is and at the end of the day, it’s the right thing,” Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk said. “It’s good for our hockey club. It’s great for Jamie. He needs to be back in that locker room with his teammates and tomorrow he will be.”
Benn has been working out back home in British Columbia since his stint playing in Germany ended about a month ago. He was en route back to Dallas during Thursday’s game with Chicago and the club’s GM expects any adjustment back to his teammates to be a short one.
“I don’t it’s going to take him long. He’ll be energized. He’s only 23 years old, so once he gets back with his teammates I think it will come quick,” Nieuwendyk said.
Once Benn does return to the pond for Dallas, one would think that he automatically slots back into familiar territory, centering the Stars’ second line. That line is currently centered by Cody Eakin, who had two assists in a 2-1 win at Detroit on Tuesday, his first with that unit. Prior to win over the Red Wings, Eakin had been centering Dallas’ fourth line while Tom Wandell centered the second line in the first two games before Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan flipped them — a move that clearly paid off.
Nieuwendyk is clearly elated to have Benn back in the fold but like any NHL general manager, he can’t help but see the bigger picture associated with Thursday’s announcement.
“Well, I’m really proud of the fact that we’re improving a core group of players that we think we can build with and win with. And Jamie is obviously one of those players. To have Loui [Eriksson] signed up and Kari [Lehtonen] and [Alex] Goligoski and Trevor Daley, I just think it shows that guys want to be here,” he said. “They’re committed and we’re headed in the right direction. Having a player like Jamie is obviously a big part of that.”