FRISCO, Texas — Like every other NHL general manager, Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk doesn’t really know when training camp or the upcoming shortened regular season will start as the schedule as well as the league calendar for what figures to be a 48-game regular season figures to be finalized later this week once the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified both by the NHL’s Board of Governors and the NHL Players Association.
But even with so much uncertainty swirling around his club, the 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee still has a pretty big task at the top of his to-do list before the season starts — get a new contract for top young forward Jamie Benn.
The 23-year-old wing/center comes off a season where he finished with a career-high 63 points and earned his first trip to the NHL All-Star Game. Getting “Bennie” signed to a new deal, which can’t officially happen until the CBA is ratified by both sides, is job No. 1 for Nieuwendyk before the puck drops on the new season and for good reason.
Not only does he, along with fellow youngster Loui Eriksson, a 2011 NHL All-Star, comprise what is a talented young core for the Stars, but Benn also figures to be a face of the franchise for a number of years to come, so getting him locked up is imperative.
According to Nieuwendyk, negotiations between the club and the Benn camp have been an ongoing thing for some time now.
“We’ve had talks with Jamie for a year and a half now. We know the parameters. There’s other players that are in the same boat with Jamie around the league. So I think we’re all kind of going through the same thing. We’re just sifting through all the information now. It’s a little early and we don’t know when training camp is. But we’ve made it clear to them that it is a priority to us,” Nieuwendyk said. “They know that and Jamie knows the way we feel about him and the importance on our hockey club and we want to have him in camp.”
During the lockout, Benn spent time playing in Germany but according to the Dallas GM the talented All-Star has been home in his native British Columbia for about three weeks now. With many of the Stars already in town or others, like newcomer Jaromir Jagr, Eriksson and Michael Ryder, who led the team with 35 goals last season, arriving by Thursday, the man in charge in Frisco definitely wants to see a deal get done soon so Benn can start skating with his teammates yet again.
“Well, I think it’s important but time will dictate that,” Nieuwendyk said. “We want to get him in here as quick as we can and get him up and running because by Thursday I think everybody will be here — [Jaromir] Jagr, Loui [Eriksson] and Michael Ryder. So we’ll have our full complement of guys.”