DALLAS—Jim Nill played Santa Claus for Dallas Stars fans last Friday night.
Speaking at an event at Klyde Warren Park to unveil banners for the 2016 Central Division and Western Conference regular-season titles, Nill, the Stars’ GM since 2013, saved his biggest announcement for last, revealing an eight-year, $76 million contract extension for captain and face of the franchise Jamie Benn. The mega-deal keeps the 26-year-old Benn in Dallas through the end of the 2024-25 campaign.
“When you’re building a franchise, there’s certain players that are important to the franchise and he’s as good as anybody there is,” Nill said. “He’s one of the top players in the NHL, one of the top forwards. He’s in the prime of his career. He’s the leader of our team, and he’s a great person on top of it.”
Unfortunately, Benn was not present Friday evening, but No. 14 had an excused absence. The Stars fan favorite was recovering from surgery the day before in Philadelphia to repair a core muscle injury sustained during offseason workouts.
Benn, however, issued a statement through the Stars about his extension.
“The Stars are the only organization I know and Dallas is home to me,” Benn said. “My teammates and I value the passion and dedication that we receive from Stars fans and we’re looking forward to getting this season started.”
Nill said the entire process from the start of negotiations to the signing of the extension, which occurred several days before the announcement, took only two weeks, a credit to Benn, his agent Rich Evans, and the Stars organization, all of whom wanted the captain to remain a Dallas Star.
“Negotiations went very well,” Nill said. “In the end, Jamie wants to be here, we want him here. He wanted to make sure it was a winning franchise while he’s here and we talked about the gameplan, he bought into it, and it worked out very well for all parties.”
Nill said that Benn will be reevaluated on September 1st to see if he can play for Canada in the World Cup of Hockey, which runs September 17 through October 1st.
Teammate Tyler Seguin, who missed all but one playoff game with a calf injury this spring, has also been selected to play for Canada in the World Cup. And according to Nill, No. 91 is progressing in his recovery and should play for his country come September.
“Yeah, I’ve been talking to Tyler,” Nill said. “He’s been skating and seems to be having no troubles. There’s a little bit of stiffness there still, but he feels comfortable and should be ready for the World Cup.”
Nill also stated that he doesn’t think there is any chance young forward Valeri Nichushkin, a restricted free agent and Dallas’ top pick in the 2013 draft, would leave the NHL and return to his native Russia to play in the KHL.
So, actually, Nill gave Stars fans three presents on Friday evening, making it Christmas in July at Klyde Warren.