Stars' Benn playing poker in contract talks with team

Stars' Benn playing poker in contract talks with team

Credit: Getty Images

Jamie Benn is the Stars' most important player. But if the season started right now, he wouldn't be on the team's roster. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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by JOSH LILE

WFAA Sports Blogger

Posted on January 17, 2013 at 10:58 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 17 at 5:53 PM

Bob Sturm recently wrote in some detail for FoxSportsSouthwest.com about the Jamie Benn contract situation. His post considered the strange situation the Stars find themselves in with regard to Benn. They want to give him a lot of money at a young age, but, so far, he hasn’t signed a deal. According to Sturm the Stars are willing to go six years, and possibly to eight years, which is the maximum length possible under the new collective bargaining agreement.
 
He goes on to speculate about potential salaries for the new contract, and the speculation usually comes back to the five to six million dollar per year range.
 
Let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment, and consider why Jamie Benn might not want to sign any of these deals.
 
Consider his situation for the upcoming season compared to last season. Last season he was playing second fiddle to Mike Ribeiro. Ribeiro took most of the prime power play time. He played with Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder down the stretch while Benn played with Adam Burish and Steve Ott. Ribeiro was also given more offensive zone time. 53% of the faceoffs in which he was involved at even strength were in the offensive zone compared to only 48% for Benn.
 
With the Stars focused on maximizing the production of Benn he is primed for a big breakout season. If you’re Benn are you willing to sign a long term contract right now, which could be severely undervaluing your abilities a mere five months from now?
 
The comparables Sturm threw out are certainly reasonable, but let’s look at his offensive peers through Goals/60. Goals/60 takes a player’s even strength production and divides it by the total even strength minutes played to give an idea of what a player is doing independent of ice time, which is out of his control. 
 
Benn was 8th in the NHL in even strength goals/60. The average salary of the rest of the top ten is 5.3 million dollars per year, which is in line with the five to six million dollar estimate. The problem is that Benn probably identifies more with the high end of that group. This includes players like Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin, Marian Gaborik, Jonathan Toews, and Jordan Eberle who all make north of six million per year.  
 
The amount of money being thrown around is gigantic, and any young player should be thrilled to accept it. The shortened season minimizes his risk however. He is a durable player, and the 48 game calendar is going to minimize the possibility of him suffering an injury. He knows that what the Stars are offering right now will be available next off season, so why settle for less if you think you can get more by July?
 

Utimately one side is going to cave in, and probably before he misses any games. Either the Stars cave in by giving Benn a long term deal similar to Jordan Eberle, or Benn caves in by accepting a deal north of what Eriksson signed several years ago but for fewer years. The problem with the situation is that both sides have reasonable arguments for terms which benefit them. Much like the silly lockout, both sides will have to come together and compromise to before a deal is finalized. The Stars need it to be sooner than later because the hole his absence creates in the lineup is something the Stars simply can’t fill. 

 

Josh Lile writes about hockey for Defending Big D and NHL Numbers. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshL1220 for superlatives on just how good Jamie Benn is.

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