Dallas Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk indicated to the media at the time of the Alex Goligoski contract extension in late January that Jamie Benn's negotiations would likely not take place until after the season, and many speculated that the Stars would logically wait even longer than that - until after the new CBA is signed sometime in the fall (cross your fingers) before getting a deal done.
"There's been discussion about that. I think that we want to have a better feeling of where the landscape is for those [kind of] guys," said Gaglardi in response when asked if negotiations were on-going.
"We roughly know where we're going to go with Jamie," continued Gaglardi. "He's a restricted free agent so there's no real hurry to deal with that and he's going to be a Dallas Star, there's no question we want him. He'll be fairly compensated."
Benn's RFA status and young age (lack of arbitration rights) make him a very controllable asset, giving Dallas time to wait and watch that new landscape form around the upcoming CBA negotiations. The current deal expires well after free agency, strangely, leaving teams in the dark on what the future salary cap and rules will be while they try to improve their teams with new contracts in July.
Dallas may or may not decide to enter the fray on July 1st and take a risk (it will take significant risk to get big free agents here) to improve their team that way, but with Jamie Benn they can afford the patient, well-informed approach lacking this July with UFA's.
More from Tom Gaglardi on the importance of Jamie Benn, what his deal might look like, and the importance of "second contract" negotiations after the jump...
"Obviously Jamie Benn is a cornerstone of our franchise, let's just put that out there," said Gaglardi. "He is one of the key cogs for us going forward, and he could ultimately be a franchise-type player. He's got that ability."
Another player the Stars believe is a key cog, Alex Goligoski, was also slated to become an RFA this summer, but the Stars have wrapped him up for four years. Those wondering "why not wait on his deal as well?" should take note of the key difference: Age. Benn turns 23 this summer and Goligoski turns 27. Benn is on his entry level deal and Goligoski is not. At 27 years of age Goligoski was arbitration eligible and could have become an unrestricted free agent, and new CBA or not the Stars could have had a mess on their hands. No such complications exist with Benn's situation.
"He's going to be a Dallas Star," affirmed Gaglardi. "In terms of what his second contract looks like, it could be some kind of a long deal. It could be kind of an interim deal. I just don't know where the framework is. I'm not involved with it. I can tell you there's been discussions and obviously from our perspective he is as key of a guy as there is on our team."
An interim deal might look like the one James Neal signed at the start of the 2010-2011 season. That was a two-year, $5.75 million "bridge contract" that gave Neal a significant bump in pay and allowed him two seasons more to consistently show what he can do in this league. He did that, and the Penguins, though he was still an RFA at the conclusion of those two-years, rewarded him hadsomely with a six-year, $30 million extension.
A longer deal as a second contract could more resemble the Bobby Ryan situation in Anaheim. Two years ago Bobby Ryan was the same age Benn is now and was looking for something more than a bridge deal. He wanted to be compensated the same as his teammates Getzlaf and Perry and eventually was with a 5-year, $25.5 million pay-day. The interesting part about his negotiations were that he reportedly wanted a shorter deal, believing he would be worth even more money just three years into the future. (Two seasons later coming off a 57 point season, it's debatable whether or not this is the case). It's worth noting that the Ducks eventually got what they wanted and Ryan signed basically the same deal that was offered to him months before after a summer of strife. The team almost always wins with RFA's.
Under the current CBA a player becomes unrestricted at age 27, or when they've played 7 seasons in the league. If those numbers are changed then it could affect how both sides look at these negotiations. If Benn believes he has a chance to get to unrestricted free agency sooner, for example, under a new agreement, he may want to pursue that option and sign a shorter deal. Conversely the Stars might then seek to lock him up longer-term at a reasonable rate by 2012 standards. They may also wish, under the right circumstances, to sign him to a bridge deal and then revisit a longer-term contract while he is still an RFA in a couple of years.
Without knowing the specifics of the new agreement, neither side can agree on what's best. So they'll wait. Tom Gaglardi is keenly aware of the situation and says these kinds of contract negotiations have been a problem for the league.
"Something that the league has to look at is the structure of these second contracts," Gaglardi told Bob and Dan. "It's been a real problem in the league, I think, and one of the problems with our current arrangement. So I think we have to get a better read from the league on where we see that going in terms of... There's been some really smart, really fair second contracts and there's been someones that I think are harmful, but...So it will be interesting to see where the framework changes for that."
No matter how long they have to wait to finalize the deal, Jamie Benn isn't going anywhere and Stars fans shouldn't fret about it.
Dallas will have extend a qualifying offer to Jamie Benn by June 25th this year, per the CBA rules, to keep his rights.
The current team must extend a "qualifying offer" to a restricted free agent to retain negotiating rights to that player.
Players who earned less than $660,000 in the previous season must be offered 110 percent of last season's salary.
Players making up to $1 million must be offered 105 percent.
Players making over $1 million must be offered 100 percent.
If the qualifying offer is not made, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. If the player rejects a qualifying offer, he remains a restricted free agent. If the player does not sign before December 1st, he is ineligible to play in the NHL for the remainder of the season.
The offer will probably not be made public, and it will not have much importance in this process other than being a necessary technicality. The December 1st deadline for RFA's this year could be a bit tricky only if the CBA negotiations extend beyond that date.
"He's not a guy we're going to let go," added Gaglardi. "He's from my neck of the woods. A Canadian kid...you know I watched him play in the Western Hockey League and he's a difference maker. You've seen that at 22 years old. Someone told me the other day that his numbers are better than Modano's at this age. So this guy is the real deal."
(To be fair, Jamie Benn is arguably better at a few areas of the game than Modano was at this stage in his career, but his offensive numbers aren't quite where Modano's were at 22 (77 points). Though if you want to argue that's partially a product of era, I will not begrudge you the thought.)