Jamie Benn has finally signed a long-term contract with the Dallas Stars, inking a five-year deal worth $26.5 million on Thursday as the Dallas Stars played their fourth game without their top player. Frustrations had begun to mount and it seems things had certainly started to reach a breaking point with fans and some of the media; the timing of the news of the contract couldn't have come at a better time.
Benn joined his teammates, both familiar and new, at practice in Frisco on Friday. The newly-minted face of the franchise also took the time to join Bob and Dan on The Ticket on Friday after skating and formally signing his new contract.
"I woke up with a pretty big smile on my face and got to enjoy coming back to the rink and being around the guys," said Benn when asked how it felt to have the new deal. "I had my first practice today, so it feels pretty good."
The extended negotiations, forced to carry over into this shortened season because of the lockout, led to speculation in regards to exactly why a deal couldn't have been reached in time for the first game of the year. Benn repeated what has been said, that the negotiations were merely business and a process that had to be played out.
"Just like the lockout, contracts take time too," said Benn. "It was a process, but I'm glad that Tom and Joe and the Dallas Stars organization believed in me, and I'm happy to be a Star for the next five years.
Benn continued, on why yesterday became the time to sign the contract.
"I think these things go back and forth quite a bit, and I figured yesterday there was a pretty good deal sitting on the table that I couldn't really pass up. To come down here and be a part of this team again was something I felt that I had to do."
There was a discussion about his time in Germany, where he played with the Hamburg Freezers for a few months during the lockout. Benn stated he feels he's more than ready to get back on the ice after his time in Europe and training with a junior team in Victoria, while also being thankful for being back with his teammates in Dallas.
Benn also shed light on why he's unlikely to play on Saturday against the Blues.
"I can travel with a travel visa but you can't work unless you have a work visa," said Benn. "We're getting that figured out and hopefully we'll get it done soon."
Bob Sturm then hit on a question that was certainly in the forefront of a number of Stars fans' minds, as speculation had started that perhaps Benn didn't want to be in Dallas -- or that the Stars could have been thinking about moving on. Benn, as best as only he could, shot that notion down...by not exactly acknowledging it.
"I wasn't really reading much throughout the lockout and throughout this contract negotiation," said Benn. "I was just dealing with my agent and the Dallas Stars and trying to get what's best for me and best for them. They were my main focus on trying to get a deal done, and fortunate enough, we were able to get a pretty good one done."
"It's a bit of both," Benn would say, when asked if he or his agent was driving the talks. "Like I said, these things are a process and I definitely trust my agent. That's why he's my agent. Having this be my first time negotiating a contract, I kind of leaned on him a bit. I definitely expressed my feelings to him on what I wanted and how long I wanted."
There is some thought out there, considering how the contract signing appeared to come out of nowhere when most were saying things had stalled, that Benn had made the big move forward to get a deal signed and to get back on the ice. He doesn't explicitly state that in the interview, but it was clear that he wasn't exactly thrilled with watching the Stars play without him.
"You never want to miss any games," said Benn. "It was tough watching these guys on TV and battling. It was tough to see them out there without me. But you know it happens and hopefully I can just come in here and contribute when I get in the lineup on Monday and just take off and start winning some hockey games."
Benn finished the interview with perhaps the most insightful answer he's given to the media, when Sturm asked him if -- like with what happened with Tony Romo -- expectations for a previously "cheap" yet productive player can perhaps become too much for a player to live up to.
"I think the expectations I put a lot of pressure on myself to come out here and produce and be the best player I can be," said Benn. "There's going to be a lot of media and other people who expect you to do the same, but the most pressure I'm going to get is the pressure I'm going to put on myself to come out here and be the best player I can be and help this team win."
You can listen to the full audio here.