There is plenty of unrestricted free agency drama to look forward in the NHL this summer. Will Steven Stamkos stay in Tampa, or will he go back home to Toronto? Have goaltenders such as Cam Ward and Jonas Hiller played their last games at the NHL level? Will Alex Goligoski wind up being one of the highest defensive contracts this summer?
One thing that Dallas Stars might be able to rest easy in knowing is that Jamie Benn doesn't want to become one of those stories next season, when he could reach unrestricted free agency.
On breakdown day after being eliminated from the playoffs in the second round this year, Jamie Benn spoke to the media about the season. One of the questions posed to him was when discussions about his next contract would begin and what that would entail.
Said Benn, "I guess going into the last year of your contract you don't want it to be a distraction for your team."
Benn, his agent, and Stars general manager Jim Nill will have discussions later this summer about a new contract. Most media outlets have predicted Benn's new contract will be in the neighborhood of Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar's contract extension, which was an 8-year, $80 million deal signed this year.
It's not beyond the realm of possibility that Benn's contract ends up in that ballpark, considering he's one of the best forwards in the game right now. Additionally, he's on a relatively sweetheart of a deal considering the production he's had for the Stars these last few seasons.
Jim Nill has built in some cap flexibility for when Benn's deal would kick in, with Ales Hemsky's $4 million cap hit set to expire the same year as Benn's current contract. Assuming Benn has a contract in the neighborhood of $10 million, Hemsky's cap space could be allocated in addition to Benn's current contract cap hit and not leave the team with their hands tied to make moves -- and that's assuming the cap ceiling doesn't increase.
Even with this in mind, you have to assume that Jim Nill would like a clearer picture of the contract Benn will be looking for so that he can make some trades and sign unrestricted free agency this summer with the cap of the team three, four, five years from now already penciled out.
The money quote that really helps the confidence of Stars fans when thinking about Benn's new contract came straight from the captain himself. "This is where I want to play. This is where I want to be. I don't think it's going to be any problem."
It's likely his contract has the maximum eight year term on it. The question now is whether his cap hit starts with an 8, 9 or 10 -- or higher?