Everyone is talking about the Jamie Benn signing. The 5.25 million dollar contract that spans 5 years was a surprise bit of news during the game against the Blackhawks at the AAC on Thursday night. The ovation on the other hand, wasn't surprising at all.
Benn isn't just an important player in terms of how the team performs on the ice, he is a figurehead for the Stars moving forward. If anyone can come close to bringing the spotlight onto the Dallas Stars in the Sports-saturated market of Dallas Texas like Mike Modano did; it is definitely Jamie (discounting Jagr's legend status).
The question is, how exactly will his return effect the Stars' line up? This question likely won't be answered until Monday night when Dallas takes on the Blue Jackets in Columbus. The lack of a work visa keeps Benn out of one more game, as he misses tonight's tilt agains the powerful St. Louis Blues.
During Benn's absence Roy has filled the top-line center position more than admirably and if his celebration during Eriksson's shorthanded goal against the Blackhawks is any indication he is officially part of the team. This is something that I personally wasn't so sure of from watching his first few interviews.
With Benn back, Roy should in theory slide back down to the second line in between the ageless Ray Whitney and the sniping Michael Ryder. It is almost a shame however, as this move will watch the rookie Cody Eakin falling back to a less-prominent role after proving in my opinion, he belonged in the top 6.
This does immediately make the Stars a deeper team, however. There is certainly no question about it. Your third line now has a centerman worthy of 2nd line minutes and your second line now has a center worthy of 1st. Then of course you have the dominant Jamie Benn leading the charge at the very front. When you can say these things, you have what I call a “Pittsburgh Penguins Problem” which isn’t a problem at all, is it?
Last year for a small portion of the season, we got to see Benn and Eriksson together and it was magical for most of the tenure. However, because of the lack of scoring depth Jamie was forced to allow Mike Ribeiro to move into his spot; not because he earned it but because he was only producing when he could play 25-30 minutes a night with the Stars’ best players. Benn meanwhile was stuck with 2 non-scoring wingers for a majority of the season (Don’t worry, we still miss you Otter). And he still managed to hit above 60 points.
Now with a roster that is much deeper in terms of offense – at least on paper – Jamie’s spot in the middle of the top line for the Stars should be fairly secure. Presumably, he will be in between Loui Eriksson and Jaromir Jagr, assuming Jagr’s day-to-day back issue isn’t serious. Even with Jagr out of the line up, I feel like Reilly Smith could add trusted scoring depth that at the very least would allow Michael Ryder to return to the first line while Smith took his spot on line #2.
In the end, the idea is that this year’s Dallas Stars roster doesn’t suffer quite as hard as the previous. When Jamie Benn is out of the line-up they are missing a key player, but they aren’t missing their only player. So, while the signings of to 40+’s may have seemed strange if not questionable in the off-season, combined with prospect performances and the resigning of key RFA’s has made the team’s forward arsenal a potent and deep set of weapons.
…At least compared to last year.