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Jamie Benn talks new contract, offseason surgery and World Cup

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Stars captain Jamie Benn is coming along in his recovery from surgery for a core muscle injury and hopes to get out on the ice later this week.

Benn was busy off the ice Saturday at the Stars training facility in Frisco, handing out graduation certificates and posing for pictures with the first ever class of Girls Rookies, a four-week program for girls between the ages of 4-12 who are interested in playing hockey.

“I think I would love to be out there on the ice today with the girls, but it’s fun to come out here and see the smiles on their faces,” Benn said. “They’ve obviously had a great time playing some hockey, and it was fun to come up here, give them their certificates, a little book and take a few pictures.”

There were big smiles around the Stars organization and its fan base earlier this month when Benn put his signature on an eight-year, $76 million contract extension. The new deal, which takes effect in 2017-18, runs through the 2024-25 season. The contract negotiations were smooth and didn’t drag out, which is what both Benn and the Stars wanted.

“We had a conversation after the season. This is where I want to be. This is where I want to play,” said Benn, who talked to the media for the first time since signing the deal. “I didn’t want this to be a hassle or a distraction. I wanted it to go smooth. That was one of the first things I told my agent is that I don’t want this to be an argument. Let’s try and figure this out with happy minds and that’s what happened.”

Benn will be one of the highest-paid players in the NHL under the new deal, which will pay him an average of $9.5 million per season over the eight years. Not bad for a guy who was a fifth-round pick (129th overall) in the 2007 NHL Draft.

“It’s still pretty surreal,” Benn said. “I think maybe just like I learned how to be a professional later than the other kids, but this is what I want to do, and I’m putting all my time and effort into being the best player I can be for this hockey club.”

But it isn’t all about the money for Benn, who has racked up some impressive individual honors the past few seasons including an Art Ross Trophy (2015), First Team NHL All-Star (2016, 2014), Hart Trophy Finalist (2016) and Ted Lindsay Award Finalist (2016, 2015). He’s focused on team goals.

“Each summer when you’re training in the gym, you think about the past season, why it ended so early or how it ended, and you have a little motivation thinking about that,” Benn said. “You don’t work all year and all summer for the money you get paid, you work to try and win the Stanley Cup, and I think that’s the biggest motivation. It should be behind any hockey player.”

And he wants to accomplish those team goals in Dallas. Benn said he gave no thought to letting his current contract expire and see what else might be out there.

“No. I didn’t have even one thought of leaving this place. I fell in love with Dallas, Texas ever since I got down here seven years ago,” he said. “Here I am sticking around here year-round. I have all the belief in [GM] Jim Nill and the coaching staff that we’re going to do something special. [Nill] is a smart man. I’ve built a relationship around him. That’s another factor in staying here, is that we have the same goals, and I want to do it as a Dallas Star.”

As for his recovery from surgery, Benn said everything is going well, and he hopes to ramp up the rehab process this week.

“I feel pretty good. I’m making progress. Much like last summer (double hip surgery), these things take time,” he said. “The last two weeks have been pretty boring, not doing too much, letting it heal and recover. Doing little exercises here and there, but I think this week I could be able to pick it up a bit and possibly even skate later in the week.”

Benn underwent the surgery on July 14 to correct the injury that came up during his offseason training.

“It was just a funny feeling that I had during training this summer,” Benn said. “It just didn’t feel right, and I knew something was wrong. I had to get it dealt with sooner than later, so we did that, and now we’re moving forward.”

When the Stars announced the surgery, they put the recovery time at six weeks. That would be Aug. 25 and around that time a decision will be made on Benn’s status for the World Cup of Hockey. Canada’s training camp opens the first week of September in Ottawa and Benn’s goal is to be ready.

“As of right now, yeah, [that is the goal],” he said. “I think this is a surgery that I’m able to come back a little quicker than double hip surgery. That’s the main focus. I’m training towards being able to make it for World Cup.”

And you have to think that Benn, who won the Art Ross Trophy in 2014-15 playing on two sore hips and then played all 82 games last season coming off surgery on both hips, will find a way.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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