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Jim Nill talks Jordie Benn signing, defense

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars kept one of their pending unrestricted free agent defensemen in the fold Friday, signing Jordie Benn to a three-year contract. The deal is worth $1.1 million per season.

“Over the last couple seasons his game has really developed, and he’s become a pretty solid part of our defense,” Stars GM Jim Nill said. “There’s a lot of changes coming and with him and the other young defensemen, they are going to be relied on even more. It’s a good addition for us.”

Benn tallied 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 64 games with the Stars last season. The 28-year-old has registered 56 points (nine goals, 47 assists) in 244 career games with Dallas over the span of five seasons.

Friday’s signing gives the Stars six defensemen returning from last season’s final roster: John Klingberg, Johnny Oduya, Stephen Johns, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, who is a restricted free agent, and Benn. With defense prospect Esa Lindell expected to start next season in the NHL, the Stars are at seven defensemen for 2016-17.

“We’ve got seven guys, and we still have the flexibility if we have to add another one. We’ll just watch what free agency brings and go from there,” Nill said. “As I said before, I am very comfortable if we had to start the year this way. It’s time for our young players to step up. If there is a veteran out there that is a good fit, we will definitely look at it. But we are happy where we are.

“Next season is going to be very demanding schedule-wise, so we are going to need all seven plus the guys we have coming up. We are going to need all the defense we can get because we have a grinding schedule next year.”

Nill said that pending unrestricted free agent defensemen Jason Demers and Kris Russell both will hit the market on July 1.

“I spoke to their agents last week, and we both agreed they are going to look at free agency,” Nill said. “I told them let’s keep in touch and see where it goes. It’s their opportunity to see what’s out there, and it’s our opportunity to see what’s out there.”

The Stars traded the negotiating rights to defenseman Alex Goligoski, another pending UFA, to Arizona last week for a fifth-round pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Goligoski signed a five-year, $27.375 million contract with the Coyotes earlier this week.

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