When Stars president Jim Lites and owner Tom Gaglardi started discussing a contract extension for GM Jim Nill, Lites did some research, looking at the contracts of other general managers around the league. And then he got back to Gaglardi.
“I said, ‘From my perspective, Tom, the deal can’t be too long. I can’t imagine Jim’s work ethic is ever going to change,’” Lites said. “He is perfect for us and perfect for this team in this market at this time.
And on Friday, the Stars announced that they had signed Nill, who is in the third year of a five-year contract, to a five-year contract extension.
“He’s done a terrific job. I can’t tell you how impressed I am,” Lites said. “Nothing ceases to amaze me after 30 years in the business, and Jim Nill is as good as I have ever worked with. And I have worked with great general managers in Detroit and here in Dallas.”
Nill is now under contract through 2022-23.
“I think the biggest thing is it shows the commitment from, first of all, from the Gaglardi family, Bob and Tom, they believe in what we’re doing is right,” Nill said. “It’s a commitment from them to the organization, to the city, they want to do things right here. It’s a commitment from Jimmy Lites, our president, but his leadership in our organization. We got a great staff here. I’ve always talked about our dressing room; it’s the players. We’re in a good spot right now. We want to keep it strong.”
Nill, who was hired in 2013, has made sweeping changes to the Dallas roster, bringing in players such as forwards Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp, defenseman Johnny Oduya and goaltender Antti Niemi. And there was the hiring of a veteran head coach in Lindy Ruff.
The moves Nill has made over more than two-and-a-half years at the helm have paid dividends. Heading into Friday’s games, the Stars sit atop the Western Conference and are one point behind Washington for the best record in the NHL.
“You always have gameplans, but you never know where it’s going to go, and there’s a lot of things that can happen, but I’ve been really fortunate,” Nill said. “There’s been a good base of players here. We’ve been able to expand on that and because of the assets we had, we were able to make some trades. We have a good staff here. People had done a lot of work in the prior years, and I was coming in at a good time. Coaches have done a great job with this team, so we’re in a good spot.”
Along with changes to the roster and coaching staff, Nill has brought a culture change to the Stars organization, preaching to players to be everyday professionals.
“One-hundred percent it’s changed,” said Dallas captain Jamie Benn. “It’s about doing the right things on and off the ice, being a professional and representing the Dallas Stars the right way. He’s let us know that’s how he wants it, and the players have done a good job of doing it.”
Nill gets high marks for the way he deals with those within the organization, creating a family atmosphere around the team.
“[I’m impressed by] his relationship with everybody in the organization; with players, coaches,” Ruff said. “The way he treats people, I think everything’s first class.”
Added Seguin: “I think he is more part of the team that most GMs, not so much in the sky but very hands-on. He’s so involved with everyone and everyone’s family. He’s the ultimate guy and ultimate GM. I am happy he is going to be here for a while.”
And while Nill said the Stars are in a good spot now, there is a lot of work still to be done. And Friday’s contract extension is a sign that he has the Stars on the right track.
“We’re a good team. The core of our team is still young; I think they’re going to get better,” Nill said. “We have some great veteran leadership. When you start talking about the Oduyas, the Sharps, the Spezzas, the Fiddlers, these guys have been around. They’ve won; they’ve battled hard. We got a great setup in Austin with our farm team; we have some good young kids coming. We’re in a good spot. We’re going to get better yet. The coaches are doing a good job. We’re going to be a better team than we are today, and I like where we’re at. We haven’t got there yet, and that’s the challenge with this group.”
Quotable: Stars coach Lindy Ruff on his relationship with Jim Nill
“I think we have an excellent relationship. I thought the first time I had interviewed with him, it seemed to be that it would be an easy fit because we both were looking at the same things, just seamless communication. He’s a demanding guy, but he’s a good man to work for.”
Quotable: Stars center Tyler Seguin on the impact Jim Nill has had on him
“Huge impact, since day one. I came here to Dallas, and he said this is a brand new start. Whatever has happened in the past is behind you, good or bad. This is a new opportunity, and he wanted me to seize it. It was definitely a blessing coming here, being given that opportunity as a player and a person and a teammate. He made me feel right at home from day one.”
Quotable: Stars president Jim Lites on what impresses him most about Jim Nill
“His work ethic is great, it is astounding. He has unbelievable energy. What I marvel at is his Rolodex, the extent of relationships he has with player agents, which is key in getting information in any trade or drafting situation. His knowledge of the scouting business and what it entails. And the relationship between scouting and development. He’s really patient, and he works really well with his people.”
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.