While the rest of his NHL compatriots were skating in training camps Monday after the lockout, Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars was on the ice at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre scooping pucks into a bucket with Victoria Royals rookie forward Brandon Fushimi after Royals practice.
Grateful for the ice time, the unsigned Benn was ready to pitch in while the serious work was being done off-ice between his agent and Stars management.
“We’re talking every day and I hope to get the contract figured out soon,” said the Central Saanich product, an all-star forward considered the foundation of the Stars’ future.
“It’s a bit [frustrating] but hopefully it gets figured out quick.”
As for his demands, Benn said: “That’s not a secret you’re getting out of me today.”
As fate would have it, Tom Gaglardi owns the Stars of the NHL and heads the ownership group of the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. The latter are in Victoria for a two-game set tonight and Wednesday against the Royals and there is speculation Gaglardi may come too.
“I figure he might be here, but we’ll see,” said Benn.
“Maybe there will be a phone call. But he stays mostly out of contract negotiations.”
Benn’s contract is the most pressing matter the Stars have heading into the abbreviated 2013 NHL season, which begins for Dallas at home Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
“The guys will be starting to go hard this week. It won’t take me too long to get into game shape,” said Benn, who had seven goals and 20 points in 19 games this season playing in Germany with the Hamburg Freezers.
Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk told ESPN.com over the weekend he was “optimistic” about re-signing the emerging 23-year-old Benn, who has 70 goals and 160 points in 222 games over this first three seasons in the NHL.
Meanwhile, Benn will find ice time where he can on the Island until a contract is inked.
“This is probably the last place he wants to be, but he’s a consummate pro,” said Royals head coach Dave Lowry, a former 19-season NHLer.
“It’s good for our guys to see his skill set and what it takes to get to the level he is at.”
Asked which Royals impressed him the most during Monday’s spin, Benn pointed to two overage 20-year-old forwards.
“Alex Gogolev is a skilled guy with good hands and Jamie Crooks is a good scorer,” said Benn, drafted by Dallas out of the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies as a fifth-round steal in 2007.
Crooks, one of those singled out for heady praise by the six-foot-two, 205-pound Stars forward, couldn’t help but notice the size difference between junior and pro.
“[Benn] seems pretty big out there . . . his body is thicker and stronger,” said the undrafted Crooks, whose own jump to the pros next season will probably have to go through the AHL or ECHL.
“It was pretty surreal [to be on the ice with Benn]. I just watched what he does.”
Royals forward Trent Lofthouse, whose dad Mark Lofthouse played pro hockey including in the NHL, was also suitably impressed.
“I had to take a second look to see if it was really him [Benn],” said Lofthouse.
“When I was 14, I thought he was the greatest player ever. I like to watch better players out there and see what they do.”
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