Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill is dedicated to keeping Jamie Benn in Texas.
And with Benn set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, figuring out a contract extension is of utmost importance to Nill this summer. It’s a deal that could arguably one of the richest in the NHL, and a pair of captains from other “non-traditional” markets may have defined the market for Benn’s extension.
Recently crowned Los Angeles Kings’ captain Anze Kopitar signed an eight-year, $80 million contract this spring. It comes out to $10 million per season, and includes a no-movement clause for four seasons, which transitions to a no-trade clause in year five.
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos agreed to an eight-year, $68-million contract on Wednesday, ending speculation he would hit the unrestricted free agent market. Stamkos comes in at $8.5 million per season, with a full no-movement clause for the life of the contract.
Benn is at a similar point in his career to Kopitar and Stamkos, so an eight-year deal would make sense. The Stars’ captain will turn 27 this summer (Kopitar is 28, Stamkos is 26) and is the cornerstone of a team seemingly on the rise. Add in the fact that Benn’s brother, Jordie, recently signed on for three more years in Dallas, and all signs point to a lengthy marriage between Dallas and its current captain.
So, what will the money look like for the Hart Trophy Finalist and 2015 Art Ross Winner?
That’s where you have to start breaking down the Kopitar and Stamkos contracts. While Kopitar may be better paid at first glance, he and Stamkos are making close to even money.
The U.S. federal tax rate is 39.6 percent, while the California tax rate is 13.3 percent. That takes quite a chunk of Kopitar’s annual salary. Florida, however, doesn’t have state income tax leaving more money in Stamkos’ bank account.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Stamkos’ gross income over the course of the eight-year deal would be around $37 million. Over the course of Kopitar’s eight-year contract, his gross income will be close to an estimated $38 million if he continues to play in California.
That’s an advantage that the Stars will have in Texas, another state that doesn’t use state income tax.
With a contract similar to Stamkos, in the $8 to $9 million dollar range, Benn would still be amongst the NHL’s top-paid players. If he were to command Kopitar-esque money (or Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane-esque money) Benn could easily be the highest grossing player in the NHL based on his tax situation.
It becomes an interesting decision for both sides, who both seem dedicated to getting a deal done and avoiding potential Stamkos-esque “will he stay?” drama throughout the 2016-17 season.
There are pundits that have said Benn is the best player in the NHL. If that’s the case, and one can argue it either way, should he be the NHL’s richest player? Or, do you take advantage of the tax situation and create more cap space in a cap-crunched world?
If the Stars can save $1.5 million on the salary cap, it creates more flexibility to give Tyler Seguin his big payday after the 2018-19 season. It would also give Dallas more money to throw around with a group of young forwards (Brett Ritchie, Mattias Janmark, and Radek Faksa) that will be due a raise after next season.
Dallas could also sweeten the deal by throwing in the extras that Stamkos got in his recent contract. While the full no-movement clause is a bonus, the fact most of Stamkos’ salary is tied up in signing bonuses — $60 million of it — provides even more stability. Signing bonuses are paid out no matter what, protecting Stamkos’ bottom line even if he was bought out (unlikely) and or if there was another lockout (hopefully unlikely).
It’s a negotiating tactic the Stars should bring to the table with Benn, and would be a win-win for both sides.
Dallas would save precious cap space in an era where the salary cap seemingly isn’t rising anytime soon, and the Stars could build a better team around Benn. It would also give Benn further security financially and prove the Stars are committed to winning long-term with him as the corner stone.