Dallas Stars captain and leading scorer Jamie Benn is expected to be a big part of Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey this fall, but it is suddenly unclear if he will be able to participate. The former Art Ross Trophy winner underwent surgery Thursday to repair a core muscle injury.
It is unclear how or when Benn sustained the injury, but surgery was a success according to the team. The recovery timeline, according to the Stars, is going to be six weeks and is not expected to interfere at all with the start of the 2016-17 season. That timeline would also, theoretically, get Benn back in time to compete for Canada in the World Cup, but it's cutting it a little close. Per the team release, Benn's availability for the World Cup, which begins on Sept. 17 in Toronto, will be determined after those six weeks have passed.
Benn had a career year in 2015-16 with 41 goals and 89 points. He also had 15 points in 13 postseason games as he led the Stars into the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Over the last three seasons, his game has gone to another level as he has become one of the elite power wingers in the NHL today.
He is also heading into the final season of his current contract, after which he should receive a substantial raise from the $5.75 million he will make this season. The Stars can sign him to an extension at any time now.
Benn's health is crucial to both the Stars' 2016-17 season and his future earning potential. At 26 years old, he should be expecting a max deal. How that all factors into the World Cup decision will be interesting to see. It's probably better to be safe than sorry for both sides, but if Benn is 100 percent after rehabbing the injury, there's probably not much reason to keep him home.
The left winger was part of Canada's Olympic gold medal team and he's a better player today than he was then. Having him in the mix would certainly bolster Canada's title chances at the World Cup, even though they're already favorites. Additionally, Benn would be joined by line mate Tyler Seguin on Team Canada this time around, with a chance to get good and warmed up for what should be another dominant offensive season for one of the league's most dynamic duos.
In the meantime, Canada should be looking at potential replacements for Benn in the event he can't go. If they're looking specifically for another left winger, recent New Jersey Devils acquisition Taylor Hall would make a lot of sense. If they seek a forward of any kind, Corey Perry, Ryan O'Relly, Wayne Simmonds and Benn's Dallas teammate Jason Spezza are among the top scorers from last season that did not make the initial roster, but there are a lot of other potential options.
Surely Team Canada would prefer the guy that has more points than anybody over the last two seasons, but there will be no shortage of star players available to them should they need to replace Benn.