DALLAS-- Thursday was a big day for the Dallas Stars. Not only did the club announce a number of initiatives to commemorate the franchise's 20th season in the Lone Star State, but the organization also announced the addition of three familiar names to the front office in a variety of roles.
Former Star Mike Modano, who retired from the game prior to last season, will re-join the same organization that drafted him and where he played all but one season of his illustrious NHL career as an Executive Advisor and Alternate Governor, a position where the future Hall of Famer will work closely with team president Jim Lites and the club's ownership group.
"He's the Wayne Gretzky of Dallas. He's the Wayne Gretzky of US Hockey. I'm just so elated that Mike's coming on board," Stars owner Tom Gaglardi said. "I don't think that we can be successful in this market without Mike being part of it. I know he's going to provide a lot of help to us."
Modano kept a fairly low profile last year, his first after retiring from the NHL, but was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in October in Dallas and the local sports icon felt the time was right for him to reconnect with the Stars organization.
"After retiring, I needed a little time to enjoy retirement and get away from the sport a little bit. I think right now we've found a great fit," he said. "I appreciate the opportunity obviously from Tom Gaglardi to have a chance to be back with the organization. Just appreciate the opportunity."
Dallas also added former NHL great Mark Recchi, a three-time Stanley Cup champion to the front office as an Advisor to the Hockey Operations Department. Recchi, a former teammate of current Stars forward Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh, will assist Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk in a number of areas including scouting and meeting with players.
Recchi and Gaglardi know each other well as both are part of the ownership group for the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League and the Stars owner couldn't be happier to add him to the Dallas organization.
"He Recchi will be in the Hall of Fame as fast as he can get in the door there. He provides all that experience," Gaglardi said. "He's been really helpful. I think he's got some really neat ideas that will help us. Really thrilled to have Mark on board."
Recchi, who admits he has spent much of his time watching his son play since retiring after the 2010-11 season, which he spent in Boston, is thrilled to be working with Gaglardi in a different capacity and for the Stars.
"Can't tell you how I excited I am to be part of the Dallas Stars organization. I'm honored to be here," Recchi said. "It's an exciting time for me. I'm here to help in any way I can with Joe, Bob and the hockey operations. I'm just honored to be part of it. I look forward to the Stars being Stanley Cup champions again and believe with this group we have that opportunity."
The final member of this talented trio is Marty Turco, who was named as an analyst to the Stars' television broadcasts. Turco, who has previously worked for the NHL Network, spent 10 seasons with the Dallas organization from 2000 through 2010 and like Modano, returning to Big D was a no-brainer once the opportunity materialized to reconnect with the organization.
"The opportunity to bring the family back to Dallas was certainly an easy one. In the greater picture, being part of the Dallas Stars family and being part of the Dallas community alone is what tickles me inside," Turco said. "I appreciate the opportunity. I appreciate being here."
Of course, as the Stars head into their season opener with Phoenix on Saturday night at the American Airlines Center, there is one looming question facing the organization-when will Jamie Benn sign a new contract? The 2012 NHL All-Star is a restricted free agent who was second on the club last season with 63 points. Benn, a 23-year-old who can play either at center or on the wing, also tied for the club lead with 45 assists.
"We're deeply committed to getting Jamie back in here and on the ice in time for the weekend. I know that Joe Nieuwendyk and his group are talking daily with Jamie and hopefully making progress. But we're deeply committed to having Jamie here in a Dallas Stars jersey for a long, long time," Gaglardi said. "He's a key part of our future. Hopefully we're going to have some good news in the next few hours regarding that."
Whether or not the Stars get Benn signed in time for Saturday's season opener against the Coyotes, it's hard for the club's owner to not be optimistic about the product the Stars will put on the ice, not just this season but going forward.
"Obviously we're excited to be here and that's the puck's going to drop in a couple nights. We really like our team," Gaglardi said. "Think we've made some good moves that will help us in the standings, a good combination of youth and wisdom. We're really excited about our season."
A big part of that optimism comes from the fact that Dallas has a solid group of prospects currently in the American Hockey League that can contribute as soon as this year as well as in the near future.
One new member of the organization has already acquainted himself with many of these up-and-comers and he definitely likes what he has seen thus far. "Well, I think it's good. You're going to see a couple with the forwards Reilly Smith and Cody Eakin that they brought in. They've got Alex Chiasson and a couple other good players down there who are still going to develop," Recchi said. "They've got some great young junior forwards-Radek Faksa and Brett Ritchie and Oleg Stransky in Saskatoon. They're high-end prospects on the front end."
But there is one group of prospects currently in the Dallas organization that has impressed this three-time Stanley Cup champion more than any other and it's the current group of defensemen.
"Their back end is the deep part here. Brenden Dillon's up now and Jordie Benn has done a great job down there. Jamie Oleksiak, you don't find players like that. When he's on the ice and the things he can do is impressive. Patrik Nemeth is to me will be a shutdown guy at some point here for this organization in the next year or two, just a heavy guy, plays great. I haven't seen the guys over in Europe but I know they've got some high-end Euro, Swedish players and Finnish players that are coming up as well. They've built something very good here and they're getting back to where they should be," Recchi said. "Their back end to me is really kind of neat. They're all big. They all can skate and they're going to be successful here."