With the offseason upon us, the Calgary Flames have their hands full with plenty of decisions to make. The Stanley Cup has been awarded, the NHL Draft is tomorrow and free agency isn’t far behind. The bulk of the heavy lifting is about to be done by Brad Treliving and staff.
Certainly, signing Matthew Tkachuk, exploring the trade market, and mulling over what to do with the team’s first round pick are all high on the priority list for Treliving. That being said, there is certainly one item on the list that shouldn’t be overlooked. That is the next contract for one Sam Bennett.
Sam Bennett and the Calgary Flames
The highest draft pick in franchise history, Bennett has had a mixed bag of an NHL career. He has yet to establish himself as a top six forward, but still provides an immense amount of value to the organization. The question is: should the Flames re-sign Bennett?
Coming off a contract that saw him earn $3.9 million over a two-year term ($1.95M AAV), Bennett’s offensive numbers are not what many predicted so far in his NHL career. Managing only 13 goals and 27 points in 71 games last season, Bennett has yet to crack the 20 goal or 40 point mark. Is that type of production enough for a raise, or do we need to see more from the former Kingston Frontenacs star?
Bennett is in a unique situation. He’s an extremely high draft pick who hasn’t found his scoring touch as of yet, has arbitration rights this season, and also is vying for a consistent place in the Flames’ lineup. Finding a comparable to Bennett isn’t easy, but there are a few players with similar production who have been signed to contracts that mimic his situation. Bennett’s even strength production is very comparable to this crew of players, who provide a ballpark as to what the market could be for #93.
Using CapFriendly’s comparable tool:
Each of these players would go on to sign short term deals with their respective teams. All three deals are extremely similar:
Alex Galchenyuk is the best comparison to Bennett. The third overall pick in 2012 had similar numbers to Bennett’s through their first few seasons. For that type of production, Galchenyuk earned a two year short term deal with the Canadiens. Galchenyuk went on to collect 100 points in 143 games over the term of that deal, which provided immense value for Montreal. This would be an ideal situation for both the Flames and Bennett, as it turns into an easy win-win situation.
So what does this mean in terms of the Flames and Bennett coming to a deal? It suggests that a short term deal could, and should, be the way to go again. There is still much we don’t know about Bennett. There still exists the potential to surprise, as he has the talent for it, and giving up on him now could seem like a disservice to the player. At only 22 years of age, there is still room to grow — and that’s not just talking about his mustache.
A short term deal will help the Flames continue to help Bennett progress in his NHL career. At the same time, this will allow Bennett to prove his worth and give him a better chance to “cash in” when the deal expires, should he live up to the expectations.
Looking at Bennett’s best comparables, we could be looking at a contract somewhere between $3.00M to $3.25M rage on a two or three-year term. These numbers are based on the projected $82M salary cap, and taking into consideration what Bennett’s comparables made on their deals. The lower limit is the average of what Lindholm earned (3.70%) and the upper is based on Tatar’s deal (3.99%). Of course with the cap number yet to be finalized, these numbers could ultimately change.
Of course from Bennett’s perspective, he could be looking for either additional term or money based on the fluctuating state of RFA contracts. Although not guaranteed to price himself out of Calgary’s budget, Bennett could ultimately force the team’s hand into an unwanted scenario. He is a massive fan favourite, and it would be tough to see him go, but if he provides value in a trade scenario then it would be worthwhile to investigate.
This could be the last kick at the can for Bennett in Calgary. With the team on the verge of being a perennial contender, they could really use a player of Bennett’s style to step up and prove his worth, and also earn himself a better contract down the road. The Flames currently sit with $12.458M in cap space (assuming an $82M cap). He’s known as a tough negotiator, and it looks like Treliving will have to play some Tetris to fit Bennett in.