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WWYD Wednesday: Sign Sam Bennett to a bridge deal?

Sam Bennett is a free agent this summer. But unlike Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau last summer, Bennett isn’t in line for a major raise over his entry level contract. His relatively disappointing sophomore season of 13 goals and 26 points puts him well outside of the typical “six-year second contract” group of young players.

Which usually means it’s time for a “bridge” deal: a short-term “prove it” contract between one and three years. This gives the team flexibility to further evaluate the player while he develops and it gives the player a chance to increase his value and get a better deal relatively quickly.

That said, given Bennett’s pedigree as a potentially elite talent, his mediocre season might actually be an opportunity to lock him up longer to a discounted rate.

So what should they do?

There are some concerns and risks associated with inking Bennett to something beyond a bridge deal. Beyond the fact that his agent might not be terribly keen on this option, the problem is Bennett’s results in the NHL so far have been ambiguous at best.

During his rookie season, Bennett’s results were good when he skated with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik, but average-to-below average everywhere else. This season, his results pretty much regressed across the board: points, shooting, possession, everything.

As a result, Bennett looks like a merely decent ES scorer and a below average possession player:

Bennett Hero
Sam Bennett’s HERO Chart, 2016-17

Which isn’t someone a team needs to lock up long term.

There are two things working in Bennett’s favour though:

  1. He is very young, so much of this could be put down as growing pains.
  2. He played a majority of his season with Troy Brouwer, who had an unprecedented deleterious effect on his linemates.

With Brouwer, Bennett’s CF% was a putrid 44.4%. Away from him, it shot up to an above average 51.7%. That differential at least suggests the youngster is a better possession player than his overall rates would suggest so far.

So either Bennett is a top five draft pick who is on track to become just a mediocre middle rotation forward (it happens), or he’s a kid on the verge of breaking out who will become much more expensive to retain down the road.

If the Flames think it’s more the latter than the former, then they should push for a long-term deal. If his agent thinks he’s more the former than the latter, he should do the same.

However, if the club isn’t certain about Bennett taking another big step or two, then they should settle for a two-year bridge contract. By then they’ll have a much clearer picture of just what kind of NHLer Bennett will be.

So what would you do Flames fans? Lock him up long term and pray he becomes an impact player? Or play it safe and settle for the bridge?

  • stuhfan

    There is likely some common ground between the two sides – 3-4 years, $2.5-3.5MM/yr. More than a bridge deal (which reduces the Flames risk, in my opinion) but still allows Sam to prove his worth and hopefully earn a more lucrative deal when he’s 23-24.

  • Parallex

    Bridge him. 100% bridge him.

    The team needs to get rid of Brouwer somehow. His big ticket is always going to see him be the guy that get’s unwarranted minutes so he’ll always be sinking Sam at one point or another. Get rid of Brouwer, resign Versteeg, break Jankowski into the league on Bennett’s wing.

    • C Watson

      Yes, bridge deal by all means but no more than two years. Hopefully the Flames can entice Vegas to take Brouwer and his contract away. I like the Sammy, Steeger and Janko line but with Janko at centre and Sammy on LW.

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        Hows about a 4th line of Steeger-Janko-Brouwer if we are stuck with him. Use Ferland-Bennett-Lazar as the 3rd line. Find a RW for Johnny (or put Tkachuk there and find a LW for Backlund). Send Bouma to the AHL and hope that Stajan is claimed by Vegas. Stajan is actually a trade asset, but we never seem to be able to trade guys like him.

    • Juan Valdez

      There’s no way I could see Vegas taking Brouwer unless their goal is to tank for the first couple seasons and load up on draft picks. Even then, I don’t think they would settle for anything less than a 3rd rounder in return.

  • Lets Get Something Clear

    While the bridge contract is probably considered the safe play I think there are other options that are sensible. The contracts which Florida has signed players like Bjugstad or Trocheck to recently are 6 years with cap hits of around 4-5 million. I would be willing to take that kind of risk on Bennett.

  • PrairieStew

    1 year $2m, 2 year $4.5m 3 year $7.5m. Leave those options in the player and his agents court; the team should be happy with any one of those scenarios. Offer small bonuses for 20 goals and 40 points ( say $100 K ) and a larger bonus (500K) for leading the team in scoring.

    • BendingCorners

      with a cap of 73mm to 76mm the league average is about 3.2mm to 3.3mm. I can’t see his agent taking much less than that on anything longer than 1 yr. 3.5mm X 2yrs or 4.0mm x 3yrs should be acceptable to both sides I think.

  • Backburner

    I don’t think anyone believes Sam will be a 70-80 pt guy, but realistically he has potential to be a consistent 50-60 pt guy. While the Flames have all the leverage right now, I would sign him to a long term deal in the 3.5 million dollar range as a sign of commitment/good faith (something like Rakell/ Turris contracts).
    Worst case scenario he turns out to be a Matt Stajan type of player.. making slightly more than he’s worth, stuck as a 3rd line Centre, and no one wants him.
    Best case scenario, he turns out to be an effective top 6 player netting 50-60 pts a season, also you get him under a great contract that would be easy to move.

  • buts

    Stanley cups are won with players of the Sam Bennett mold. Here’s hoping they sign him to contract that makes both sides very happy. A long term bargain like Brodie’s contract for Sam is a gamble I would take.

  • deantheraven

    Two years at 2 mil would do it. He’ll get his chance to up his worth and we’ll still have a few years of arbitration & FA protection. Losing Bouma’s contract would make it work painlessly Joyfully!

  • beloch

    I agree that it may be unwise to lock Bennett up long-term. While many consider this season to be a disappointment for him, Bennett had increased responsibility playing at centre and some pretty awful linemates. Had he stayed on the wing with Backlund and Frolik, where he played the previous season, his numbers would look a lot more impressive right now.

    Bennett is not good enough to make Brouwer look good. That’s the real thing we’ve learned this season. There probably aren’t many players in the league of any age who are that good, let alone players as young as Bennett. Brouwer was the real disappointment this season. Bennett could still be very good. However, if you bank on that by locking him up for 6 years at a low salary based on his most recent season, you run the risk of making him feel unmotivated to improve or “cheated” if he does improve.

    Players are humans too, so you want to set up the right incentives and reward success. Give Bennett a bridge contract and pay the kid more in a few years if he earns it. He likely will.

  • kid presentable

    i don’t think a +50% possession. ~60 point player who elevates his game in the playoffs is out of the question for bennett. a comparable might be someone like johansen (another 4th overall pick with an aggressive game), who put up 12 points in 40 games at the same age. i’d say give him a long term deal. he showed a lot after brouwer got put on the 4th line and was our 2nd most effective forward in the playoffs

  • Jobu

    Give him Stajan money (if hell take it). 4 years 3.5 Million. Its third line center money and hell likely be our third line center for a few more years anyway. If he turns it around in the next two 2 years then CGY has a value contract on the books during the “window”, and Bennett would still be young enough to cash in on a big third contract.

    • Eggs Bennett

      If Bennett was given the opportunity to play with Johnny and a top line RW, just watch for a breakout season… kid needs some confidence but I still believe he has top pivot potential

  • Kevin R

    If Tre can sucker his agent to a 6 year 4.0 mill per deal, take it & run, go up to 4.5 mill per if you can get 6 years. That contract will be a steal. & if after 2 years we aren’t convinced he is what we want, a 4th overall pedigree at at that money won’t be hard to move for a 22 year old at that time. Bridge is nuts & to be avoided if possible. Realistically, this kid could break out next year or year after & then you are signing him to a 7 year deal at around 6.0 mill per.

  • RedMan

    Troy Brouwer owes Sam Bennett Millions for what he cost him in this upcoming contract. Personally I would like to see Sam play on the wing with Jankowski at Center.

    • Parallex

      I don’t get why people keep suggesting shifting Bennett to the wing for Jankowski… I think you’d rather have the rookie take the position with more pressure initially.

        • Parallex

          Yes… but Sam has NHL experience and a full year of work under Gulutzan, Jankowski doesn’t. Sam (as a non-NHL’er at least) was, from all reports, an exceptional two-way player. I think it would make more sense to have Jankowski eased into the NHL. If he shows the chops to be an NHL’er at wing (and Bennett doesn’t at the C position) then you swap them around.

  • Keith M

    I’d say play Tkachuk with Bennett. Two scoring lines and a shut down line that can score. The 3M line was a great intro for a rookie but spread out the scoring.

    • freethe flames

      A line of Tkachuk/Bennett/Versteeg could be a good line. Then go Janko ( it is said he already has a 200 ft game)Backs/Frolik; this gives Janko NHL time w/o having to be a center to start with. Then go Stajan(LW)/Lazar/Chaison or Hathaway as your 4th line. Hopefully either Mangiapane or Shinkaruk pushes for the replacement spot for Stajan as the season progresses. The ideal world is that Vegas picks Brouwer but I don’t see it happening; but if they pick any of Brouwer/Stajan/Bouma that becomes found money.

      But the post asked what should Bennett be signed for; a 2 year deal at about $2-2.5m at most is what he has earned. IMO BT needs to be about the business of getting his RFA’s and UFA’s signed before the NHL draft; that way he knows how much money he has to add to this team and the two priorities via trade or UFA’s must be a goalie and a 4th defender. If BT could get Bennett/Lazar/Versteeg/Chiasson/Stone/Ferland all signed for under$12m total and all for 2 or 3 years I would be pleased.

      • Parallex

        Those 6 would be pretty close to 12M total I figure… although I think that the Flames would be better served taking a run at Franson. I don’t figure he and Stone end up costing much different and I like Franson more then Stone.

  • BringtheFire

    I was never big on Bennett. He was the highest rated player in the draft, but that was based largely on a blazing second half of his final junior year.

    I’ve been thinking lately that we should sign him to a two-year and trade him. I’m sure we could get a favorable package that helps the blue line with Bennett involved.

    But then again, he could TOTALLY work out.

    It really is a tough call.