I understand that we all were eagerly awaiting the details of the Garnet Hathaway extension. Heck, I know I was. But there is one rather large piece of business still outstanding for the Flames as they attempt to wrap up their (exceptionally busy, in hindsight) summer: getting Sam Bennett a new contract.
There has been a lot of talk surrounding Bennett on this site: because we’re spoiled, Kent has written about where to play him and how much to pay him extensively in his weekly mailbag and even in a previous WWYDW. However, it’s time to turn things over to you and let you decide how much you would pay Bennett: if you would extend him at all and not, say, trade him for an upgrade at centre.
The notion of a bridge deal has firmly taken hold as the majority opinion among media members, fans, and patrons of the website called ‘Twitter’ (pictured here). So what exactly should a deal, be that bridge or otherwise, look like for Bennett?
Following a 14-goal, 33-point season in 2015, the future centerpiece of the Zach Pochiro blockbuster, Nail Yakupov, signed a two-year, $5 million extension with the Edmonton Oilers. Bennett is coming off of a dismal 13-goal, 26-point season over 81 games, 10 points fewer (and in four more games) than his rookie season.
An interesting bridge deal comparison is 2013 fifth overall draft pick Elias Lindholm who, after a rookie season of 21 points in 58 games and a sophomore season of 39 points in 81 games for the Hurricanes, earned a two-year, $5.4 million extension. This seems like a useful case study for two reasons that jump out: Firstly, the two players have nearly the identical draft position (Bennett fourth overall to Lindholm’s fifth) and secondly, they both are centremen who had not put up a season of .5 points-per-game before they were extended.
While it’s true that Lindholm put up a few more points than Bennett during the regular season of his second year (not to mention played a full three years on his ELC, giving the Hurricanes an extra season to evaluate him), Bennett has 62 regular season points to Lindholm’s 60 (that’s not including two playoff appearances for Bennett when he scored six points in 15 games).
I would essentially qualify the first two seasons of Lindholm v. Bennett as a draw. As such, I would think that, given inflation, a two-year, $5.6 million extension would be a reasonable expectation for Bennett – that is, if the Flames decide to bridge him.
One of the more frustrating aspects of this situation, I am sure for the player and management alike, are the flashes of dominance shown by Bennett, chief among them his playoff performances (a bright spot in a “still-too-soon-to-really-think-about-it sweep” at the hands of the Ducks last season) and the above video where he briefly turned into Mike Bossy.
It’s not exactly breaking news that it was a rough year last season for Bennett, though there is no shortage of excuses ready to be brought out for him, some more convincing than others. One that absolutely seems to hold weight is the problem of who Bennett was playing with or, as Kent deliciously phrased it, he spent the year playing with a “uniquely deleterious” Troy Brouwer. For your information: I would read a 5,000-word think piece where Kent describes particularly broken home furnishings.
So where does this leave us with Bennett now? Would you commit to him long-term, gambling that you may be able to save some money in the short term? Or would you hedge your bet and bridge him, waiting two more years to see what kind of player Bennett will be, including what position he would be playing? Let us know what your plan for Bennett would be, be that bridge or long-term extension, and how much you think is a reasonable amount to pay below in the comments!