Barring a deal being worked out beforehand, the Calgary Flames will amble into a Toronto boardroom on Saturday morning to debate the merits of Sam Bennett. The Flames and Bennett’s camp have an arbitration hearing scheduled, where each side will provide comparables and arguments for Bennett’s worth. While the two sides have been chatting about a deal, a pretty clear market value for Bennett has quietly been set.
Bennett is 23 years old. He’s amassed 55 goals and 116 points in 312 NHL games; that’s 0.176 goals per game and 0.372 points per game. He had 27 points last season (0.380 points per game).
One year deals
Two one year contracts have effectively set the ceiling and floor for Bennett.
Buffalo signed Johan Larsson (26) to a deal with a $1.55 million cap hit. Larsson has played 331 NHL games and has 0.096 goals per game and 0.234 points per game. He had 14 points last season. There’s no damn way you can justify paying Bennett anything less than Larsson. It’d be a tough sell to pay him anything close to Larsson’s cap hit.
On the high side, there’s Colorado’s Andre Burakovsky (24) to a one year pact with a $3.25 million cap hit. Burakovsky has played 328 NHL games and has 0.189 goals per game and 0.442 points per game. He had 25 points last season. If you’re Bennett’s agent and you don’t mind doing this process again next summer, you point to Burakovsky’s $3.25 million deal and say “I’ll settle for $3 million.” (Bennett likely takes a slight haircut because Burakovsky’s been a more productive player points-wise over his career.)
Two year deals
The Burakovsky cap hit looks a little bit high, though, compared to how the market for two year deals has come together.
- Scott Laughton (25) got $2.3 million for two years from Philadelphia. In 272 NHL games he has 0.114 goals per game and 0.290 points per game. He had 32 points last season.
- Joel Armia (26) got $2.6 million for two years from Montreal. In 237 NHL games he has 0.164 goals per game and 0.342 points per game. He had 23 points last season.
- Danton Heinen (24) got $2.8 million for two years from Boston. In 162 NHL games he has 0.167 goals per game and 0.500 points per game. He had 34 points last season.
Based on his career thus far, you can make strong arguments that Bennett should get more than Laughton and Armia. Over twice as many career games, Bennett’s points per game is significantly lower than Heinen’s. It would be tough to justify paying Bennett more than Heinen, but if the Burakovsky deal suggests one year at $3 million would be fair then it would be difficult to stretch things to two years and drag the cap hit down – you would expect it to nudge up a little bit. You can make a good argument that Heinen gave the Bruins a hometown discount relative to other contracts, but that argument won’t likely sway the arbitrator.
How the two sides (and potentially the arbitrator) weigh the Burakovsky and Heinen precedents will be very interesting and could ultimately determine Bennett’s market value.
Four year deals
If both sides are exhausted from hammering out shorter deals and decide to go longer, two interesting contracts have set a bit of a market at four year deals.
- Oskar Sundqvist (25) got $2.75 million for four years from St. Louis. In 144 NHL games he has 0.111 goals per game and 0.278 points per game. He had 31 points last season.
- J.T. Compher (24) got $3.5 million for four years from Colorado. In 156 NHL games he has 0.205 goals per game and 0.384 points per game. He had 32 points last season.
Arguably this is where Bennett’s worth is most easily defined. He has more production than Sundqvist and slightly less than Compher. On a four year term, he can probably make a case for just shy of Compher’s deal – perhaps four seasons worth of $3.3 million or thereabouts.
Time will tell where Bennett and the Flames land, but the contracts signed by similar restricted free agents suggest that he’ll be getting a fairly significant raise from his prior $1.95 million cap hit.