What is Sam Bennett’s trade value?

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 year ago
Folks, Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett has requested a trade from the club. And while he’s still playing – he’s got a contract and he’s a professional – it seems likely that his time with the Flames is nearing its end.
One of the most common mailbag questions we’ve received is what Bennett’s value is, so we felt it was prudent to break it down a bit.

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Bennett was the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. He has 130 points in 374 regular season games, all with Calgary, for a 0.348 points-per-game average. Since 2018-19, his points-per-game is slightly lower at 0.308. He can play centre or either wing, but he’s primarily been a left wing at the NHL level.

Factors driving value up

Age and contractual status: He’s 24 and is in his final year of his contract. He’s a pending restricted free agent with arbitration rights and qualifies for full free agency after one more season (or whenever his next contract ends). If you’re an acquiring team, you can test-drive him and either try to hammer out a long term deal or go to arbitration and let that system issue a market value one year deal that walks him to free agency. An acquiring team gets a rental with some upside, and no burdensome contract to deal with.
Playoff performance: Flames fans know the phrase “Playoff Sam Bennett” well, because the guy can flat-out play playoff hockey. Maybe it’s the pressure. Maybe it’s the playing style. Maybe it’s the referees relaxing penalty calls a bit. Maybe it’s his personal shooting percentage spiking at the right times. Honestly, it’s probably a mixture of many of those things. But Bennett has been one of the better Flames in most of the team’s playoff appearances.

Factors driving value down

Regular season performance: Bennett’s great in the playoffs. He’s less great in the regular season, where he sometimes tries to do too much, over-handles the puck and takes offensive zone penalties with a frustrating frequency. (You can’t say he doesn’t try.) He’s Calgary’s second-worst player by average game score (via Hockey Stat Cards).
The flat cap: How many teams can take on a $2.55 million contract for someone who’s largely been a bottom six player in Calgary for the past couple seasons. Not many, because very few teams have cap space. (This would probably lead to the Flames either getting another iffy contract back, or getting less of a return than they would if teams had more cap wiggle room.)
Expansion status: Most teams are starting to piece together their expansion protection puzzle for when the Kraken select their roster in July. Bennett is eligible and would likely be exposed by the Flames if the draft was held today. An acquiring team would either (a) need to know they’ll protect Bennett after trading for him or (b) need to be okay with exposing him and losing him for nothing. The second possibility drives down his value a bit.
NHL experience: Bennett’s age and experience works both for and against him. He’s been in the NHL since he was 18. He’s played a ton. He’s been extensively scouted by every NHL team. There’s a book on him. It’s difficult to sell another GM on his potential because he’s 24 and played almost 400 NHL games: he is what he is. He might still find new levels – Mark Giordano improved pretty rapidly from ages 28 through 35, and Mikael Backlund found new levels throughout his late 20s – but what we’ve seen from most NHLers is that they usually don’t change dramatically once they hit their mid-20s.

Trade market value guesswork

The absolute most I could anticipate would be a third round pick, but that would require a motivated buyer and probably the Flames waiting until the off-season when cap constraints are loosened. (Ryan Donato and Jimmy Vesey netted thirds recently, but both in the off-season and both are arguably more attractive offensive players.)
Otherwise, it seems likely that the Flames would need to settle for a fourth or fifth round pick – Michael Frolik and Vladislav Namestnikov netted similar windfalls – or they’d need to take on someone else’s unhappy player in a “your problem for my problem” deal, and even then cap considerations would make such a deal tough to pull off in-season.

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