Flames’ Bennett ready to prove his worth after signing two-year deal

Calgary Flames' Sam Bennett breaks away from Boston Bruins' Kevan Miller. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

After a long negotiation process that spanned most of the summer, the Calgary Flames and Sam Bennett agreed to terms on a two-year, $3.9-million deal on Wednesday.

The contract carries a reasonable $1.95-million cap hit and sets the stage for Bennett to bounce back after a bit of a down year offensively.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself and last [regular] season wasn’t what I wanted, or expected,” Bennett, 21, told Flames reporter George Johnson, via NHL.com.

After tallying 18 goals and 18 assists in 77 games as a rookie 2015-16, Bennett registered 13 goals and 13 assists for a 26-point sophomore campaign to go with a minus-16 rating and 75 penalty minutes.

Despite an overall poor showing from the Flames in the post-season, Bennett managed two goals in four games before being ousted by the Anaheim Ducks in Round 1 — motivation, to be sure.

“It’s obviously a new year now. But whatever confidence from that playoff I can use, I’ll use. I’ll take it into training camp and then the beginning of the year,” said Bennett, who also added that his goal “was always for me to be there for training camp.”

“I’m just really looking forward to the opportunity to show over the next two years what I’m worth.”

Bennett was the final restricted free agent to be signed by the Flames after the club also secured Curtis Lazar and Micheal Ferland to two-year deals. (Lazar’s rings in at $950,000, while Ferland’s is very similar to Bennett’s, totalling $3.5 million.)

This kind of two-year bridge deal is certainly not uncommon in the NHL. Often viewed as a win-win for club and player, the “show me” contract can jump-start a player’s game and can result in a pretty nice payday down the road.

“I know he’s really eager to get going. We think he’s a terrific talent,” general manager Brad Treliving said, via NHL.com. He’s going to be a big part of this team now and in the future. I think he’s going to have a terrific year.”

Here are a few other players who have signed deals similar to Bennett’s this off-season.

Anthony Duclair (one year, $1.2 million)

Bennett’s new contract is actually more easily compared to that of Jordan Martinook (two years, $3.6 million), but we’ll highlight a different Arizona Coyotes forward here. While Bennett’s deal doubles Duclair’s, the “show-me” sentiment is there.

“I just want to prove myself on this one-year deal,” the 22-year-old said via NHL.com after signing his new deal last week. “Obviously last season was a little rough for myself. It was a good learning experience, but at the same time I just want to prove this year that I can play at an elite level like I did in my rookie season, and hopefully have a better contract next summer.”

After scoring 20 goals and registering 44 points in 2015-16, Duclair had just five goals and 15 points in 58 games in 2016-17.

Zemgus Girgensons (two years, $3.2 million, $1.6-million cap hit)

A year after signing a one-year, $1.15-million deal with the Sabres, Girgensons signed another short-term deal with a slight pay raise. Like Bennett, Girgensons has struggled with consistency at times but possesses the potential to be an imposing force up front thanks to his sizeable frame. The 23-year-old, who was selected in the first round (14th overall) in 2012, registered seven goals and nine assists in 75 games last season but could benefit from a fresh face behind the bench in new head coach Phil Housley.

Teuvo Teravainen (two years, $5.72 million, $2.86-million cap hit)

The Carolina Hurricanes have a strong talent in Teravainen, but opted to ink the 22-year-old to a two-year deal as he builds on a strong 2016-17 — his first with the Hurricanes after coming over via a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Teravainen registered 15 goals and 27 assists for 42 points in 81 games last season — the kind of numbers expected of Bennett, after the two shared similar point totals the year prior.

“Teuvo is a highly-skilled player and an important part of what we are building here,” Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis said in a team release upon announcing the signing back in June. “He’s still a very young player and we look forward to seeing him take the next step in a Hurricanes uniform.”

Joonas Donskoi (two years, $3.8 million, $1.9 cap hit)
Though Donskoi, 25, has a few years on Bennett and lacks the pressure that comes with being a top-five draft pick, the San Jose Sharks forward signed an almost identical deal this summer after posting similar numbers to Bennett through his first two seasons. Both players tallied 36 points in their respective rookie years, and both saw a dip in production in 2016-17 — though Donskoi’s six goals and 11 points came in just 61 games.