Is Sam Bennett ripe for an offer sheet?
Is he coveted enough outside Calgary for a team to try sticking it to the cap-strapped Flames with an offer he can’t refuse?
On the outset it may sound like the oddest of names to attach to a practice even rarer than payphone use. But it may not be the craziest of possibilities.
Bennett made $1.95 million in each of the last two seasons and needs to be offered a 10-per cent raise to qualify him this summer. That means the minimum the arbitration-eligible forward would make as a Flame moving forward would be $2.14 million.
It’s hardly cost-prohibitive, but you can bet the versatile third-line winger will be pressing for more in negotiations that may end up in an arbitrator’s hands.
With Matthew Tkachuk looking at eating up in the neighbourhood of $8 to $9 million of the $14.5 million in cap space left, one must keep in mind the Flames also need to ink their two opening-night goalies, which don’t come cheap.
It makes it hard to find room for RFA Andrew Mangiapane, UFA Garnet Hathaway or Bennett, unless the Flames look into the likelihood of trading a veteran like T.J. Brodie and/or Michael Frolik to free up some cap space. A buyout of seldom-used Michael Stone’s final year at $3.5 million is also a possibility to free up cap space.
Well aware of the Flames cap situation, what might a team like Vancouver, for example, be thinking?
Clearly an organization that covets adding gritty, well-rounded players (See: signings of Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle last summer), the Canucks have room to weaponize their $30 million in cap space by approaching Bennett with a pact paying him upwards of $3 million for a player drafted fourth overall as a centre.
Despite a pedestrian, 13-goal regular season, the 22-year-old was arguably the Flames’ best skater in their five-game playoff loss this year, much like he was four years earlier when he infuriated Canucks fans in his NHL playoff debut with a mix of tenacity and skill custom-made for playoff hockey.
Flames GM Brad Treliving would understandably be furious Bennett would ink such an offer and would have to consider letting the Holland Landing, Ont., native go.
As per the CBA, any player scooped in an offer sheet deal for between $1.82 million to $3.65 million would come at an additional cost of a mere second-round draft pick.
Not a steep price to pay for a former first-rounder with a significant upside, feistiness, versatility, and a history of playoff peaking.
Should the Flames somehow be able to match, it would come at a cost they wouldn’t like, accomplishing plenty as well for a division-rival like the Canucks.
“You obviously have to offer more than he’d get in arbitration, so you’d have to overpay him,” said one league insider when asked about the move.
“But if you really believe in him the cost may be palatable in terms of picks. But it only works if the team is capped.”
Indeed, the Flames are.
Bennett has been an interesting study through his five-year stay in Calgary, where he has scored between 11 and 18 goals a season, never amassing more than the 36 points he posted his first full year.
As frustrating as his inconsistency and lack of production have been, he’s become a fan favourite in Calgary for the way he throws his six-foot-one, 195-pound frame around, agitating the opposition with regularity and unafraid to drop the gloves.
He’s a throwback — a rare breed in that regard.
He’s one of the most obvious fill-ins when a top-six winger is injured, although many have long ago given up hope he could return to the prolific scoring prowess he had in Kingston as a junior, even if he was given more ice time and better linemates.
You can bet there are other teams that haven’t given up that thought.
“I think he’s a supporting cast guy with versatility who can play against the opposition’s top line and can fill in for an injury to a top guy — otherwise he’s not a top-six guy,” said one scout.
“It could be a divisional thing — if you see a team up against it do you take a run at hamstrung teams? There are enough teams out there that need that competitive fire-type guy, like (Nazem) Kadri.”