A few days ago I wrote about what a new deal for 22-year-old Darnell Nurse could potentially look like.
Now I’d like to shift the focus of contract discussion to Matt Benning. Like Nurse, Benning will need a new deal after next season and is eligible for an extension.
Now, with only one year under his belt, you would imagine that both sides would wait until the year is at least half way done, but when the time comes for the ink to meet paper, what could Matt Benning’s new deal look like?
Benning is a unique case because he’s 23 years old, but he’s only played 62 NHL games. In those 62 games, he’s managed to impress those close to the Oilers and most have penciled him into this team’s long-term top 6.
In his first season, he logged decent minutes in every scenario. He was 5th on the team in 5v5 TOI, 3rd in PP TOI and played 41 minutes shorthanded (although that’s the lowest number among their regular defenders). When it came to the playoffs and injuries hit this team, Benning not only stayed healthy, he played over 20 minutes a night in each of their final 3 games vs The Ducks. He also never registered a negative plus/minus in any of those games.
He’s a solid player at both ends of the rink, and it’s completely fair to assume he’s only going to get better as he continues to gain more pro hockey experience.
Of course, it’d be easy for both sides to agree to a 2 year deal around $2million like we’ve seen in the past with Ryan Murray, Tyson Barrie, Danny Dekeyser and more. But if the Oilers like what they’ve seen and are confident he could be an impact defenseman for a long time, why not sign him to a deal with some term?
This could be a chance for the Oilers to set themselves up for a real bargain contract in 3 or 4 years. It could also be a chance for Benning to be apart of a championship team in his own hometown.
Finding comparables is difficult because of how unique this situation is, but I’ve managed to dig up a few thanks to Cap Friendly.
In 2006, Kronwall was 25, so slightly older than Benning, but had only played 66 games which is very close to Benning’s 62. At that point the Wings were confident giving the Swedish blueliner 5 years @ $3million.
In 2013, the Senators gave the 22-year old a 3 year deal worth $2million after watching him for just 50 games. This is a deal I think is the closest comparable to the Benning situation and might be pretty close to what we could see the former Spruce Grove Saints defender get when the time comes for a new deal.
At the age of 25, and after playing 155 NHL Games, the Predators inked Ekholm to a 6-year contract worth $3.75 million. If Matt Benning gets a full NHL season in, he will be 24 and have a similar number of games played.
Matt Benning is an incredible talent, bringing him in is going to go down as Peter Chiarelli’s best move in my eyes.
Matt Benning is also not stupid, and I’m sure he can see his potential to be a top 4 d-man down the road, but I also think he knows how fast things can change in pro sports.
I could see these two sides agreeing to a deal close to the one Ekholm got. I think $3.75m isn’t a horrible overpayment now, and a 6-year term means the Oilers could be getting a real bargain in the final 3 years of the deal.
It’ll be interesting to see how things play out this next season. Benning could dip-off like Brandon Davidson did, or he could break through like Oscar Klefbom did this past season. Either way, an extension is likely coming for Benning, and it’s another piece of the puzzle that GM Peter Chiarelli needs to carefully consider.
If he plays this right, there’s a chance the Oilers have their future top 4 of Larson, Klefbom, Benning and Nurse all locked up long term for around $15million. Which give them tremendous flexibility when it comes to signing their core forwards.