5 Trade Destinations for Calgary Flames Forward Sam Bennett

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2021

5 Trade Destinations for Calgary Flames Forward Sam Bennett

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    Larry MacDougal/Associated Press

    On Jan. 30, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Sam Bennett was seeking a trade. His agent, Darren Ferris, confirmed a rumor that the 24-year-old Calgary Flames forward would prefer a change of scenery.

    The report blindsided the Flames. On Feb. 1, Friedman's colleague, Eric Francis, cited team sources claiming Bennett hadn't formally requested a trade. While he didn't dismiss the possibility Bennett wanted to be moved, he felt it wasn't properly communicated to the team. He also suggested Ferris may have done his client a disservice by going public.

    The following day, the Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson reported Bennett had become a hot topic for trade speculation among fans and pundits. However, then-Flames head coach Geoff Ward and several teammates insisted the rumors weren't a concern and wouldn't be a distraction. Bennett, meanwhile, declined to discuss the trade request with the media.

    A first-round pick by the Flames (fourth overall) in the 2014 NHL draft, Bennett has become a perplexing NHL player. He has solid two-way skills and versatility but has spent most of his career as a third-line forward. However, his tendency to elevate his game in the playoffs has suggested he could still become a more dynamic player.

    The trade chatter has fallen off in recent weeks, and Flames general manager Brad Treliving doesn't seem in any hurry to move him. 

    "We think Sam's a hell of a player, and we expect him to be a good player here, and we'll go from there," he told Sportsnet 960 The Fan (h/t The Score's Josh Gold-Smith), explaining the club, not Bennett or his agent, would determine the forward's future. 

    The recent replacement of Ward as head coach by Darryl Sutter could still affect Bennett's future in Calgary. So will his status as a restricted free agent this summer, when he could be left exposed in the expansion draft. It's worth noting he remains on TSN's Trade Bait List and The Athletic's NHL Trade Deadline Big Board.

    Considering those factors, Bennett could still be moved before the April 12 trade deadline if the Flames fall out of playoff contention. Here's a look at five potential destinations.

Anaheim Ducks

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The once-mighty Anaheim Ducks have fallen on hard times in recent years. They could soon have a significant shortage of depth at center that could make Bennett an enticing fit.

    Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Even if he agrees to stay, the 35-year-old center cannot carry the offense as he once did. If he departs, it would leave the Ducks with Adam Henrique as their most experienced center.

    Bennett's limited production during his time in Calgary suggests he wouldn't provide much of a boost to the Ducks' anemic offense. That could be due to the restricted role he's been playing as a third-liner with the Flames. His production could improve if he's given more playing time on a different team.

    The Ducks' $84.4 million salary-cap payroll puts them over the league's cap, but they're allowed to exceed it because Ryan Kesler ($6.875 million) is on long-term injured reserve. With $4.04 million still available, they could afford Bennett's $2.55 million cap hit. They could, however, insist on the Flames taking back a player such as Derek Grant ($1.5 million).

Detroit Red Wings

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Mired near the bottom of the NHL standings, the Detroit Red Wings need all the help they can get. Bennett would have an opportunity to play a larger role with this rebuilding club compared to his current one with the Flames.

    Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has a good record of acquiring struggling players or those considered past their prime and turning them into quality contributors. Forwards Robby Fabbri and Bobby Ryan have rejuvenated their careers in Motown.

    Bennett's two-way skills would make him a natural fit on the Red Wings' second line. He could take over the center position or skate on either wing. They could also try him as a winger alongside first-line center Dylan Larkin. He could also be a good addition to their top penalty-killing unit.

    With $72.7 million invested in this season's salary-cap payroll, the Red Wings could easily absorb Bennett's cap hit. They could package Ryan with a draft pick or prospect to give the veteran winger a shot at playing for the Stanley Cup this year.

Minnesota Wild

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    Hannah Foslien/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Wild left themselves short of quality depth at center during the offseason after trading Eric Staal to the Buffalo Sabres and letting Mikko Koivu depart via free agency. Bennett could be a fit there.

    General manager Bill Guerin plugged the holes in the offseason with Marcus Johansson, Nick Bonino and Nick Bjugstad. Nevertheless, Bennett could have an opportunity to shine in Minnesota with an opportunity to skate at center in a top-nine role.

    Bennett's versatility could also prove useful if he's deployed as a winger. He could fill the gap on either side if a regular winger slumps or is sidelined by injury.

    During a Feb. 12 mailbag, The Athletic's Michael Russo suggested the Wild's limited cap space means the Flames would have to take on a contract in return. He proposed someone such as Bonino, Victor Rask or Ryan Hartman would have to head the other way.

New York Rangers

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The struggling New York Rangers could benefit from an experienced forward with Bennett's two-way skills. He could also become a replacement for Ryan Strome if the 27-year-old center departs via free agency in 2022.

    On Feb. 4, the New York Post's Larry Brooks reported the Rangers and Flames had discussed Bennett. He also said the Flames expressed "at least preliminary interest" in defenseman Tony DeAngelo, who remains in limbo, awaiting a trade after Rangers management expelled him from the lineup following a postgame altercation with teammate Alexandar Georgiev on Jan. 30.

    Sportsnet's Eric Francis dismissed the report, claiming the Flames weren't interested in DeAngelo and his $4.8 million annual average value. Four days later, Brooks claimed the Flames' interest in the defenseman had dried up due to backlash from their fans on social media.

    That doesn't mean the Rangers wouldn't be a possible destination for Bennett if they pitched a different offer to the Flames. An experienced forward who can skate on either wing with a reasonable contract such as Brendan Lemieux ($1.55 million cap hit) could be enticing if the Blueshirts are willing to part with him.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Peter Power/Associated Press

    TSN's Darren Dreger reported on March 2 the Toronto Maple Leafs hope to bolster their forward lines before the trade deadline. He said there's been speculation they could have interest in Nashville Predators forward Mikael Granlund. Perhaps they'll also give Bennett some consideration given his reputation as a solid postseason performer.

    On Feb. 6, Sportsnet's Luke Fox wondered if Bennett and the Leafs could be a match. He considered him an attractive trade target, citing his versatility, ties to the Toronto area and restricted-free-agent status at season's end among his noteworthy traits.

    Fox, however, worried about where Bennett would fit within the Leafs' limited payroll. While he carries an affordable $2.55 million cap hit, the Leafs are already squeezed for space and would have to make room when sidelined winger Wayne Simmonds is ready to return.

    Bennett would be more affordable than Granlund, who's earning $3.75 million on a one-year contract. Nevertheless, the Leafs would have to get the Flames to retain part of his salary or accept a player in return. Fox suggested defenseman Travis Dermott or winger Pierre Engvall. On Feb. 6, the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons proposed offering up forward Alex Kerfoot and a sweetener.

    Salary info (as of March 16, 2021) via Cap Friendly