Anaheim Ducks: Trading for Sam Bennett Opens up Options for Future

Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett (93) Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett (93) Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Bob Murray has a checkered history of reclamation projects looking back over his tenure with the Anaheim Ducks. In the past two seasons, Murray has trialed and then discarded Daniel Sprong, and more recently acquired Sonny Milano.

For the most part, it should be noted that the teams that drafted these players were willing to part with them for a reason. Notably, in every case, this reason was a lack of on-ice results. That isn’t necessarily to say that any of those reclamation projects are bad hockey players, it’s more that they haven’t lived up to their draft billing, and either the team or the player themself, look for a new opportunity

Former 2014 4th overall draft selection of the Calgary Flames, Sam Bennett, is the latest player to ask for a trade. The Flames took action immediately, and Bennett was dropped for the next game. The team moved on fast.

The Argument Against

At face value, Bennett himself is probably not a player that the Anaheim Ducks really need to acquire for his on-ice contributions. Thus far in his career, he’s had career-high 18 goals and 36 points, which were both in his first full NHL season; a season now five years in the rear-view mirror. It’s hard to argue him a position with underlying on-ice shot metrics either, as thus far in this short season he’s been one of the worst of the Calgary Flames across these variables.

It’s also worth noting that the Ducks are somewhat flush with bottom-6 forwards. Derek Grant and David Backes seemingly hold the veteran’s roles up the middle of the ice, with Sam Steel potentially a younger option at the pivot. Moving forward Benoit-Oliver Groulx looks to be a likely sort.

On the wings, Carter Rowney and Nicolas Deslauriers own the 4th line wing slots. Max Jones, Maxime Comtois, Troy Terry, Sony Milano, Danton Heinen, and the list goes on, are all nightly contenders for the spot Bennett might take. In short, it’s hard to manufacture a spot for Bennett with his current rates of production.

The Argument For

Despite owning underwhelming on-ice metrics, Bennett’s individual shot metrics aren’t necessarily terrible. At present, he sits (at 5v5), 9th on the Flames for shots per 60 which would also slot him in at 6th overall accounting for at least 5 games played.

Similarly, he would also rank 7th on the Ducks for iCF/60 and 3rd for iHDCF/60 which are areas the Ducks are incredibly weak in overall. It’s not to suggest that Bennett would be a huge improvement, but it’s an incremental improvement that may help out in the future.

Incidentally, the Ducks struggle mightily to create rebounds at even strength and Bennett would easily lead the Ducks in rebound creation should he join the team. It’s a worthy consideration to shore up an area that has significantly fallen away since Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase were traded off the team.

Furthermore, Bennett draws penalties that would rank second amongst the Anaheim Duck forwards and his takeaway rates would easily fit into the top 9. All of this drives his individual expected goals rate that would slot him in the top 6 forwards on the Ducks at the time of writing. This is not to say that Bennett should be a top-6 forward on the Ducks team, but that he would incrementally improve a roster that is short on talent and regularly ices one of the oldest forward groups in the league.

What might be more interesting for Bob Murray and born-again old-school coach Dallas Eakins, is that Bennett plays a relatively physical game compared to some of the Ducks’ bottom-6 forwards. His 36 hits per 60 minutes of play would have him ranked 5th on the Ducks.

As a comparison, the regularly dropped Troy Terry has made three hits all season, at even strength. Should some physicality be what management is looking for, Bennett could be an easy addition to the roster.

Adding Versatility to the Anaheim Ducks Roster

Perhaps more important than anything else, what Bennett might be able to do for the Ducks is offer some versatility. Able to play both wing and center, he would be able to move about the lineup at any given time in order to fit needs. He also creates rebounds at a rate that the Ducks are currently unable to do while providing a pseudo-physical presence in the absence of a legitimate power forward.

However, the biggest benefit Bennett might bring to the Ducks is an outlet for the aging, and struggling, Adam Henrique. Signed until the end of the 2023-2024 season, Henriques cap hit is perhaps a burden that the Ducks won’t want to carry for the duration. However, should the Anaheim Ducks retain salary and offer an additional draft selection, they may be able to shift this contract to the Flames.

Coming off of consecutive 40-point seasons, Henrique should offer something of interest to other teams, yet his cap situation is such that they may look twice given his current play. This would also be true of the Calgary Flames who at present have only ~$500k available in cap space. Given Bennett’s cap hit is ~$2.5 million, that would give them merely $3 million to play with. A far cry from Henriques ~$5.8 million per season. However, the Ducks could retain 50% of his salary and make the cap work from the Flames side.

While the Ducks would wear that cost for the duration of the deal, they would also cut salary over that time by either not signing Bennett, trading him to another team, or allowing him to be taken in the expansion draft, if he doesn’t pan out in Ducks colors.

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If he does work then it’s hard to imagine a low scorer such as Bennett would command a huge raise on what he currently makes. Thus there would be no real difference financially, other than the Ducks would have the flexibility to both choose their future and potentially choose the length of Bennett’s next deal.

A Possible Conclusion

Having that flexibility would then provide the Anaheim Ducks with the opportunity to plan their future with either a younger player who works out for them or with an increase in cap space that could conceivably be leveraged to accrue more assets over the next few years. Imagine a completely unrealistic scenario where the Ducks throw serious money at and send an offer sheet towards Elias Pettersson.

There are of course more realistic targets, but at this stage, the Ducks are in a position not dissimilar to the Rangers prior to acquiring Artemi Panarin. They have a collection of key prospects at all positions and are in the box seat to draft highly this season. Even assuming Pettersson isn’t a target, how attractive do the Anaheim Ducks look for a young star coming into their own in a few year’s time?

Right now, the Ducks have made a lot of good moves to create roster flexibility from next season onwards. Acquiring Bennett provides the means for them to further that agenda should they so choose. Whether the player sticks would be up to him and the coaching staff, and it would mean saying goodbye to a fan favorite.

Yet, the Ducks’ future is perhaps brighter than the present. Rather than just letting that future arrive, the Ducks should be pushing for it to be brighter. A simple trade to cut salary expenditure and bring in a young short-term reclamation project who has strength in areas that they are weak could be one of the underrated moves the Anaheim Ducks could make to realize that brightness.

Next. Firing Bob Murray Isn't the Answer. dark

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