It seemed like the Calgary Flames were going to bring Sam Bennett along slowly, at least until he became a quick study in the playoffs.
After only playing one regular season game, the 18-year-old has been impressive in eight postseason contests. In fact, he’s been impressive enough that the Flames say they’re OK with burning the first year off of his entry-level contract by playing him against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 3 on Tuesday
“Contracts don’t matter to us,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said Monday. “We’re a pro organization, a very classy organization, and never have I had a conversation with [general manager] Brad Treliving or [president of hockey operations] Brian Burke about the contract of Sam Bennett. They always allow me to play the players that we feel will help us win.
“Sam Bennett will be in the lineup [Tuesday].”
The fourth pick of the 2014 NHL Draft has already made an impact with the Flames. He has four points in this postseason, tying him for fourth in scoring among Calgary skaters. Bennett even spoiled Frederik Andersen’s shutout bid with the Flames’ only tally in Game 1.
One can see why the Flames want to keep him in the mix, especially to show other young players that there are incentives to run with opportunities (rather than contract-related glass ceilings).
That said, it should be an interesting situation to observe in hindsight. What happens if the Flames lose this series in four or five games? Will some question management for getting such little value out of a precious commodity like a cheap rookie contract?
It’s the kind of question that would keep some executives up at night, but credit the Flames for trying to live in the moment. It could very well be the best thing for his development, anyway. Maybe.