Sam Bennett was a great addition for the Florida Panthers at last year’s trade deadline, and they are giving him a significant contract to see if he can duplicate that performance.
The team signed Bennett to a four-year, $17.6 million contract extension on Monday. That contract carries a $4.4 million salary cap hit each year. He would have been eligible for restricted free agency starting on Wednesday.
Florida acquired Bennett from the Calgary Flames just before the trade deadline for a prospect and a second-round pick, hoping that a change of scenery could help him get his career back on track. Prior to the trade he had clearly fallen out of favor with the Flames, to the point that he was a healthy scratch and asking for a trade. The immediate returns were extremely promising.
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Bennett finished the regular season with 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 10 games before recording five points (one goal, four assists) in five playoff games. Just for some perspective on how much of a turnaround that was for him, he had just 12 points in 38 games with the Flames. That followed a 12-point effort in 52 games during the 2019-20 season.
If Bennett can come close to repeating what he did with the Panthers then the contract would obviously be a great deal for the team. But there should probably be at least a little bit of skepticism that he can do that over the course of a full season. A lot of his success with the Panthers was driven by a 15.8 percent shooting percentage that was by far the highest mark of his career. That number will almost certainly drop this season. Perhaps a more consistent and expanded role with a good team around him can help make up for that.
Now that Bennett is re-signed the next order of business for the Panthers this offseason will be dealing with restricted free agent forward Sam Reinhart who was just acquired from the Buffalo Sabres this past weekend.