On April 12, the Florida Panthers decided to get themselves a second-line center near the end of the trade deadline. That center was former Calgary Flames center Sam Bennett, who they received in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and their 2020 second-round selection in Emil Heineman. Yesterday, he signed a new deal for four years with an annual average (AAV) of $4.4 million per year.
Performance Equals Payday
Since his arrival to South Florida, Bennett has made a lot of noise for his team both in the regular season and the playoffs. In his last 10 games during the regular season with the Panthers, he piled up 15 points (six goals, nine assists), a new franchise record for most points in a new Panthers’ first 10 games. Additionally, through those 10 games, he registered a point in nine of them. In Florida’s playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, his efforts did not slow down, as he registered five points (one goal, four assists) through five playoff appearances. This comes as no surprise for most due to the fact that he’s been a playoff performer for most of his career. During his time with Calgary, he registered 19 playoff points (11 goals, eight assists) through 30 playoff games.
Additionally, he found immediate chemistry in the regular season with his linemates Anthony Duclair and Jonathan Huberdeau. With this new deal in place, it should be expected to see that line back in action for a full 82 game season this coming October.
Overall, after the performance he had during his short time with Florida, Bennett has rightfully earned himself a new deal.
Can He Keep His Penalties and Suspensions Down?
After taking a charging penalty in Game 1 of the first round, Bennett received a suspension for Game 2, where Florida would lose by a score of 3-1. Furthermore, in that first-round series, he took a total of eight penalty minutes, which hurt the team dramatically due to the potency of the Lightning’s power play. And for what it’s worth, he took 33 minutes of penalty time in his first 15 games as a Panther.
There’s nothing wrong with being a gritty type of player, but suspensions can have massive implications to not only the individual but to the team as a whole. If Bennett wants to continue his success is Sunrise, he must not let his anger get to his head or let other players get under his skin.
As previously mentioned, he signed a deal with an AAV of $4.4 million per year for four years. According to Pierre LeBrun from TSN, the first-year cap hit of his new deal will include a $1 million signing bonus. In his second year, the damage will be around $3.425 million, showing that general manager Bill Zito was working around the recent buyout of Keith Yandle’s contract. His third year will be a big payday for him, as he’ll make $6.35 million that season. In the final year of his contract, he’ll earn $5 million.
With the way he played last season, it was a must to keep him around. But to get him for less than his last deal over in Calgary is nothing short of magical from Zito.
The Roster Building Continues in Sunrise
With this contract, the Panthers show that they have faith in Bennett as their true second-line center despite his rocky time in Calgary. Furthermore, this signing just comes a few days after Florida traded for Sam Reinhart and the 2021 NHL Draft. This comes a couple of weeks after they re-signed Duclair and defenseman Gustav Forsling to brand new deals.
With all the moves Zito made and after a successful regular season, it’s clear that the team is in a “win now” state of mind. While he still has some pieces to lock up, such as Reinhart and giving a contract extension to captain Aleksander Barkov, he has a way to get things done. An empire is in the works in South Florida, and fans should be getting pumped up for the start of it all.
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!