The third NHL roster player that was a restricted free agent that was not qualified by the New Jersey Devils and just got signed is Beau Bennett. Bennett was acquired by the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a third round pick during the 2016 NHL Draft last Saturday. While Shero did not qualify him, he did sign him to a one year contract worth $725,000. This was confirmed at the Devils’ official website.
My thoughts on Bennett were spelled out in this post about the trade. In short, he’s a young (24 yeard old) right winger who has never really made an impact in the NHL due to several injuries. While he has not produced much, his per-game rates (e.g. at least a 1.18 points per sixty minutes in 5-on-5 play) and some of the advanced stats (e.g. he’s been a positive possession player in each of the last three seasons) - both per Puckalytics - are encouraging. He could be of use if he can stay on the ice for a majority of a NHL season. That he plays right wing alone is enough to think he may be of use to the Devils.
As for the contract, it makes much more sense that he was not qualified. Bennett was on a one-year contract last season with Pittsburgh that was worth $800,000. That was a $100,000 decrease from his NHL salary on his entry level contract. As Bennett did not do much last season, not qualifying him allowed Shero to sign him for even less than he made last season. While $75,000 is not a significant amount of savings, it is preferable than just guaranteeing him a raise through a qualifying offer. Like the Merrill and Smith-Pelly contracts, this is another “prove something to me” contract. More so than those two deals, Bennett really does need to prove he can perform and that he is able to perform for the Devils. If he does, then the Devils should be able to retain him easily next summer. If not, then they can easily part ways with him. The sad thing is that a big part of this will not be up to Bennett; it is not like he can really control whether he gets injured or not. I have my fingers crossed he can stay healthy and be able to show off what he can really do in a season for the first time in his career.
Essentially, I’m fine with this contract. I think it’s a good, low risk to take. We’ll see if the Devils are rewarded for it. In the meantime, I want to know what you think. Do you think this was a good contract to keep Bennett? What do you expect Bennett to do with the Devils in 2016-17? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this signing in the comments. Thank you for reading.