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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

Oilers ink Matt Benning to two-year extension

Two down, two to go. A few days after signing Drake Caggiula, the Oilers have announced that they’ve given a two-year extension to defender Matt Benning. It’ll be a two-year deal with a $1.9 million cap hit.

Benning was originally drafted by the Boston Bruins during the Peter Chiarelli days in 2012. The Edmonton native opted not to sign with the Bruins and played three years of college hockey for Northeastern University. He signed a two-year entry-level deal with the Oilers in 2016, but slid under-the-radar as Caggiula was the big-name NCAA addition everyone was talking about.

Benning ended up cracking the Oilers as the team had a gaping hole on the right side of its blueline. He had a very good rookie season, posting 15 points in 62 games with a positive shot attempt differential on the team’s third pairing.

I wrote about Benning last month during my RFA profile series. Though he doesn’t have an overwhelming feature to his game, he does a lot of little things — moving the puck out of the defensive zone, covering the middle of the ice, throwing some big hits when necessary — quite well.

Where you can see Benning’s impact, I find, is in his underlying numbers. In his first two seasons in the league, Benning has a +1.8 Corsi For percentage in relation to his teammates. This is while spending a lot of time with Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom, two players who tend to take risks on the ice, whether it be to join the rush or pinch and throw a big hit. Obviously it isn’t a be all, end all piece of analysis, but Benning consistently drives a positive shot attempt differential when on the ice, which is certainly a positive sign.

In my article, I predicted Benning would get a two-year deal worth $2.5 million given some comparables like Mark Pysyk and Derek Forbort. Getting him inked for $1.9 million is solid value for the Oilers. At the worst, they have what they already expect from Benning, which is a capable third-pairing defenceman. But given Benning’s age, he could take a step forward and become more than that too. Regardless, $1.9 million for what Benning has been over his first two seasons is fair value, in my mind.

MATT BENNING’S CAREER SO FAR

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/- GP G A Pts PIM
2016-17 Edmonton Oilers NHL 62 3 12 15 29 8 12 0 3 3 12
2016-17 Bakersfield Condors AHL 2 1 1 2 0 2
2017-18 Edmonton Oilers NHL 73 6 15 21 49 5
NHL Totals 135 9 27 36 78 12 0 3 3 12

Source: Edmonton Oilers, Official Twitter Account, 6/19/2018 – 1:01 pm MST

  • IRONman

    Move out cap. Luicic and Klefbom. 10 million for better players. Benning is good deal. Nobody wants to say it but Kelfbom is always hurt and Lucic can’t skate, blows plays. Nurse smart sign is 5 million over 8

    • Arfguy

      I really hope that the new assistant coaches encourages Nurse to fire more shots. He is one of the better skating defenceman in the league. He can fly. He just does not seem to want to shoot. At this point, I think if he started shooting more, he will be one of the better defenceman in the league. I compare him to Jaccob Slavin over at Carolina. I think if he gets $5 million AAV for the next 7 to 8 season, it will look like one of the best contracts amongst defencemen. The difference between Carolina and Edmonton, is that Carolina does not have to pay huge contracts to legitimate great centres like McDavid and Draisaitl, which is why they have so much cap space to work with.

    • Oilman99

      That is a big over pay for a guy that hasn’t proved himself yet, bridge deal to ensure what you have a bonafide top side player before handing out the big bucks and hopefully the cap goes higher to accommodate the salary.

      • Arfguy

        Compare the numbers to someone like Jaccob Slavin or Colton Parayko, who is getting $5.3 and $5.5 million AAV respectively, and it may not be that big an overpay. I legitimately think that Darnell can be better than both of them. Todd McLellan opted to keep throwing an injured Klefbom on the powerplay when it’s pretty obvious that Nurse was showing more mobility. It is a risk, but I think it’s better to lock up Nurse long-term than to take a chance at a P.K. Subban type situation, when the cap situation is already tenuous.

        • crabman

          Nurse hasn’t shown anything to suggest he is going to have a Subban type of offensive breakout. Nurse is a great skater but doesn’t have the same offensive instincts. And unless he gets a real PP push there really isn’t any risk in a bridge deal blowing up in the Oilers face. Subban was coming off 36 and 38 point seasons and was scoring at a .475pt/game pace in his elc. Nurse has 10, 11, and 26 point seasons and has averaged .24 pts/game during his elc. Besides skating ability the 2 couldn’t be more different through their respective elc. Even Subban wouldn’t have got such a huge raise if he didn’t win the Norris and average .73 pts/game during his bridge contract. That prorates to 60 points per season. If you think Nurse will win the Norris and be top 5 in scoring over the next 2 years then sure a bridge deal would be a bad idea. I for one like Nurse but don’t see him blowing up like that.

          • Arfguy

            Don’t misunderstand me bringing up Subban as me comparing Nurse to Subban. The reason I brought up Subban is to illustrate that if Montreal had signed him long term rather than bridging him, there’s a good chance Subban does not get anywhere close to the $9 million AAV he is getting. The comparison I make to Nurse is that of Parayko and Slavin, who are both on long-term deals at around $5 million AAV. I think if Nurse gets bridged, he will perform at a level where he might command more than $6 million AAV after the bridge deal is done.

          • crabman

            @Arfguy,

            Fair enough. I see Nurse as a $4-4.5M player on a 6-8 year term. I think $5M would be an overpay but not by so much anyone should be upset. I think he would live up to a $5M contract over the term of a longterm contract as well. But I also think with the teams available cap a bridge deal for Nurse gives the team the most flexability. I don’t see Nurse developing into anything more than a $5-6M player over the next 2 years. I think the team needs the savings more now than in 2 years when 1 or both of Sekera and Russell could be off the books and we have a better idea of what Nurse’s cieling really is.

        • crabman

          @Big Nuggets,

          47 Defencemen make $5M or more per season which is just under 38% of top 4 defencemen. out of those 47 only 7 are 25 or younger and recieved their $5+ on their 2nd contract. Ekblad, Hamilton, Parayko, Jones, Ristolainen, Lindholm, and Rielly. I’ve done the statistical comparisons numerous times before so I’m not going to get into them all right here but that small group of defencemen are not a good comparison for Nurse’s next contract. They all playes more minutes, and scored significantly more than Nurse during their elc. Nurse is not a $5M defenceman today. Even with a rising cap of 7% over this year or 11% over the last 2 years that would make a $4M defenceman a $4.28-4.44M defenceman next year. That’s why I think if he is signed to a $5M×6-8 year deal it is only a slight overpay today but would prefer a bridge in the $3.5M×2 range because the team needs cap relief now. With the cap continuing to rise and Nurse adding a bit more offence he will probably be in line for a $5.5-6M longterm deal in 2 years. There isn’t going to be another expansion team for at least 2 years and with a struggling Canadian dollar the cap isn’t going to be making another 11% jump over the next 2 years like it did over the last 2.

    • TKB2677

      I am a fan of Klefbom but you are right, he’s constantly hurt. When he is healthy, he’s really good, he just can’t stay healthy. I personally would keep him for this season and see what happens. He’s supposedly had the same shoulder injury for many years and now they cleaned it out and he’s fully healed. If he returns to the dman we saw in the 16-17 season, then you got a really good dman on a dirt cheap contract. In theory, he should be able to be that dman.

  • Arfguy

    I’m not yelling “VICTORY!” due to the AAV, but Matt Benning is a pretty good defenceman, IMO. I think he gets a lot of undue flak. I think he skates pretty well and has a pretty good shot. I do not like his tendency to go to his backhand when attempting to clear the zone. That is one thing I would really address, but I think he’s got an offensive upside that should be explored.

    I’d probably want to give him $600K less than what he got, but this contract will not cripple the organization.

  • DrillExpat

    I like the signing for value and depth. Now if they can figure out how to use him on the PP, as he is able to get the puck to the net on a consistent basis.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I like the signing, hopefully it turns into a value contract for the team. I did kinda figure he’d be a trade chip though.

    Hopefully PC doesn’t ink Strome to more than a 1 year deal.

    Nurse, I’m going to say both sides give a bit and he signs for 3.8×4 Not quite a bridge deal but not long term either.