One of the biggest things the Edmonton Oilers have to deal with this offseason is re-signing Matt Benning.
Sure, the Oilers are in need of a top-six winger and likely a new goaltender amongst others, but Benning has been a consistent rearguard for the club and is in need of a new deal.
First, let’s look at the player the Oilers have. Edmonton brought in Benning under Peter Chiarelli in 2016-17 as a free agent and has been a strong addition to the Oilers backend.
He’s posted strong offensive numbers averaging 20 points per 82 games and has posted very good goal rates. He’s not flashy, and while he doesn’t play a whole lot, Benning has given Edmonton a solid third-pairing defenceman.
During the last three seasons at 5v5, Benning has ranked 18th among NHL defenceman with over 2300 minutes played in goals for percentage with a 54.87 — a far cry from the next ranked Oilers D in Darnell Nurse, who ranks 75th with a GF% of 49.43.
While doing a very good job in limited goals against in total while on the ice, Benning is particularly skilled in defending high danger areas. In the same time frame mentioned for his GF%, Benning has allowed only 45 high danger goals against which ranks 5th amongst all NHL defencemen in that time frame.
While his shot rates are a near wash at 49.63 at 5v5 over the last three years his ability to defend has shown his immense value to the Edmonton Oilers moving forward. Benning still tends to be a scapegoat for what are some at-time obvious blunders on the ice.
But the numbers truly don’t lie, and Benning has shown his ability to contribute.
This year Benning has been hit with the injury bug and has missed about half of the games played due to concussions something that isn’t a good sign for any NHL’er.
But at only 25 years old he still has age on his side and one can only hope he’s able to rebound from this recent spate of injuries. As it stands he’s missed the last month, but it sounds like he’s getting closer to returning to play. The Athletic’s Jonathan Willis tweeted Sunday that Benning has been skating in Edmonton and is nearing a return to play with the possibility of returning this road trip.
Truth be told, the Oilers are a better team with Benning in the lineup and I would be curious to see how he handles an increased role given he’s played only 13:42 per game this year — a far cry from his career average before this season of 16:17.
When the season’s over, Benning is going to be due a new contract and the Oilers shouldn’t shy away from re-signing him for all the reasons mentioned above. He has become a valuable part of this Oilers blueline and should rightly have a regular spot in the Oilers lineup.
But what do you pay for a strong defenceman who doesn’t provide a ton of offensive upside? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to look at signing him to a multi-year deal paying him in the $2.5-million range.
It would be a moderate raise from the $1.9-million he’s making this season and would give him the ability to still cash in on a bigger deal a few seasons down the road.
On Twitter: @zjlaing