On this day in 2016, the Edmonton Oilers signed Matt Benning
25 days ago
On this day in 2016, the Edmonton Oilers signed free agent defenceman Matt Benning from Northeastern University to a two-year entry-level contract.
Some of you may know the story behind how Benning wound up signing with the Oilers, but for those of you who don’t, buckle up.
Benning was an up-and-coming right-shot defenceman known for effectively using his size ahead of the 2012 NHL draft, catching the eye of Boston Bruins general manager at the time, Peter Chiarelli. The Bruins organization drafted the blueliner in the sixth round, 175th overall, but were discouraged when Benning opted to take the academic route and headed to Northeastern University in Boston as a member of the Howling Huskies men’s ice hockey team, resulting in him becoming a free agent.
Benning spent three years with the Howling Huskies, scoring nine goals and 56 points and winning a Hockey East title in 2015-16. Finally, after replacing Craig MacTavish as the Oilers’ general manager, Chiarelli called Benning to finally make him a part of his team. The deal was almost a no-brainer for the St. Albert, AB native; he could play for his home team, the team he grew up watching, and the team his father, Brian Benning, played for in 1992-93.
“I am really excited to be a part of an organization that’s in my hometown and that I watched growing up,” Benning told media at the time of the event. “I’m just really excited for the opportunity and just appreciate how the Oilers trust in me and signed me.”
That year, the Oilers seemed particularly interested in college prospects, signing forwards Drake Caggiula, Patrick Russell, and goaltender Nick Ellis alongside Benning.
Benning excelled immediately, making the roster straight out of training camp, scoring three goals and 15 points while averaging nearly 17 minutes a night. He remained with the club for four years, signing his contract extension in 2018 with a $1.9 million AAV. The blueliner scored 15 goals and 61 points in blue and orange over 248 games, but in 2020, he became a restricted free agent, taking a qualifying two-year offer worth a million a year from the Nashville Predators.
He stayed in Nashville for two years, scoring one goal and 15 points over 118 games before joining the San Jose Sharks for last year’s 2022-23 campaign. He signed as a free agent with the Sharks inking a four-year deal paying him a $1.25-million AAV.
Benning established himself as a solid blueliner for the Oilers who wasn’t overly flashy or competitive as he got comfortable on the team’s third line. Edmonton allowed him to play for his hometown in front of friends and family, but as time moved on, so did he.
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