Sam Bennett was traded to the Florida Panthers with a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft by the Calgary Flames on Monday for Emil Heineman and a second-round pick in 2022.
Bennett is in the final season of a two-year, $5.1 million contract ($2.55 million average annual value) he signed with the Flames on July 24, 2019 and can be a restricted free agent. The 24-year-old forward has scored 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 38 games this season.
“He’s a guy who projects probably a little more on the wing than center and has had maybe a little more success there, but really can play across the spectrum in the lineup and up and down,” Panthers general manager Bill Zito said. “And we’ll just have to see how and where the coaches deploy him.”
The Panthers (26-12-4) are third in the eight-team Discover Central Division, two points behind the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. The top four teams in each of the four divisions will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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Florida acquired defenseman Brandon Montour in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres on April 10 for a third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. The Panthers sent forwards Brett Connolly and Henrik Borgstrom, defenseman Riley Stillman and a seventh-round pick in 2021 to the Chicago Blackhawks on April 8 for defenseman Lucas Carlsson and forward Lucas Wallmark.
The Panthers are without defenseman Aaron Ekblad because of a fractured left leg. He was expected to be out 12 weeks after having surgery March 29.
“I think it was certainly a need as we looked over the last few games,” Zito said. “We brought in Matt Kiersted and he’s done a real good job for us. Montour is a guy that we had watched for some time and liked what he brought, so it wasn’t just to fill the minutes. He’s a pretty good player and we think he’s got some upside as well.”
Bennett, who reportedly requested a trade in late January, has been a healthy scratch three times and was benched in another game this season. Those were each with Geoff Ward as coach. Ward was fired March 4 and replaced with Darryl Sutter.
“I’m not going to get into all that stuff,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said. “Obviously we dealt with the issue earlier in the year. We’ve got a good relationship with Sam. We think a lot of the young man.
“We had a long discussion today. I think if you could do things over in life … I know I’ve probably got a few re-dos out there, probably everybody does … it could’ve been handled a little bit differently. I don’t put that on Sam. I think at the end of the day, Sam worked hard here. That was never an issue. But I think he’s going to embrace a fresh start and we wish him all the best.”
Selected by Calgary in the first round (No. 4) of the 2014 NHL Draft, Bennett has scored 140 points (67 goals, 73 assists) in 402 regular-season games and 19 points (11 goals, eight assists) in 30 playoff games.
“He’s good kid, he’s a real good kid, but you also have to make business decisions,” Treliving said. “We made one here. We had a good chat and always told him if there’s anything I can ever do for him moving forward…you like to have that relationship with your players but at the end of the day you have to make business calls. That’s the job when you’re sitting in the seat and that’s what we did today.
The Flames (17-21-3) are fifth in the seven-team Scotia North Division, six points behind the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens. They traded goalie David Rittich to the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 11 for a third-round pick in 2022.
“It [stinks] when you move players out,” Treliving said. “But you have to do what’s right for the organization. In both cases you hate seeing people leave, but I’m real happy with the return we received.”
Heineman was selected by the Panthers in the second round (No. 43) of the 2020 NHL Draft. The 19-year-old forward has scored 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 43 games this season for Leksands in the Swedish Hockey League.
NHL independent correspondents Alain Poupart and Aaron Vickers contributed to this report