GM Ken Holland has decisions to make on 3 Edmonton Oilers RFA d-men

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Conclusion: Hold. If there’s a trade market, and he refuses to take a lower cap on a two-year deal, a trade could well be in order. 

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Bruce McCurdy on Matt Benning

Right shot defenders of Benning’s age (26), experience, and history of outscoring have value, but is it $2 million? After suffering a couple of head injuries in 2019-20, he was used sparingly by coach Dave Tippett, but in his limited minutes Edmonton outscored their opponents by 23-16 at 5v5, a nifty 59% goal share. This after previous years of 57%, 52% and 56%. Over his four seasons he ranked 2nd, 2nd, 1st, and 1st on the club among regular d-men (600+ minutes) in this important category.

If his base qualifying amount was, say, $1.5 million rather than $2.0, it would be a simpler decision to make the offer. But with the current cap crunch, can the Oil afford such an investment in their #6 defender?

A quick look at the two active teams in Edmonton, Stanley Cup finalists Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning, shows a variety of experienced defencemen playing lesser minutes — Zach Bogosian, Braydon Coburn, Jan Rutta, Andrej Sekera (remember him?) and the opted-out Roman Polak, all in the general range of $1.5 million. Matt Benning earned more than all of them in 2019-20, setting a high bar for future, now current, negotiations. Thanks, Pete.

Conclusion: Similar to my take on Andreas Athanasiou, “hold” long enough to try to negotiate an extension at a lower price, commensurate with the value of a 15-minute-a-night third pairing guy. Two years would be useful for expansion draft purposes. If that doesn’t fly, look for a trade. The attributes listed above have no small appeal for a number of NHL teams, if they have cap room to manoeuvre. The last resort is to “fold” entirely, perhaps opening a spot for a cheaper, internal solution at 3RD like Evan Bouchard.

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