Minutes after informing us that Andreas Athanasiou is still considering a move to the KHL, Darren Dreger of TSN reports that Calgary Flames’ forward Sam Bennett could consider a similar move until he can reach a contract with the team. Bennett and the Flames still have a “sizable gap” in terms of his next contract, after an up-and-down first few years in the NHL. Again, this could be an agent—notably Darren Ferris, who also represents Athanasiou—creating leverage for his client, but those reports usually come out earlier in the summer. Now there is just over a week until training camps begin, and the two should be relatively close on contract terms.
Bennett is coming off a season in which he registered only 26 points, and has still yet to breakthrough in the NHL. Though he’s clearly good enough to stay in the checking center role that Calgary has deployed him in, his fourth-overall draft position means the team should expect much more. Many fans were hoping for a breakout this season if given the opportunity, but it could be delayed if he’s not able to reach an agreement.
While starting the year in Europe would technically make him available for the Olympics, it would mean giving up his entire season. Restricted free agents must sign by December 1st in order to be eligible to play for the rest of the season, which is obviously too early for the Olympic team. It seems doubtful that Bennett would miss much time, as Calgary is poised to be a Stanley Cup contender this season and need the center depth that Bennett provides. While there may be a sizable gap now, it’s unlikely negotiations would last deep into the season.