“It just worked out and lined up so well.”
That’s how UFA Matt Benning described how quickly things came together between himself and the San Jose Sharks on the first day of free agency on Jul. 13.
According to Benning, the Sharks were the first team to reach out, and immediately at the outset of free agency. San Jose was not the only team to reach out, but the organization showed their commitment by being first in line and offering a long-term contract to Benning.
Benning says #SJSharks were the first team to call when free agency began: "A few teams [were] interested but San Jose was the most interested right out of the gate. They really wanted me, so right away, that was really exciting to me."
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) July 19, 2022
The 28-year-old defenseman, now with his fourth NHL organization, is happy to receive some term after three consecutive two-year deals. GM Mike Grier, on the other hand, gave Benning a four-year contract with a $1.25 million dollar AAV.
“I’ve got a family and two kids,” Benning said of his pregnant wife Janelle and son Miles. “I think, for us, we’re excited to get down there and get settled.”
As for the role Benning says he can take on for the San Jose Sharks, he said a lot of the conversations revolved around leadership. Benning is just looking to add to a solid group, “There’s a core group of guys there that I’m sure are going the right things.”
Benning will also be entrusted with protecting a lead and shutting down opponents. Noting that he typically has filled a third-pairing role during his NHL tenure, he reminded everyone that he did play first and second-pairing minutes at times throughout the 2021-22 season. While it was due to injuries on the Nashville Predators roster, Benning knows he has an opportunity to play a bigger role in San Jose following the Brent Burns trade to the Carolina Hurricanes.
“That’s healthy compétition,” he said, “and that’s what is going to push this team to be a playoff contender.”
Losing Burns offensively leaves a hole on the blue line, but Benning isn’t concerned: “Guys have to pick up and guys will get good opportunities and do well with it. We’ve got some offensive guys on the backend that will help pick up the slack.”
But first things first: Benning is going to have a chat with fellow new Shark and former playoff rival Nico Sturm on the first day of training camp.
New Sharks center Nico Sturm said he has a torn UCL in his elbow, which is why he missed time during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. No surgery needed. He's started his prep for next season.
According to a quick twitter search, the guy who hit him on the play was … Matt Benning.
— Corey Masisak (@cmasisak22) July 18, 2022
“I caught him pretty good there. First thing I’m gonna do is apologize, and hopefully, his wrist is okay,” Benning said with a smile. Benning could smile because he knows that Sturm is okay: Sturm came back later in the playoffs and won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche.
Someone else that Benning is looking forward to seeing? Fellow former Pred Luke Kunin, traded to the Sharks during the most recent Draft.
“He’s a pit bull back there. He’s a firecracker” Benning said. “He’s an unbelievable teammate. He’s going to be a great piece in the locker room, for sure.”
Like Grier’s plan or not for the San Jose Sharks, it sounds like the Sharks will have a few of those in the upcoming season.
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