New Jersey Devils: Beau Bennett Was A Failed Experiment And Nobody Knows Why

Beau Bennett #8 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Beau Bennett #8 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images) /

Over the weekend, former New Jersey Devils forward Beau Bennett announced he was retiring from the NHL. He wrote on Twitter that he was leaving professional hockey to join an organization called Pro Mentor in order to teach youth hockey players how to make it to the next level. It’s a great cause to give his time, so it’s nice to see Bennett doing something with his early retirement.

One thing that stood out is the lack of “thank yous” for the Devils in his three-page letter. He specifically thanked the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he won his Stanley Cup Championship. He also thanked some of his youth coaches, his junior team, the University of Denver, and of course his family. His parents got an especially long thank you, and that’s because parents have to give up so much to get their kids into professional hockey.

This just brings us back to the moment the Devils traded a 3rd-round pick to get Bennett on a roster that was rapidly getting younger. Bennett was trying to prove he could stay healthy on a Penguins roster that needed to make decisions on the future next to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Bennett was a 1st-round pick in 2010, so getting him six years later for a 3rd rounder seemed like smart asset management.

The Devils played Bennett in 65 games in 2016-17. He only scored 19 points, but he was an analytical darling. This was a team that just got Taylor Hall on the roster and had a budding Kyle Palmieri and Adam Henrique. Damon Severson broke out, and the Devils seemed like they were destined for better things under Ray Shero and John Hynes.

Speaking of analytics, Bennett was the best on the roster. Of all regulars in the lineup, Bennett had the best CorsiFor% of anyone. Yes, he was better than Hall. The main issue here was Bennett’s line was getting a ton of chances, but not a lot of them were of the high-danger variety. That is something that can be taught. Bennett needed more patience. Instead, the Devils gave up on him.

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After one season, the Devils decided not to protect him in the 2017 Vegas expansion draft. When the Golden Knights decided to take Jon Merrill, the Devils had a chance to give Bennett another chance for free. Then, they just let him go. For free. They didn’t even offer Bennett a qualifying offer.

Shero once spent a 1st-round pick on Bennett while he was with the Penguins, then he spent a 3rd-round pick for him the second he got the chance with the Devils. Then, after one season with him, he let him go for free? How does that happen?

What made even less sense was what happened next. He signed on the first day of free agency for $650,000 on a one-way deal with the Blues. He was 25 years old and had shown he can provide at the NHL level, but he didn’t make the money some might think he could. The next season, he only got six games with the St. Louis Blues and played 60 in the AHL. He scored 57 points in the AHL. The next season, he took a chance with the KHL by signing with the Dinamo Minsk. He only played five games. The next season he came back to the United States to play with Tuscon, the Arizona Coyotes’ AHL affiliate. There, he scored 40 points in 55 AHL games.

He didn’t even get to play hockey this season, and now his playing career is over. It will always be one of the more confusing situations during Shero’s tenure. This player seemed like he deserved an NHL shot, and once he did, there was a lot to like. Something didn’t work, and his career derailed completely. It’s still one of the great mysteries that’s hit this team during this era.