The Toronto Maple Leafs have nabbed a depth defenseman in veteran Jordie Benn, signing him to a one-year, $750,000 contract.
The Maple Leafs‘ unsettled defensive depth chart became more unsettled on Thursday night with a flurry of signings in Victor Mete (more on him here) and now Jordie Benn. The contract will pay Benn the league minimum for just one year, which makes sense for a player who is soon to be 35 years old.
In trading for Benn, the Leafs are adding something that they were clearly coveting after Ilya Lyubushkin departed yesterday to sign with the Buffalo Sabres: a bigger, veteran defenseman who could play the right side. Kyle Dubas said as much in yesterday’s press conference. While Benn is not a right shot, he has spent plenty of shifts on the right side opposite more skilled partners (including Quinn Hughes for a time in Vancouver).
Benn, like younger brother Jamie, is a native of Victoria, BC. Jordie went the BCHL route, playing in Victoria before signing in the ECHL as an undrafted player. He logged a season in that league as well as the Central Hockey League before moving up to the Texas Stars of the AHL. After 2.5 seasons in the AHL, Benn finally got his crack at the NHL during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season at age 25.
Benn spent five seasons in Dallas with his brother before a trade in February 2017 to the Montreal Canadiens for a draft pick and NHL/AHL tweener Greg Pateryn. From then on, Benn spent a half-decade getting passed around Canada, including stops in Montreal, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. He was traded to the Jets at last season’s deadline prior to their short playoff run before signing with Minnesota last offseason.
This past season for the Wild, Benn served as the seventh defenseman, getting into 39 games at 14:59 per night and recording one goal and eight assists along with 10 penalty minutes. Benn’s underlying numbers were dreadful and have not been particularly good since 2018-19 with the Habs (that year was also his career-high in points with 22), but he is not paid like an everyday player anymore.
At his peak in the mid-to-late-2010s, Benn was known for his rugged and effective defensive game, limiting chances and shot attempts against while playing a role on the penalty kill averaging 18 or so minutes per night. He played more of a fringe role on the PK for the Wild last season, averaging 51 seconds of shorthanded ice time per game.
The other component of Benn’s game that stands out is his passing. While he’s never been a high-end puck-mover or a defenseman who played with the puck all that much, Benn’s primary shot assist numbers were elite as long as recently as a couple of years ago. Even his primary assists/60 numbers are still very good over a weighted sample of the past three seasons. In other words, Benn doesn’t touch the puck much, but when he does, he has a knack for making a good pass.
All together, Jordie Benn is a defense-focused defenseman who is a ghost of his former self but has some versatility to play both sides (potentially on the PK) and isn’t horrible moving the puck. Mobility and defending the rush at his age are major problems, but if the plan is for Benn to play sparingly in the NHL and in small roles, he probably will be serviceable at that.
At 6’2″, 199 lbs., Benn offers ideal size for a blueliner as well and compares favorably to some of Toronto’s smaller defenders in that regard, with more of an inclination to hit, block shots, and generally make life hard on the opposition around the crease.
Signing Benn and Mete has bolstered the defensive depth in the system between the AHL and NHL, but you have to wonder if a trade could be looming. The Leafs still have seven defensemen at the NHL level from last season in Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, TJ Brodie, Rasmus Sandin, Mark Giordano, Timothy Liljegren, and Justin Holl, in addition to Victor Mete and Jordie Benn signed today. If the Leafs need Benn to be the seventh defenseman because they’re trading somebody, that would make sense. If they are planning to stash him in the AHL, he would need to pass through waivers first to join the Marlies.
Jordan Benn Statistics
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