Trade Rumours: Benning Ready to Call a Friend

Recently, there has been a ton of chatter about the potential that Jim Benning may make a move with his old beantown buddies. Before the Christmas break, Elliote Friedman speculated the Bruins may have interest in Zack Kassian. This sparked Joe Haggerty to wonder whether the Bruins would make a bigger move centered around Loui Eriksson and Kevin Bieksa. Jason Botchford touched on the rumours in the Provies mentioning that the Canucks most likely trade assets are Chris Higgins, Zack Kassian, and Eddie Lack. 

With all the chatter swirling around, let’s take a deeper look at potential scenarios after the jump. 

Motivating Factors

The Bruins have a lot of work to do on the salary cap front before next summer. They have only 13 players under contract for next year, but already have $56.6M committed. Assuming the cap ends up being around $72M, this leaves them with $20.4M to sign 11 players after excluding Marc Savard’s $4M AAV salary. This sounds like a lot of money, but when you consider they have to sign two of their top 4 defensemen (Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug), their first line right winger (Reilly Smith), Carl Soderberg, who has been their second-line center for much of the season while David Krejci was injured, and backup goalie Niklas Svedberg, who has been excellent, it’s clear that something has to give. 

Adam McQuiad and Matt Bartkowski are also unsigned for 2015-16 and have been playing significant minutes on the B’s backline when Zdeno Chara was injured. The Bruins are also currently 9th in the Eastern conference, and have been struggling putting pucks in the net this year, so there is definitely interest in bolstering their forward group as well as retooling their 2015-16 salary cap situation. 

On the other hand, while the Canucks are clearly a middle of the pack team at best, management seems committed to go all in to make the playoffs this year. While I think its likely the Canucks will squeak into the playoffs, in order to have any chance in making it anywhere they’d have to improve in pretty much every area, so its hard to narrow down exactly what they’d be looking for. 

First, its probably worth setting some basic assumptions. I do not expect the Bruins to move anyone from their core (Bergeron, Smith, Marchand, Lucic, Krejci, Chara, Hamilton, Rask). The Smith-Bergeron-Marchand line has been one of the most dominant possession lines in the league, and play together ~83% of the time at evens. There’s no way the Bruins are messing with this chemistry. Similarly, David Krejci has missed a significant portion of the year due to injury, but while he’s been healthy he’s played 89% of his even strength shifts with Milan Lucic in which time they’ve posted 53.3% Corsi. In contrast, when paired with Carl Soderberg as his center, Lucic posted a 48% Corsi. It shouldn’t be understated the impact a healthy David Krejci will have on Lucic, and by extension the Bruins, production. 

On the blueline, Doogie Hamilton is quickly establishing himself as a high-end defender at both ends of the ice, and when healthy, Zdeno Chara continues to perform at an elite level. It goes without saying that the Bruins have no interest in moving the reigning Vezina trophy winner. So where does that leave us?

The Targets

Player Position TOI Quartile ES TOI ES CF% ES CF Rel ES P/60
Dennis Seidenberg (NTC) D 1st pair 18.6 50.1 -3.6 0.7
Torey Krug D 2nd pair 16.7 53 2.3 1
Matt Bartkowski D 3rd pair 15.2 52.3 0.9 0.7
Carl Soderberg C 1st line 14.2 52.2 -0.2 1.9
Loui Eriksson (NTC) R 1st line 13.6 53.5 1.7 1.4

Dennis Seidenberg

If there was one player that the Bruins should want to get rid of, it’s Dennis Seidenberg. Seidenberg hasn’t had a positive even strength corsi, relative to his teamates, season since 2008-09. His even strength -3.6 corsi relative for the current year places him amongst the lowest defensemen in the league for those defensemen receiving top pairing minutes, which is Jack Johnson territory. He’s currently 33, and signed at a $4M AAV through the 2017-18 season, so its quite likely that we’ll continue to see his play deteriorate. This contract looks bad now, but will be an absolute millstone going forward, which makes it unlikely the Canucks would want him, regardless of whether or not Seidenberg would waive his no trade clause to come to Vancouver. Benning should want no part of this one. 

Loui Eriksson

Eriksson is signed through the 2015-16 season at a $4.25M AAV, so moving his contract would go a long way to helping the Bruins sign their core young players in the summer. His possession numbers are slightly above average for a player receiving 1st line minutes, however his corsi relative to his peers is below the midpoint of forwards receiving first line minutes. Basically, he’s an average possession player for a top-six forward, which is okay. 

The real area of concern is his even strength P/60 which at 1.49/60 this season is below average for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd line forwards. Notably, its also lower than eight Canucks forwards, including Brad Richardson and Zack Kassian, and essentially tied with Shawn Matthias and Derek Dorsett. Fortunately, Eriksson has traditionally been a more prolific scorer than this, but his scoring rate from 2012-14 was still nearly identical to that of Kassian, Matthias, Chris Higgins, and Jannik Hansen.

As with Seidenberg, Loui Eriksson has a NTC, but given the way things have gone for him since coming to Boston in the Tyler Seguin trades, its not out of the realm of possibility that he may be up for a change in scenery. The only issue is its pretty hard to argue that he would actually be an upgrade to the Canucks top 9. Just like Seidenberg, I’m not saying they won’t trade for Eriksson, just that they probably shouldn’t. Eriksson’s days of being “the most underrated player in the NHL” are long behind him. 

Carl Soderberg

Soderberg has actually had a pretty good season for the Bruins, and currently is third amongst Bruins forwards in Pts/60 behind Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and about average for those players receiving first-line minutes. His possession numbers are decent (slightly above average corsi for 1st line players, but slightly below average corsi relative to his teamates). The issue with Soderberg is that with Krejci back in the lineup, the Bruins have been able to move Soderberg back to the third line, which makes them pretty strong down the middle. 

While they will likely not be able to resign him in the summer, my suspicion would be that they’d rather keep Soderberg for the playoffs given the importance of strength down the middle. From the Canucks perspective, Nick Bonino has actually posted comparable possession figures (CF% 52.2, CF Rel 2.9) with better a P/60 at 2.7. There’s no doubt that Soderberg would be an upgrade over Brad Richardson, but I can’t see the Canucks trading away an asset of any significance for a short-term rental upgrade to their third line center. 

Matt Bartkowski

If there’s any roster that I’d expect the Bruins to move its Matt Bartkowski. At 26, this is the first year that Bartkowski has been able to stick at the NHL level, and when he’s been in the lineup he’s received minutes consistent with a 4/5 defensemen. For that utilization, he’s posted better than average possession metrics, both in terms of even strength corsi (52.3%) and relative to his teammates (0.9). In fact, the only Canucks defensemen to post better corsi numbers than Bartkowski this year are Chris Tanev and Alex Edler. The caution flag is that he’s only played 16 games this year, and has been a healthy scratch on many occasions, so he really hasn’t played nearly enough time to reasonably conclude on his talent level. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Bartkowski ends up in a Canucks jersey should Benning and Chiarelli make a deal.

Torey Krug

Krug managed to score 40 points last year in his rookie year and has followed that this year by posted excellent possession metrics in a second pairing role. From where I sit, it very much looks like Krug has a long-term future as a top four defender, and the only reason I would think he’d be available is if the Bruins think they’ll be unable to sign him in the summer given the amounts that will have to be allocated to Smith and Hamilton’s new deals. I seriously doubt he’s available, but if he is, the Canucks should put in a big push here. 

Prospects 

Hockey’s Future has them ranked as the 22nd overall in terms of team prospect depth, so there’s not a ton to choose from. 2014 first round pick David Pastnak has wildly exceeded expectations so far in his first year in the AHL, posting a point a game, and I think its pretty unlikely that they’ll move him. Ryan Spooner (22) and Alex Khokhlachev (21) haven’t been able to establish themselves at the NHL level as of yet, despite having success in the AHL. Seth Griffith (21) has played 25 games so far in his rookie year for the Bruins, basically with 4th line minutes and 4th line production. You won’t be hearing his name in any Calder trophy discussions. 

The unfortunate reality for both Canucks and Bruins fans is that in the years that Benning contributed to the Bruin’s draft (2007-2013) the only picks they had which have impressive success at the NHL level are Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, both of which were consensus, no-brainer picks at the spots they were selected

Conclusion

Other than Torey Krug, which seems the most unlikely to happen, there’s really not much I can get excited about in terms of trade options with the Bruins. If the players on the move include guys like Kassian and Higgins, then it seems very unlikely that Vancouver will be able to either address a need or improve their roster for this season and the future.

That said, this new Canucks management team has telegraphed every single big move they’ve made. The Benning signing, Ryan Kesler trade to Anaheim, and Ryan Miller were all widely speculated in the media before the moves were announced. The current trade chatter is reminiscent of those deals so it’s not unreasonable to conclude that a trade with the Bruins is a distinct possibility.

  • Young Oil

    Higgins + Weber/Stanton (doubt they would bite at Sbisa) for Bartowski. May need to exchange later picks too.

    Clears room for Kassian or Vey to compete for second line, although likely Hansen takes it while Kassian-Richardson-Matthias make a mean possession line.

    Edler – Tanev
    Hammer – Juice
    Bartowski – Weber/Stanton

    Sbisa as the 7th D. Ideally Stanton is the piece moved and Weber is #6. Bart challenges Bieksa for ice time.

  • Young Oil

    Like every other team with theoretical cap issues, the Bruins will dump salary in the offseason.

    If Kassian is traded, it would be for a draft pick and/or B prospect.

    “its hard to narrow down exactly what they’d be looking for.”

    “so there’s not a ton to choose from”

    No…

  • Andy

    Can hardly wait for Benning to trade a quality positive possession Canucks player for a negative possession bottom pairing dman or depth roster forward. that’s how it works in his world right?

    After the trades Bennings already made in the Canucksorg, how can anyone in their right mind trust him to make another trade? Not to mention this team is no where close to a playoff contender so why on earth would you make any trades now? Additionally, it’s so incredibly funny that the second Bennign traded Garrison, I posted on Canucks army “In a few months, he’ll be looking to acquire another d-man. But since you don’t acquire quality d-men without giving up a lot (unless you’re Benning trading Garrions for nothing) – they’ll give up an arm and a leg to acquire another d-man when they should have just kept Garrison”.

    Bennings made a mess of this roster. He’s made a mockery of his own trading skills in the NHl now everyones eager to do business with him so they can rob him blind. How’s that Seguin trade looking Benning? Oh that Kesler one? Or the Garison one? Oh and that Miller signing?
    Camana people. This guy is not to be trusted.

    • Young Oil

      Oh please forget all of the contingencies that went in to the Kesler trade, or that Garrison was terrible last year, or that Peter Chiarelli is and was the GM of the Bruins at.the time of the Seguin trade.

      Yes, have a complete emotional innaccurate hissy-fit here on CA.

      • Young Oil

        Good one Money. Let’s not also forget that Iginla contract/bonus Chiarelli signed last year that strapped his team this year.

        Also, we get a quality Defenceman back at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, in Hamhuis. We don’t have to make a move at all for this to happen.

    • elvis15

      Seeing as how Garrison was a complete disaster every time the puck came near him last year I was surprised Benning even got a 2nd rounder for him with that ridiculous contract he has. He should have used it on Roland Mckeown but that’s another story…

  • Young Oil

    Really hoping Benning would be able to make a move for Krug or Bartkowski. The Canucks blue line isn’t getting any younger and I don’t realistically see anyone from our farm system making a significant impact in the next couple of years.

  • Young Oil

    I don’t see how the Canucks benefit from dealing with the Bruins. I wouldn’t deal Kassian for Krug and Krug is the only player that I’d be interested in. Perhaps some other deal for Krug but then the Bruins also have cap issues. I’d put together a larger deal for a Dougy Hamilton but I don’t see them dealing him.

    Honestly, I’d like to see the Canucks deal away Higgins and Vrbata if the return was right. Pitt wanted a scoring winger so maybe something can happen with them.

    I think the Canucks may move out some vets at the trade deadline and not much else gets done.

    • pheenster

      I think you’ve been ignoring the message that Linden and Co. have been sending since their first day on the job. This team is going to make the playoffs because that’s what the people who buy season’s tickets (i.e. not you and me and most of the others on this blog) demand. And really, why not? This team has next to no shot at a generational talent like McJesus no matter how bad they get, and while we can all argue about how good they actually are realistically they were never that bad, not with teams like Buffalo, Carolina and Edmonton around.

      There will be no sell-off of vets at the trade deadline, not unless the team falls apart between now and then which seems highly unlikely under Desjardins. Best case scenario for all of us non-financially-invested folk is Benning making some shrewd moves to make the team younger, withe the outside chance of robbing some team a la Forsberg. And those things do happen. They just never seem to benefit us.

  • pheenster

    One thing to keep in mind: if the Seguin trade shows us anything, it’s that Peter Chiarelli and Jim Benning place a high value on intangibles and while I’m sure they use advanced stats as a data point they’re certainly not the cornerstone of their decision making process. The video of the (monumentally stupid) decision to trade Seguin indicates that that trade was done on gut feel as much as anything else.

    One only hopes that Benning has learned from that and Chiarelli hasn’t…

    (h/t to NM00 for inspiring me to end my post with an ellipsis)

    • Andy

      and as NM00 would say – it’s delusional to imagine that Seguin matures and has that much more playing time on a Boston team that has chaperones for him on away games and has him as the 3C behind Bergeron & Krejci….

      • Andy

        True.

        But that doesn’t justify giving away Seguin for Eriksson+.

        To be honest, I think a trade that would have made a lot of sense would have been Seguin for Hall.

        Although I suspect Edmonton’s front office would (delusionally) have no part of it…

  • pheenster

    This article, while interesting probably is just entertaining conjecture.

    Kassian is 23 and ended last year well and was improving before he got hurt. I also doubt Juice will be traded since he is an important cog especially with Hammy out for who knows how long?

    The only piece I could see the Bs wanting to move is Erikkson and how would he help the Canucks? He played well with the Twins a couple of years back when the Swedes won the World Champs… But that was on international ice. He wouldn’t be an improvement over Vrbata.

    If Lack gets it going, then I could see Benning exploring that avenue, because Markstrom has played well in Utica.

    Bottom line this team has complied points in a tough Western Conference and when they get above average goaltending, the Canucks have won. When Hammy comes back, Sbisa drops out of Top 4 and I am sure the goaltending will improve. Sbisa and Weber take a lot of chances and that doesn’t help Miller or Lack.

  • elvis15

    While much of the big moves were telegraphed to a point, no one really expected Vrbata as a significant target and he was a surprise to some extent. The lesser moves like Dorsett and Vey, made off the back of other deals, weren’t expected either. It’s those lesser moves that will be what happens, if anything, when Benning signs off on a deal.

    I like Krug, but his weakness 5 on 5 and defensively is a drawback. That said, our PP would benefit from him and maybe that’s enough since we could still use the help unless we suddenly get a contribution from our current depth (put Sanguinetti in for a game please!). Subban is similar but too far away. Hutton is closer but may not be the rushing D we’ve been looking for. McNally’s a long shot but has shown glimpses. Pedan and Tryamkin’s big shots aren’t enough to fill the void that’s been open since Ehrhoff left.

    I guess we’ll see as I don’t really see any of the others I’d want (Hamilton and Smith) being options.

    • Andy

      I believe Vrbata has been a success. He has 13 goals and that’s pretty good! While the totals have been down, that’s not too hard imagine since Teams adapt. The real challenge will be for the coaching staff to make adjustments. This happens in playoff series also, so having to readjust now will not be a bad thing.

      Vey has been below average in my opinion since I had higher hopes for him to be more consistent game to game. Points aren’t bad but almost all are on the PP.

      Dorsett is up there with Vrbata for me. He brings energy every night and drops the gloves whenever called upon. He skates well and has underrated offensive skill. For a third round pick the Canucks got a player they haven’t had since Raffi Torres.

      This Canucks team has been a great surprise in my eyes. I have been disappointed during the slide, especially with some of the goaltending problems. Miller takes chances and having a Dcorps that also takes chances will end up with some bad nights.

      Coach Willies first challenges are front and present. A lateral trade to shake things up won’t help anything. If Benning makes a move, it will be for a long term improvement. I can’t see him trading young guys for short term vet. He has a plan to support the “aging/experienced” core… Not to add to the experience.

      Hammy’s return will help a lot!

  • elvis15

    Who are the Canucks and what do they need?
    The Canucks have an aging core that needs replacing over the next 2-3 years. This is their most pressing need. What could Boston offer the Canucks that would lead to the replacement of top 6 forwards or top 4 defense that wouldn’t mean giving up a prospect who would likely develop into one of those players anyways? Answer? I don’t see it.
    I see improvement in this club from this point coming from drafting and developing.

  • Andy

    Can hardly wait for Benning to trade a quality positive possession Canucks player for a negative possession bottom pairing dman or depth roster forward. that’s how it works in his world right?

    After the trades Bennings already made in the Canucksorg, how can anyone in their right mind trust him to make another trade? Not to mention this team is no where close to a playoff contender so why on earth would you make any trades now? Additionally, it’s so incredibly funny that the second Bennign traded Garrison, I posted on Canucks army “In a few months, he’ll be looking to acquire another d-man. But since you don’t acquire quality d-men without giving up a lot (unless you’re Benning trading Garrions for nothing) – they’ll give up an arm and a leg to acquire another d-man when they should have just kept Garrison”.

    Bennings made a mess of this roster. He’s made a mockery of his own trading skills in the NHl now everyones eager to do business with him so they can rob him blind. How’s that Seguin trade looking Benning? Oh that Kesler one? Or the Garison one? Oh and that Miller signing? Camana people. This guy is not to be trusted.

    #7 NM00

    Wow, that is the funniest comment I have ever read! Benning at least as most people know wasn’t in charge in Boston, Cherrelli is and so putting Seguin on Benning is hilarious, as is Kesler trade which is damn good considering you had a Prima Donna player who demanded a trade and then limited his team to trade him to the Ducks basically as he said no to a couple of better deals for Canucks due to refusal to go to those particular cities do to get Bonino and Sbisa who are both loaded with potential and WANT to be in Vancouver is a great trade and add in the draft pick which Benning turned into Dorsett who is also a great pick up and somebody is dense enough to criticize this? Garrison hugely over paid weak defensively had to go and nobody was going to be dumb enough to give up anyone for him another Gillis gem, Miller gives us legitimate goaltending and will take us to the next young great prospect in Demko, Benning was always second in command now he’s the man, he’s cleaning up Gillis mess and will continue to do well, go Canucks

  • Andy

    If I’m Benning I’d probably do that one. Could bite us in the arse if Kassian rounds into form but Krug will be as good as Rafalski.

    I’d love to see the Canucks try and pry Lucic away. Kassian and a first, which could be a top 15 to a top 10 pick? Peter?