Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning admitted on Monday that his club would have interest in bringing misfit Winnipeg Jets power forward, local kid and former Vancouver Giant Evander Kane home.
“We can’t really talk about other teams players,” Benning said during an appearance on TSN 1040 before proceeding to do just that. “But we would be interested for sure.”
Well if that isn’t a clear indication, what is?
The first thing to unpack is whether or not Benning’s comments qualify as tampering. It’s hard to know for sure since NHL bylaw 15 is sealed (and unfortunatey wasn’t among the NHL bylaws publicly revealed as a result of Bill Daly’s disclosure in Arizona State bankruptcy court back in 2009). I think NBC’s Mike Halford is likely right when he leans on the Brian Burke acquittal from the summer of 2009 as a precedent to argue that this is unlikely to ruffle feathers at the league office:
There may be accusations of tampering. The NHL is pretty stringent when it comes to talking about players on other teams; in 2009, Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson was found guilty of tampering and fined an undisclosed amount after he expressed interest in Vancouver forwards Henrik and Daniel Sedin — before they reached free agency.
That said, the Kane situation deals with a player currently under contract, which may not constitute tampering. Around the same time as the Sedin incident of ’09, the Canucks also filed a separate charge after then-Leafs GM Brian Burke appeared on television and discussed a rumored Vancouver-Tampa Bay trade.
NHL deputy commissioner called Burke’s actions “unfortunate and inappropriate,” but explained they didn’t constitute tampering under league rules.
Tampering or not, it’s a stunning – if not exactly shocking – admission from the Canucks’ general manager. It also could serve Vancouver’s interests, if you’ll permit me to put on my Darby Shaw ball cap.
Consider what Jason Botchford wrote in his Provies on Monday about the Don Meehan/Newport Sports Agency x-factor when it comes to Vancouver’s now explicit interest in Kane:
Kane may not have a NTC, but that doesn’t mean Meehan doesn’t have significant sway on which way this goes.
One of the rationalizations for Kane’s behaviour in Winnipeg is he wanted out.
So how are things going to be any better if he gets traded to, say, Buffalo and wants out of there too? They won’t be.
A team for which Kane doesn’t want to play would have to be clueless to trade for him. That’s the best bet I’ve heard of how the Kane market gets whittled down.
So let’s put together the pieces. If Kane’s camp is willing to make it known that Vancouver is the only place where the 23-year-old power forward would agree to toe the company line, maybe other suitors get scared off and the local kid falls into former Meehan clients Benning’s and Linden’s lap. It’s incredibly farfetched, actually it’s flat out silly, but if you’re Vancouver, sending some signals of interest Kane’s way is worth a shot, right?
It might be, but Occam’s razor should probably be considered here. A far more compelling explanation is that this was unintentional on Benning’s part. While Benning has improved enormously at conversing with the media in his first year with the Canucks, it’s still not exactly his strong suit. His interviews remain peppered with “y’knows” and “real goods” and “and stuffs.”
Amusingly – because it adds a fun layer to this already extraordinarily convoluted conspiracy theory – Benning discussed in his interview on Monday that the intensity and volume of his interactions with the media was the biggest change he’s experienced in his rookie year as a general manager.
“I’ve had to deal with the media a little bit more than even Pete did in Boston because it’s a Canadian market and the fans are so passionate here,” Benning responded when asked about the learning curve he’s dealt with as a first-year general manager.
As for what we can expect from Benning at the trade deadline, the Canucks executive suggested that deals may be tough to work out this year.
“It’s hard to say,” Benning replied to a question about what he expects to go down at the March 2nd NHL Trade deadline. “I’ve talked to other general managers and there’s some uncertainty next year with the Canadian dollar, where the salary cap is going to go too, but if we can do things to make our team better now and in the future then we’re going to look at them and we’ll see where it goes.”