McKenzie: Canucks won’t part with futures to upgrade patchwork defense corps

Has trader Jim gone conservative on us?

Rookie Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning made splash after splash at the 2014 NHL Draft, remaking his new club in his own image with astonishing, trigger happy aggression. His initial flurry of action behind him it would appear that Benning is settling in to play the long game, and is unwilling to part with any significant futures in an attempt to chase a short-term upgrade before the March 2 NHL trade deadline.

This posture became apparent when Benning refused to include young roster players like Bo Horvat and prospects like Jake Virtanen and Jarred McCann in half-hearted trade talks with the Winnipeg Jets concerning Evander Kane. We should perhaps expect Benning’s newfound conservatism to continue over the next couple of week.

In an appearance on TSN 1040 on Tuesday morning TSN’s Bob McKenzie was asked what he thought the Canucks might do to address their depleted defense-corps, a group that played without injured blue-liners Kevin Bieksa, Chris Tanev, Alex Edler and Frank Corrado on Monday night. 

McKenzie opined that Benning was unlikely to do anything that cost him a draft pick or a prospect:

Obviously they would like to try and patch things up a little bit, but again it comes back to are you going to give up assets – significant assets for a short-term situation?

Yet the gravity of the situation is that they potentially might not make the playoffs because of those injuries.

So you have to weigh that. If you’re Jim Benning, and my guess is, you hold onto your assets, you promote the guys from within, you try and get the whole team to compensate for the loss of guys on the blue-line and you try and tough it out. Get these guys back one at a time and hope that you’re still where you want to be without having given up prime assets. I just can’t see them giving up significant draft picks.

Now if you can add maybe a guy on waivers or somebody whose not expensive at all that you can get for basically a song that you think can fill in. And that player is disposable – that you can get rid of them easy enough without a cap impact, then sure you look at those things, but it’s tough to find those type of players.

As we’ve documented at length in this space in the recent past, the Canucks – for several years now – have been trying to have it all. This is an organization that’s intent on competing every year and also rebuilding for the future. It’s a touch balancing act.

If Benning has the leeway from ownership to hang on to the prospect group he’s amassed (and inherited), then that’s obviously the play. The market for defenders like Jeff Petry and Andrej Sekera – quality pieces who would help the club enormously – is likely to be extremely competitive. If you’re not giving up key assets in pursuit of a 23-year-old Vancouver native like Kane, it obviously doesn’t make sense to cash in those chips for defensive help.

If the cavalry isn’t coming, then the club will just have to hope that Edler, Tanev, Bieksa and Corrado can get back into the lineup soon. Though the likes of Yannick Weber, Ryan Stanton and Alex Biega had excellent games on Monday night, eventually using Weber (Canucks edition) as a first pairing defender is likely to catch up to a team. 

As for when Tanev, Edler, Bieksa and Corrado might be returning, the team is playing it close to the vest. Benning described Tanev as day-to-day and Edler as week-to-week on Monday, but the Utica Comets also recalled defender Jeremie Blain from the Kalamazoo Red Wings of the ECHL, an indication that Vancouver’s AHL affiliate is preparing to be without Biega for a while.

  • Larionov18

    My guess is he makes a hockey trade involving Richardson and Mathias when Bonino and Richardson are healthy. Rather lose Bonino than Mathias but Bonino has a great contract and who knows how much and for how long a new contract will cost for Mathias.

    • Larionov18

      Richardson yes can go as Bo can replace him now. Matthias I would like to see if we can resign him to something reasonable.

      Bonino isn’t going anywhere for a few years not just cause of the contract but he was the center piece to the Kesler trade and wont let him go just yet.

      I think Richardson and one of Higgens or Hansen need to go.

      Dorsett is a MUST resign.

      oh and that NM00 seems like a warped dude. multiple personality disorder or what?

      hi NM00!!

      • Larionov18

        I do not believe Bonino will go but I would rather have Mathias. His speed and size are nice. Bonino is smaller and slower. He was great to start…what happened to him? I know he is injured now but prior he was doing nothing. Hansen should stay but Higgy should be made available. Starting to get that Ballard and Raymond package feeling that should have brought back the missing top 6…lol.

          • Larionov18

            No I am starting to Like sbisa( I have a tendency to give up on guys early) . He has been much better lately and he is the right age. I was joking as many callers on the team a few years ago were hoping a package containing Ballard, Booth and Raymond could fetch something of value back.Its going to be a tough call at the deadline. I feel it will be a hockey trade or he will be a seller depending on the return. Love to get Pouliot out of Pit

        • allsportsfan

          I agree with most of this. Mathias has now shown us he can play center with some hard nosed going to the net and if he continues playing like this would be a hard center to play against as a 2B line center for the next few years.

          Bonino I’d love for Benning to sell as a power play specialist like he was in ANA last year to a willing taker. I just don’t see him being able to keep up, I think Horvat, with some confidence now looks quicker than Bonino did, Mathias is definitely faster than Bonino.

          We have too many 3rd liners so as much as I like Higgins and Hansen, one or both could go for picks to increase our prospect pool to give ourselves a chance to develop some good players like Detroit, Chicago, ANA, or LA. They’ve all developed talent via the draft.

          Miller I’d be willing to let go at the deadline if there was a taker. If Melanson thinks that the tandem of Lack/Marstrom could handle the NHL then by relieving us of Miller’s $4.5 million ($6m less Markstrom’s salary) then we could find that young RFA or top 6 forward to go along with Virtanen next year to be mentored by the Sedins so we have another 1st line hopefully in 2 years ie. Sean Monahan Calgary or Tavares, Strome in NYI

          We have to rebuild, the current core all had to learn to be NHL’ers and the Nucks sucked back then.

          • acg5151

            Not sure Matthias is a 2nd line center, but he would probably be a decent 3rd liner on a contender, which is where he is here – kind of weird. I think next year Horvat is going to snag that third line spot and after that he will keep moving up the roster. Matthias will probably stay as a winger, and Richardson will probably be our 4th line center for a while which honestly isn’t bad, he isn’t a bad player. I was against keeping Horvat in the lineup but he is getting better and at this point he is an NHL caliber player, so not sure that there is any point playing him in juniors. Maybe it would be good next year to play Horvat as a top line C in the AHL, in which case Matthias could be our third line center and do reasonably well.

            Either way, I think Bonino is a little over his head as a second line center.

          • allsportsfan

            @acg5151

            That’s why I said Mathias could be 2B center and not necessarily a #2 center. I think he’s a better option right now than Bonino, we all see Mathias playing some of his best hockey now that he’s back at his natural center spot.

            Richardson I think won’t be resigned for what he wants and Horvat has improved immensely that he might be able to fill the #3 role next year which would be good for his development.

            I think you’ll see Mccann/Cassels be in the AHL next year to learn to be a pro players and should take a few years to develop, which is the whole reason behind getting those draft picks in exchange for our plethora of third liners we have.

            The results are that we will probably be a team on the cusp of making the playoffs for the next few years until the next round of prospects become NHL players. At least that’s our hope.

            The Sedins had Naslund, Bert, and Morrison be the #1 line so all they had to be was learn to be a good #2 line. The WCE eventually went away and Sedins #1 line. We need that succession plan because we don’t have that Crosby, Malkin, Toews, Kane, type of talent to surround.

  • Steampuck

    The next couple of weeks are gonna hurt. But I’ve been okay with standing pat, even if guys like Kane and Franson were on my long term wish list. With Kane, if he really wants to return to Vancouver, there’s likely a free agency option in a couple of years without risking prospects in the short term (not that we could realistically have matched Buffalo’s offer). Also: more audition to see if he’s the real deal or the second coming of David Booth. Franson would be a nice add this week, but not worth selling the farm.

    Maybe Richardson departs for a second/third pick. Or Higgins—in spite of the lower production, I can see him appealing to a team needing a third liner with speed, gumption, and some better than average hands. I’d be sorry to see him go, but he can’t be part of the long term plan. I don’t see anyone else exiting anytime soon.

    By the trade deadline, this team is either clinging to a playoff spot or is picking high. I still don’t see any reason why it’s not the former. San Jose looks vulnerable. The Kings/Wild may be getting it together, but maybe not. Calgary’s Calgary. Indirectly, of course (by default), the Canucks are getting younger…

  • Larionov18

    Defensive names to target for the Canucks to shore things up while still building long-term:

    1. Simon Despres
    2. Brian Dumoulin
    3. Scott Harrington.

    Hey, I hear the Penguins might want to make a run this year and may be willing to buy a couple rentals to up their odds.

    Time to call Jim Rutherford.

  • allsportsfan

    I’m glad Benning is not selling the farm. It’s important to show current players, young guys, and potential future Canucks (UFA) that the team is committed to winning and being the best they can be, otherwise you may end up with a situation like Edmonton?

    I too think that Higgins isn’t in the long term plans but like the leadership he provides. Perhaps they don’t do anything this trade deadline, which is fine by me. I would be pleasantly surprised if they could find a way to make Miller happy somewhere else.

  • I 100% have faith in TraderJim. He is going to have this team back competing within 2 years. Hopefully in 2 years the Sedins will be our second line then 2 more years we will have to start looking for a new second line to replace the Sedins when they retire in 4 years.

    As for this year I have no faith this team can take a serious run at the Cup. And I am totally 100 % ok with that. So trading draft picks or prospects would be a huge mistake. And no way does GMJB do that.

    • RandomScrub

      …and who would these new first liners be? It would be seriously beating the odds if more than one of Virtanen/McCann/Shinkaruk become first liners at all, nevermind in two years. We all know 2nd line is an optimistic view on Horvat’s ceiling. The Canucks don’t seem likely to be drafting in the top 10 this upcoming draft, nevermind the top 2, so… who?

  • Larionov18

    “As we’ve documented at length in this space in the recent past, the Canucks – for several years now – have been trying to have it all. This is an organization that’s intent on competing every year and also rebuilding for the future. It’s a touch balancing act.”

    False. Genius commenters know how to balance this act with examples derived only with hindsight.

  • Larionov18

    To the criminal masterminds pretending to be NM00

    Your childish parody only proves that nm00 has bested you in a battle of wit.

    And, your childish behaviour means that this site will soon require verified logins in order to post, or they will begin moderating and banning IP addresses who post under multiple user names.

    Congratulations. You have ruined a goos thing for the rest of us.
    All because you were out-smarted by a random internet troll.
    Bravo.

    Larionov18, i’m looking at you.

  • ikillchicken

    Yeah, obviously we’re not going to replace Edler. We’re gonna have to suffer through that situation. Top 4 D men are just too hard to come by. Beyond that though, I actually feel pretty okay about our defense believe it or not. Edler and Tanev are a very viable top pairing. Hamhuis is still a rock and a solid way to anchor a second pairing. Meanwhile Corrado, Weber, and now Clendening have all looked serviceable if not downright good. And they’re all quite young and will only get better.

    That said, there is one thing I’d like to see happen: I’d like to see us make another deal similar to the Clendening trade except for a left hand shooter. Someone who’s still pretty green and isn’t a T4 guy right now and as such won’t cost much but can shore up our depth a little and be an asset long term as they develop. After all, Hamhuis isn’t getting any younger and Sbisa continues to be the place were good hockey goes to die.

    Otherwise though, defense really isn’t my prime concern. Our defense should be reasonably competitive a year or two down the road. Our forward group is where we really need to retool.

  • RandomScrub

    There really is no need to start and over pay for blue line help, especially with youth.

    Hansen has had a very good bounce back year and could take Higgins place once Richardson and Bonino get back. A package of Higgins and Lack may get a descent Dman, but if not… Let guys Sbisa and Biega prove themselves. If Tanev and Edler get back sooner than later, all will be well.

  • RandomScrub

    This is the 1st sensical sentence I’ve heard fem Benning since he came to Van. Of course, had he not traded Garrison for a bag of potato chips – Canucks wouldn’t be in this situation. Now they have to deal without so many d-men, as they do every season for the last 6 years. Had Benning done his research, he would have known this. Instead, we have to witness Sbisa in the Top 4 again. Oh god.

    But at least he’s not willing to give up the Canucks future to get knocked out in the 1st round. Canucks fans don’t want to deal with this again. We’ve seen it too long. It’s timer to get the rebuild going here in Van. Enough is enough.

    • acg5151

      The Garrison trade was done for cap reasons – we were tight against the cap and needed some flexibility. Could we have achieved cap savings in some other way? It’s certainly possible. However, we were able to make some moves that gave us forward depth for the first time in a few years in part because of this trade. Jason Garrison was a decent defenseman who had a rough time in Vancouver the past couple of years, and he would have helped our defense out considerably.

      But one thing – no one expected Vancouver to compete for a playoff spot this year. Everyone thought the Sedins were going to decline, no one thought Bonino was going to be good, everyone thought our defense would just not be good enough, and people didn’t think Miller could rise to the occasion. So far, those people have been proven wrong and we are in a playoff spot with a team that is pretty middling in terms of advanced stats, and in terms of normal stats. So it wasn’t unreasonable for Benning to dump Garrison off on a contender for a future to save cap space and swap that future for a decent prospect, who is getting better.

      • ikillchicken

        That’s a bit of a revisionist history there. Garrison had a pretty ugly 2013/2014 season (as a lot of guys did) but he had a pretty strong 2012/2013 season, posting a 53.3 CF%, second best of any Canucks D. And based on his play in Tampa it’s certainly looking like it was that second year that was the exception. I mean, look, I don’t *hate* the Garrison trade. At the very least it made some sense at the time. A guy with a hefty cap hit, 4 years left on his deal, a very limited track record of actual NHL effectiveness, and he was pushing 30… Yeah, there was certainly a case to be made that we were better off getting out from under that deal while we could. I think there’s also a pretty strong argument that, in retrospect at least, we’d gladly undo that deal though. His cap hit isn’t cheap but it’s more or less worth it. I don’t really have a great deal of sympathy for the cap space argument either when we used that space to add players like Sbisa and Miller.

  • ikillchicken

    Horvat is the future 2nd line, in a Kesler mould. Sure, he needs to shoot a bit more, but as far as a reliable shut-down with some substantial potential offensive upside, this was an excellent return for Schneider.

    The questions are Shink/McCann/Virt. If two of the three can become 1/2L forwards then we’re good till the Sedins retire, at which point should have some more filler talent in the wings.

    Very little return seems to come from trading in the NHL these days – it’s almost always done for cap reasons – so the key has to be drafting smart and nurturing effectively. Like, say, every successful team in the NHL seems to do (notable exception perhaps being LA)

    • allsportsfan

      I think that Shink could be a good #3 liner to start, McCann says he’s moulded his game to be like Kessler and Virt is our potential #1 power forward.

      It’s the other prospects where we need to find out if they can form out the top 9.

  • allsportsfan

    The column and the comments raised three things for me. First, why the dis for Weber, look at his numbers this year, he has done quite well in all statistical categories, yes he is not a first pair, but could play 2nd pair in a pinch and is a fine third pair d. Second, The players who I believe they could trade or not resign this year are: Higgins (he seems done),Richardson, (good player but Horvat more upside), Kassian (may sometime grow up, but not here), Vey (just does not have the intensity). Bieksa (he is aging before our eyes -great leader but replaceable), Sbisa or Stanton (one has to go). Next year I hope Miller and Lack will split 50-50. Finally, what is with this LA pumping going on. They are one of the worst teams on the road in the league and they spend most of the last month and a half on the road. Yes they won 4 in a row, at home, but not against exceptionally tough teams. Their d is questionable without Mitchell and Voynov. The only way it could get worse is if they get Phaneuf, then they will definitely not make the playoffs.

  • acg5151

    I agree lets not mortgage the future for a short term fix.
    I think it would better long term for this team to miss the play-offs this year and stockpile more picks and prospects.Keep auditioning some of the young talent.
    Realistically does anyone think we have a hope in hell in a 7 game series against the likes of Nashville, St Louis, Chicago, Anaheim or even LA if they wake up and make the play-offs.One win in the last 3 years just proves we need more than a re-tool on the fly to make a serious run.