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.