Canucks Trade Deadline 2015: Why the Canucks will be deadline buyers

With Vancouver’s unwillingness to part with a top prospect in a potential Evander Kane deal, some of the dialogue around the team seems to have shifted from “playoffs or bust” to beginning to plan for a future post-Sedin twins. Whether we want to believe it or not, the Vancouver Canucks are not a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in 2014-2015, and don’t project to be in 2015-2016 or a couple years beyond that either, so a succession plan is necessary. And given the success of younger players like Zack Kassian and Bo Horvat of late, the Smylosphere seems more and more open to being patient for a couple of seasons before handing the keys to Horvat and company.

Still, it’s unlikely that we see Jim Benning go all-in on the next era of the Canucks this season. If we were in charge of the team, we’d likely look to move pending UFAs Shawn Matthias, Derek Dorsett, and Brad Richardson at the deadline and turn the bottom end of the Canucks roster over to the Ronalds Kenins of the world, but we’re also not under the same pressures as Vancouver’s actual front office. There are certainly differing incentives at play for the people in charge of the team and us fans, and these different incentives could push the Canucks into making the decisions that don’t explicitly benefit them in the future.

Join us after the jump to explore some of the reasons why the Canucks could be buyers come trade deadline day.

As we’ve pointed out before, the Vancouver Canucks aren’t a young team by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, Jim Benning has added some youthful role players to the lineup in guys like Linden Vey and Adam Clendening, while Ronalds Kenins and Bo Horvat have grown into 4th-line roles, but the bulk of high-leverage roster spots in Vancouver are filled by players over the age of 30. And even though many of these guys are still very effective within their roles, we can’t count on them to remain that way forever, or even into the mid-term future.

In this sense, the window to compete isn’t just closing, but so is the window to remain a competitive team in the playoffs and reap the benefits of gate revenue generated from home playoff dates.

The Aquilini family has made a massive financial investment in the Vancouver Canucks, beyond the emotional investment that us fans make. As this is the case, they can’t treat the Canucks like a massive money sinkhole. They have to keep the business profitable, and in an environment where revenues are driven by ticket sales and corporate advertising partnerships, fans appear to be tuning out a non-competitive team. Vancouver’s sellout streak is long over, and promotions and ticket discounts seem to be happening with increasing frequency.

Vancouver’s operating costs also go well above and beyond the salary cap. We know that Mike Gillis was a progressive-to-a-fault GM and insisted on having the very best facilities for Vancouver. The fabled Mind Room, a new state-of-the-art dressing room, investing in sleep science and maximizing human performance – someone had to cut a cheque for all of these things. And oh yeah, that same someone had to cut a cheque for nearly $12 million this past offseason to hand Gillis and John Tortorella their walking papers.

The point is that the Aquilini’s have spent a ton of money over the past handful of years on the Canucks, and the long-term forecast of this franchise seems to indicate that making that money back is going to become increasingly more difficult as the core of this team ages. The playoffs are a huge opportunity for an economic windfall for the people directing Benning’s decisions on how to manage the team, and this may be one of the last opportunities in a while to go on a bit of a playoff run.

With the team currently missing their two best defencemen and both middle-6 centres, some of the relative mediocrity that’s been on display at times will be repaired with some patience and the miracles of modern medicine. Furthermore, Vancouver’s biggest areas of weakness appear to be sorting themselves out from within. The fourth line is no longer a possession sinkhole that gets caved in at even strength, and players not named “Sedin” are putting the puck in the net again.

If Bo Horvat truly has taken the step he appears to have taken and is capable of decent 3rd line duty right now, then the Canucks have already addressed their largest area of concern and turned the bottom end of their roster from an area of weakness to an area of strength. If the fully healthy team can break even by shot attempt metrics with the Sedins and Edler-Tanev on the bench, then there’s a good chance that they’re an above average squad at 5-on-5 with an elite penalty killing group and decent first unit powerplay.

Furthermore, “above average” may be all you need to get out of the Pacific division this season. The Kings have reeled eight consecutive wins and look poised to be dangerous again, but between Jon Quick’s struggles and their depth eroding a little bit, they’re very mortal. The Ducks and Sharks also aren’t significantly better than Vancouver at even strength as it is right now, and the Calgary Flames are a percentage-driven mirage that are likely to fall by the wayside.

There is a door open in the Pacific for a surprise winner this season, and a smart addition or two at the trade deadline could definitely help the Canucks step through it. As the core is getting older, the pressure could be on Jim Benning and company to do something at the expense of a small part of their future to help improve their chances at a good playoff run in 2015, and it’s not as if there’s no value for the fans in a good playoff run either. 

At the end of the day, we’re in this to be entertained and have fun. There’s no way I can express my sentiments better than Seattle Mariners writer Jeff Sullivan did upon Seattle being eliminated from postseason contention this past year, so I’ll let him sum it up:

An important, fundamental point to understand is that we aren’t really in this for championships. That would be stupid — if we were in this for championships, there wouldn’t be sports fans. That’s always a losing gamble. We aren’t in this for the ultimate triumph, in that the benefits are separate, but at the same time, what drives us is the belief that there could be a championship, sometime kind of soon. It’s all an exercise in misleading ourselves. Think of it like projections. We aren’t trying to get perfect player projections, and we wouldn’t want those anyway, because they’d ruin everything. We like that we’re wrong, all the time, but we always have to believe the projections are getting better, that we’re all getting a better idea of the future. 

What the Mariners didn’t deliver was a playoff berth. They didn’t bring home a title, or even a won series. Yet they generated playoff atmospheres. They generated memorable moments. They ended on a far better note than they could’ve, and don’t underestimate the significance of ending like this, instead of ending with the four wins and the five losses swapped around. That’s a marketing thing more than it’s a baseball thing, since baseball-wise it doesn’t matter, but our emotions are easily manipulated and in this way the Mariners get to head into the offseason as having won at the end. The Mariners didn’t provide everything they could’ve. Rather, they provided enough. Maybe more than enough. Maybe you think I set my standards too low, but how seriously do you really want to take this? The game’s entertainment, and the Mariners entertained, and the show’s over, and it was a good show. Could’ve been better, but I’ve seen a hell of a lot worse, and overall that was a fine way to pass the time.

The Canucks have a chance to do something this year, and they may not get a better chance to do something for a whole bunch more seasons beyond this one. And if they’re content taking the chance of doing something now, which ownership is already incentivized to do, rather than taking the chance to do something later, then Jim Benning will be a buyer come Monday’s trade deadline.

  • BrudnySeaby

    I think Benning wants to be neither a buyer or seller but an exchanger. Exchanging his excess of middle / bottom six forwards for a second winger, serviceable defencemen or prospects / picks via the “hockey trade”. Buying implies cashing in the future for a shot at the Cup now while selling implies tanking / complete rebuild. Exchanging means addressing areas of weakness from areas of strength. Using trades to make structural changes are still in play at the trade deadline, although more so in the offseason.

  • BrudnySeaby

    This year’s version of the Canucks will likely make the playoffs but barring a small miracle they will not get passed LA in round 1. So for all intents and purposes this year is a write off so it’s make any sense to be buying at this point.

    The management team has to take a seriously look at who they want to keep moving forward and try and move the players that are not part of the plan. They should be spare-parts sellers.

    • Ruprecht

      You make some solid points from time to time but you completely discredit yourself by posting something like this. If you are going to call them delusional at least back it up with your own thoughts and opinions and try to add something to the conversation.

      • Vanoxy

        NM00 is clearly one of the writers on this site. doing it leads to more page hits and comments.

        he comes is makes comments that he knows will piss us off. its smart actually but extremely annoying.

      • Vanoxy

        Please provide a link to where ShatOnTheBottomOfMyShoe00 makes a good point. It’s nice of the bloggers to try and stir the pot under the Cancer00 identity…well, not nice…it’s more childish than anything. It’d be nice if VillageIdiot00 went away forever 🙂

  • Ruprecht

    Small measured moves like what we saw in Clendening. A prospect for a prospect that is further along and might be lost within an organization. Nothing major until closer to the draft when everybody knows where the cap ceiling is. He is still working his way free from the shackles Gillis left behind.

  • Ruprecht

    I am liking the Canucks current hot streak but they don’t have the horses to go deep into the playoffs. The schedule gets tough again after the deadline and I have a feeling that’s when the team falters and becomes a maybe playoff team. Even if they do slip in, they don’t have the team to go far.

  • Vanoxy

    The young guys stepping up and weathering this injury streak means The Canucks will be able to add pieces before the playoffs without subtracting.

    A veteran D-man named Bieksa and a gritty C named Richardson are the kinds of guys playoff teams would love to add to bolster their depth, and we get to drop them into the lineup for free.

    The only moves I see Benning making would be a hockey-trade involving a guy like Higgins who is somewhat redundant now with the emergence of Kenins.

    The pending UFAs are all guys that Willie loves and who shouldn’t be too hard to re-sign since the roles they play here are better than the roles they would likely be given on any other playoff team.

    I expect a quiet deadline from Trader Jim, who will be more active at the draft when he cashes in on our goalie situation to some team that is desperate for a G.

  • wojohowitz

    Buying or selling at the deadline is all about PR and hype. Rarely does it make a difference. Much like the Canucks interest in Evander Kane. It was good PR to show interest but the Canucks were really not interested in a disruptive force.

    If Sir Benn is really as cautious and careful as he has appeared to be this season then he will do nothing other than express interest and let the media types sell their opinions as credible rather than ludicrous – like Kassian for Bartkowski.

    • Ruprecht

      So basically they were trolling Drance with Evander Kane…the hunter becomes the hunted.

      Seriously though, I couldn’t agree more. Speculation keeps teams relevant.

  • wojohowitz

    Its a good point. We might not be in the playoffs at all for the next few years, so we may as well enjoy this one. Benning has been clear though – he doesn’t want to trade prospects or picks, so I think the only trade we’ll see will involve Kassian (if there’s a trade at all).

  • Dirty30

    Bieksa Higgins Richardson (actually hate to see him go) and Vey (would love to see him gone) and a goalie (Miller please!!!) leaves room for contracts and some additions.

    • Dirty30

      I’m on a similar page. Unfortunately I don’t see Bieksa waiving even at management’s urging. We have a lot of forwards so it’d be nice to move Higgins and Richardson; Burrows would be another guy who could get you something if you eat some of the contract. Miller or Lack will be dealt over the summer (I hope).

      Vey is still a rookie so I am OK waiting on him for a bit. It might not be a bad idea to deal Bonino – he does not seem like a line 2 centre and we have a glut of forwards. Again, it all depends on the return.

      We don’t need to make huge moves all at once. It’d be nice to manage the assets a bit better. Deal these players for something – draft picks are fine or package them up for a solid prospect etc.

  • orcasfan

    As far as the idea that the Aquilinis have spent a ton investing in this team…you forgot to mention that their investment has paid huge dividends over that time! It has been estimated that the profit has been approximately $25mil per year (until last year). So, don’t feel too sorry for those guys, please!

    And, I believe that Torts had a buy-out clause in his contract that paid him much less. Not sure about Gillis’ contract.

    I do not see the Canucks being significant buyers. They might do a “hockey trade” for supporting cast, but nothing that will take realm assets.

  • orcasfan

    According to Friedman, Niemi is on the way out of San Jose and they are looking for a top goalie with term to solidify things in net there. Wouldn’t Miller be an ideal fit with his ties to California?

    If Lack and Markstrom show that they can carry the load down the stretch here I don’t see how Benning couldn’t try and unload Miller at the draft this summer. Even if it’s only a 2nd or 3rd round pick coming back you would have to consider that a good deal since we got him for nothing last summer and could free up $3-4 mill in cap space. It just makes too much sense.

    • allsportsfan

      I said this exact same theme in an earlier thread and with Miller out it’s audition time for both Lack and Markstrom. If they’re good then I’d be all for trading Miller and using that cap space to sign a young good RFA or FA scorer.

  • orcasfan

    According to Friedman, Niemi is on the way out of San Jose and they are looking for a top goalie with term to solidify things in net there. Wouldn’t Miller be an ideal fit with his ties to California?

    If Lack and Markstrom show that they can carry the load down the stretch here I don’t see how Benning couldn’t try and unload Miller at the draft this summer. Even if it’s only a 2nd or 3rd round pick coming back you would have to consider that a good deal since we got him for nothing last summer and could free up $3-4 mill in cap space. It just makes too much sense.

  • orcasfan

    I’m not sure the Pacific is wide open. The thing is, at this rate, the Canucks will be playing the Kings in the first round. As much as it saddens me to say, it will be painful and everything done / not done at the trade deadline will be seen in the light of a fast exit from the playoffs.

  • Ruprecht

    Bieksa would waive. He’d be too proud to stick around if it was clear they didn’t want him. And with the blocking spree he knows what a lot of fans think. But forcing a guy like that out would go down badly with the team.

    Yeah, it’s sports and you’ve got to be ruthless trying to win, but there’s an emotional side too. If we’d decided to tank he wouldn’t have bailed on the team. I guess I’d show him the same loyalty. (And I’d be a terrible GM).

  • acg5151

    I think this year there is nothing wrong with pushing for the playoff berth, but I’m not sure we will be able to make it consistently the next few years. Once we really are having a rough start to a season and we go like 5-10 or something, I think that’s the time to start really tearing it down.

    That being said, I would like the Canucks to keep Ronald Kenins up.

  • acg5151

    I agree with a lot of the sentiments. But I do not see anything at the trade line, except maybe letting Higgins go East to free a roster spot. I would resign all three forwards on short term 2 year deals. If one has to go, I think it should be Richardson. This summer I would try and deal Bieksa, Higgins (if he is still here) and Miller to San Jose (they need a goalie, d-men and third line forwards). I also noticed some fear about playing LA, why, unless the zebras put the whistles away completely. LA is slow and Sekera is an okay dman. LA sucks on the road and we hopefully would have the extra home game. Not only that I think we can come close to their hit totals with Dorsett, Kenins etc.

  • acg5151

    Trade day is the most overhyped day in the NHL calendar. Zack Kassian has been making one of his rare appearances when he is focussed and awesome. So maybe some gm will think his team has the secret ingredient to make Kass the power forward he could be if he weren’t a space cadet useless as a skating spectator 70 per cent of his playing time.

    Maybe Coach Willie can figure out a schedule of benchings and healthy scratches to keep Kassian angry enough he brings his game half the time.

  • allsportsfan

    So when Benning traded our 2nd round pick to LA for Vey look what that’s turned out to be today.

    LA traded that 2nd round pick, Roland Mckeown and a 1st round pick to CAR for Andre Sekera. Not a bad trade for LA they traded Vey for a NHL dman or CAR got a great trade.

    I’m leaning on trading Vey in the offseason unless he can gain about 10 lbs of muscle and can get quicker.