Canucks’ Jim Benning sets off fire storm, admits club has called to inquire about P.K. Subban

Photo Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports

In silly season terms, this is as silly as it gets.

Following up on reports from TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger, the sitting general manager of a team in a huge Canadian market admits on the radio that he’s called to inquire about a super-duper star playing in another huge Canadian market. Even if Canucks general manager Jim Benning admitted that a deal was “nowhere close”, this is sort of news that can shake the host city in the lead up to the draft.

And indeed it has. As I write this, every media luminary in hockey is loitering around the Hyatt Regency lobby waiting for Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin to address the press. Benning’s candid admission on TSN 1040 on Thursday has put the Canadiens executive in something of a difficult spot. 

Will Bergevin duck the questions and give us some “people call about good players and the only reason they’re calling about P.K. is that his no-trade clause kicks in on July 1” boilerplate? Or will he admit that his club is at least considering the possibility of parting with a perennial Norris Trophy candidate?

Here’s the thing about Subban: there’s pretty much no price to high to pay for him. The Canadiens blue liner is a superstar who plays a premium position and can contribute in every phase of the game. Need a potent right-handed bomb from the point: Subban’s your man. Need a matchup defender who can control play against the best in the world: Subban can do that. He’s also a supremely admirable citizen and an incomparable box office draw. 

He’s the sort of player that fans of whichever team employs him can pinch themselves and think “wow it’s crazy that I get to root for P.K. Subban 82 games a year”.

If Subban is actually on the market it’s hard to imagine that the Canucks would have the asset war chest required to outbid teams like the Edmonton Oilers – who have been explicit about their interest in acquiring a stud right-handed shooting blue liner. For Vancouver to even get in the game you’d have to start with the fifth-overall pick, and probably add Chris Tanev, and then add Bo Horvat and even then you’re still not going to be able to compete with a team like Edmonton once players like Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins enter the equation.

And Benning has already admitted that the price on Subban is going to be astronomical.

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“Yeah, we’ve been one of the teams that have talked to them,” Benning said, per TSN 1040. It’s a high price, but he’s a true No. 1 defenseman.”

Meanwhile Matt Sekeres adds that negotiations are expected to be ongoing throughout the evening. So buckle up.

Benning often talks about how rare a commodity the true No. 1 defenseman is in this league. By his estimation, there are only about 12 of them leaguewide. Generally speaking, those players are drafted and developed by the organizations lucky enough to employ them. The exceptions to this rule are extraordinarily rare. The Boston Bruins signed Zdeno Chara in unrestricted free agency, the Minnesota Wild did the same with Ryan Suter, and the San Jose Sharks traded for Brent Burns. I’m just listing exceptions to the rule off the top of my head, but that’s about it for the last decade.

All of which is to say that opportunities to acquire a player of Subban’s ilk are rare. And that’s partly why there is no price that’s too high. If you get the chance, you do everything you can to acquire a player of Subban’s calibre and work out the details later. 

We’ll see how this plays out in the hours and days to come. Maybe Subban remains in Montreal, or maybe an epic bidding war is about to ensue. We’ll know more about Begevin addresses the media, probably, but it’s certainly beginning to look like this situation is about more than just ‘teams are innocuously calling to ask casually about a great player and it leaks out to the media’, with folks like Travis Yost hearing from his front office sources that the Subban trade talk is “real”.

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Whether anything ultimately comes of this or not, the looming spectre of a piece like Subban being in play has certainly enlivened draft week in Buffalo.

  • JuiceBox

    Making a mountain out of a mole hill. Of course JB kicked the tires, why wouldn’t he?

    Apparently when the Oilers inquired about Subban the price was Draisaitl and the 4th overall pick as a starting point.

    The Canucks have nobody in the same class as Draisaitl but anything is possible I guess. If Dubios is available at #5 and the Canucks are willing to part with Virtanen + Hutton (both of whom would become redundant after the trade + signing of Lucic) then I guess a deal could be made…..

    • Dirty30

      Not sure that you could take on Subban’s salary and pay Lucic.

      Therein lies the problem with giving up assets like the 5th pick and Hutton and Virtanen…. Now you have to pay big bucks to replace those assets.

      $10 mil per for PK and probably $6 mil for Lucic.

      Maybe you give up the first pick and Gunbranson for PK but only if you slip the offer sheet to Bergervan while he’s laughing hysterically.

      Edmonton can outbid any offer made.

      Any offer.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    How about the #5 pick, Tanev, Hansen, Brisbois (spelling?) and the second round pick from CBJ (2017 or 18) for Subban and #9? Alternatively keep talking to the Habs in order to jack up the price to the Oil?

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    JB wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t kick the tires.

    Look why don’t we just secretly swap our Subban, for their Subban. That would probably confuse the heck out of everyone, and maybe no one would notice that we made off with a Norris winner in the shuffle.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    I like what Benning has done here. Given the perception (and mostly reality) that he overpays in trades, he is driving up the price and could prevent the Oilers from taking him. God would that be awful. I would love Subban on the team (top 3 dman in the league IMO) but the price will be way too severe for us to pay. I hope we get Dubois but given our franchise’s luck in general and this draft process specifically, I can’t give my hopes up 🙂

    • TheRealRusty

      Wicked smart pickup on the JB possibility. Didn’t even see that. Would be funny if indeed he wanted to blockade those discussions till July 1. Question is… is JB that smart? =)

      • TrueBlue

        The only problem with that logic is that it could also force Bergevin’s hand to make a trade now that he’s been outed as potentially shopping Subban.

        Could it make him more willing to pull the trigger on a trade knowing he’ll have a boatload of questions to answer in Montreal if Subban stays after all this public exposure?

  • The_Blueline

    There’s a couple things totally, completely wrong with this:

    First, there’s nothing wrong with kicking the tires on any and every trade possible in the effort to improve your club. As mentioned before, if you don’t then you’re not doing your job. Joe Thornton got traded to San Jose because someone kicked the tires when no one else knew he was available, Ryan Smyth was traded to the NY Islanders when no one else knew that he was available…that’s just being a good, shrewd, smart GM.

    However, even casually commenting on a player that’s being paid by another team is very rare and incredibly crass thing to do. Brian Burke is very adamant about not doing exactly that and that’s the only thing he does that I completely agree with. Vancouver got all worked up when Ron Wilson made comments about signing the Sedins just prior to free agency years ago and were claiming it was tampering….and they were right. How is what Benning is doing not the same thing? Now Bergevin has a lot of questions to answer and it’s remarkably classless to put the man in that position, and Subban as well.

    Trading away picks or prospects, even to gain a player like Subban, is not the answer. The only way we’re getting out of this funk and back towards the promised land is to draft, develop, and retain our new young core players and then follow the yellow brick road…not coughing up a king’s ransom for a star player. He’s not a superhero, he has enormous talent but also enormous flaws, and Montreal was still helpless when Price got injured. Has anyone fought with his coach and fellow teammates as much as Subban has over the last few years? Has anyone ever? We as an organization aren’t in a position where making this trade is worth it. Not even close.

    Subban would look really sexy on a powerplay run by the Sedins but in 3-4 years time, when the Sedins aren’t around anymore, we’re really going to regret our chance to draft top line players to replace them with. And we can’t flip Subban for a cure for that because he’s got a no-trade clause. For 6 years.

    Please draft Dubois if Montreal doesn’t trade for Edmonton’s pick, Tkachuck if they do, and let’s focus on doing this the right way like Benning has been adamant that he’s been doing all along. This is not the right move for us.

    • TheRealRusty

      It’s completely different because in that situation, the comment was about free agent players to be, not a guy with a long term contract. Oh, and Brian Burke was exonerated from any wrong doing, but in fact did make comments about the Sedin twins that the Canucks asked the league to review. The day the league comes down hard on Burke for anything is the day that I’m an astronaut.

    • Dirty30

      Benning is not tampering. The Sedins were being persued as upcoming free agents and Burkie and Co jumped the gun..BAD BURKIE…talking trade is totally different.

  • Rolland

    A big silly fuss about SFA, Benning is probably on the phone all day chatting with other GMs. That is what GMs do around this time of year, keep abreast of things, pick brains and kick tires.
    Sports media need something to write about and everything is a stretch and speculation.

    It’s amusing that suddenly Lucic is almost signed and Subban is the next target. Oh and Stamkos too!
    This is my favorite time of year without a doubt.

  • Harry2

    Driving up the price only works if you have the assets to at least match what Edm has to offer which Van doesnt.

    Theres no combination of picks or prospects on Van that would convince MTL to make a trade.

    Do you honestly believe MTL would take a 5th overall Tanev and Horvat? Even if you added Virtanen its still not even close.

  • oilbaron

    As an oiler fan living in Edmonton and a season seat holder, I’m tired of sucking balls.
    I WANT THIS TRADE and am willing to part with a hole hell of allot to get him.
    This is what I would do and I’ve been saying it for weeks now over at oilers nation and on message boards around the Internet. Some like it some don’t but I think it benefits both teams.
    Hall/RNH + Klefbom + Yakupov + # 4 for Subban + #9.
    Edmonton gets the 1st pair RHD we’ve been looking for, for over a decade at 9m per.
    Edmonton gets the opportunity to draft a potential top 2 Dman in sergachev at #9 to replace the loss of Klefbom on the Left side depth chart.
    Montreal gets a first line winger/center in Hall or RNH, I’d try for RNH but really think they wouldn’t go for it.
    They get a very promising top 4 Dman with the potential to get stronger.
    They get a RW who’s had great success playing with Alex Galchenyuk in Sarnia
    And the get the chance to pick Dubois 4th overall, a French Canadian kid that has said its his dream to see MTL trade up to get him.
    Montreal takes on an additional 3.5 in Cap room and Edmonton saves the equilivant.
    This also gives the oilers the room to sign a Lucic or Okposo to augment the loss of Hall/RNH on offense.
    What do you think?

  • oilbaron

    I really think that part of MTL’s reason to accept a Subban trade is to save more money on the CAP, so by taking on additional money in proposed trade, I don’t think would fly with them.

  • TheRealRusty

    Doesn’t GMJB remind anyone if that nice elderly uncle in your family that isn’t too bright or that rookie poker player with more poker chips than sense? Our only saving grace is that he is some sort of idiot savant when it comes to drafting…

    • detox

      I think your uncle is trying not to make you look bad…

      Cut JB some slack, see how the season goes, hopefully we won’t have so many key players injured and we will see what kind of team he has built.

  • Harry2

    While the Oilers have the cumulative assets to trump the Canucks, it is important to note what they do not have: a top 4 right handed defenseman.

    Does Montreal want to completely decimate their blueline even if it yields Draisaitl or the fourth pick?

    The Canucks have Tanev or Gudbranson to offer as one piece in exchange.

    The Oilers have nobody like that.

    Vancouver is in a terrific position to, at the very least, drive up the price for the Oilers.

  • krutov

    For the love of god JB, pulease think long term and keep your only decent pick you have this year. You’re a frickin Gomer Pyle idiot the other GM’s love taking lunch money from. Decent scout? Maybe. GM? Useless.

  • The_Blueline

    Why would anyone not love Subban on our team? It would hurt to give any of Hutton, Bo or Jake thou. Edler/Tanev and #5 for Subban and #9 any day.

    IMHO it won’t happen. First, why would Montreal trade with Canucks, when they still have the risk that Dubois is taken @4 pick? Also, Oiler assets are much juicier.

    I agree with many posters that GMJB is just trying to make the deal for the Oilers more expensive. Well done, Jim!

    • oilbaron

      Absolutely ridiculous horvat will be captain of the Canucks, subban is disliked by his teammates and is over paid and hugely overrated last time I looked hamuis played more in Olympics and he’s not on the world cup roster I believe, all flash no D, therien sits him regularily in key defensive situations

      • oilbaron

        Well then I think you might need to get your eyes checked. Subban, at the very least, is a bonafide top 15 defenseman in the world and an elite level player who plays with garbage D partners in Montreal. I don’t what world he is overrated in.

        People were saying the exact same things about Phil Kessel one year ago (lazy, disliked by teammates, overrated, one=dimensional). One year later, he’s the toast of the hockey world. It’s mostly Canadian media making stuff up.

        Hamhuis played more than Subban because Canada had a handful of offensive right handed defenceman already playing that were also quite good (Doughty, Weber, Pietrangelo). Hamhuis was a lefty with less risk in his game, that’s why he played more, not at all because he was considered close to Subban’s caliber.

        Being on a World Cup/Olympic team holds very little weight as to who the best players are. In 2014 Tyler Sequin, Logan Couture, and Claude Giroux were left off the Olympic team for Canada. Does that mean that they’re not good players? Nope, it just means that Canada has an abundance of riches and it can’t take every single elite player in the NHL.

        Therrien sits him in key defensive situations? Then who the hell does Therrien play when he needs to shut down the opposition? Emelin and Petry? Oh wait that makes sense, that’s probably why Montreal gets lit up, Therrien’s mismanagement.

        If the Canucks want Subban, which it appears they do, Horvat, Tanev, and the 5th is the bare minimum that they’d be asking for. I’m certain then when it comes to a former Norris Trophy winner under contract for the next 7 years who also happens to be capable of putting up 60 points a year that they’d want even more than that.

  • Almo89

    For some perspective to those who say Benning overpays:

    NYR trades
    Anthony Duclair
    John Moore
    2015 2nd Round pick
    2016 1st Round pick

    to Ari

    Keith Yandle
    Chris Summers
    2016 4th Round pick

  • oilbaron

    Pk hugely over paid and over rated, not liked in dressing room, therien routinely sits him in key defensive situations, Hamhuis played more in Olympics and he’s not been named to world cup team and he’s dynamic scorer, flashy and polarizing not in top level of defenceman in NHL, Canucks do not want him for the ridiculous asking price and by the sounds of it Montreal just doesn’t want him