Any time a member of the Canucks management team is interviewed, there are always points made that need to be dissected. Especially in the middle of the summer, the rare appearances that they make may provide Canucks fans with some comments and answers that they hope for. Earlier today, General Manager Jim Benning was on TSN 1040 discuss numerous topics that fans may find curious.
Any type of hockey-related headlines are rare in the middle of the summer, but the Canucks fans got a treat as Jim Benning announced the long-awaited signing of 2016 5th-overall pick Olli Juolevi. The 18-year-old defenseman’s contract took longer than expected, especially when most of the top 10 picks had already been signed. Trevor Linden has emphasized that the two groups were simply going through the processes, and the deal was finally finalized more than a month after the draft. Furthermore, much has been made of the possibility of Juolevi returning to Finland next season rather than staying with the London Knights. There were speculations as to if he was being loaned to the Memorial Cup Champion team, but fans never received a definite answer. The city of London will be happy to know that Jim Benning finally shut down the rumours of Juolevi’s potential return to Europe. Click here to read Ryan Biech’s piece on the signing on Juolevi.
Jim Benning on Juolevi: “There was no rush to get it done. We were in communication with his representatives and we wanted to make sure we did a deal that he felt comfortable with and we felt comfortable with. He’s going to be an important player for us for a long time so it’s an exciting day for our fans. He’s a very intelligent hockey player, he’s smart and reads the play well. I think he’ll look good at camp. We don’t want to rush Olli, but it’s his physical strength that he needs to work on.”
Jim Benning: “He can’t [go to Finland or Sweden], it’s against the CBA that the NHL has with the CHL. He signed a contract to play in London. He didn’t have an existing contract with Jokerit that would apply to him. If he doesn’t play with us in the NHL, he’s going back to his junior team in London.”
Both Trevor Linden and Jim Benning have reiterated their desire to add a gritty, goal-scoring winger. With the off-season half over and still no acquisition, the idea may seem more far-fetched than initially thought.
Jim Benning on adding another forward: “I’ve talked to a bunch of teams but we haven’t gotten anywhere with those talks. We’re circling back on some free agents, talking to their agents and seeing where they’re at. We would like to add an experienced, 15 to 20 goal-scorer if we could. We’re still talking to teams about potential trades and/or looking at the free agent market. We’ve talked to a couple players to see if they would like to come in on a PTO so we’re lining guys up through that.”
One x-factor in this upcoming season is the Canucks’ 2009 2nd-round pick Anton Rodin. After putting up over a PPG pace in the Swedish Hockey League, Rodin has decided to return to North America and hopefully bring some offense to the Canucks. However, towards the end of his season with Brynas, Rodin suffered a skate cut to the knee, which then required off-season surgery. Jim Benning confirmed that the 25-year-old should be ready to play come September training camp.
Jim Benning on Rodin: “He’ll be healthy for training camp. I talked to our physical therapy guys and he’s right on schedule to start camp. He’s working out every day and doing his therapy. I expect him to be ready for out training camp.”
One point that Jim Benning reiterated is that there will be competition for roster spots due to the depth at the front-end as well as back-end. Depth at the forward position has already sent rookie Jared McCann out of Vancouver, and bringing in Erik Gudbranson has certainly strengthened the 2nd pairing defense. With that being said, the 3rd pairing has raised questions because of the possible combinations that could be made.
Jim Benning on the 3rd defense pair: “We acquired Philip Larsen and he’s a skilled power play guy. He can skate the puck up the ice and he’s good on the power play. Then it’s going to be Sbisa who is a physical, stay-at-home guy and he was good for us last year. We got Tryamkin, Biega, and Pedan. Troy Stecher has worked real hard this summer and I’m excited to see where he’s at in camp. There’s competition and we have good depth at defense.”
Jim Benning on potentially sending Virtanen to Utica: “Even up front, we have depth. Emerson Etem has been here all summer and worked extremely hard. Jake has showed up every day and worked hard. There’s going to be competition amongst our young players for ice time and spots on the team. Jake is in good shape, he’s working hard. He’s an important guy for our group, but we’ll make the decision that’s best for him in the long term. If he needs to spend time in the AHL and that’s what’s best for his development, that’s what we’ll do.”
Some other takeaways from Jim Benning’s interview:
- Several young players have stayed in Vancouver to train
- Most veterans have left town for the summer and will be returning in August
- Loui Eriksson has yet to come to Vancouver, mostly due to the fact that his family welcomed their fourth child in May. He expects the new Canuck to arrive at the beginning of September.