With the Trade Deadline a little under two weeks away, the Canucks have four games left to decide their war-room tactics. They play Calgary and Philadelphia back-to-back this weekend, then have their NHL-mandated five-day bye week until they face San Jose on the following Saturday. After playing Detroit on Tuesday night, management will likely spend deadline day in the Rogers Arena offices before embarking for San Jose.
Earlier yesterday afternoon, Jim Benning made an appearance on TSN 1040 to discuss their preparation for the upcoming events, as well as what to expect from the Canucks and teams around the league.
While the team was in Pittsburgh, the Canucks brass held their not-so-frequent scouting meetings. Amateur scouts, pro scouts, player development personnel, as well as Linden, Benning, and Stan Smyl met for a couple days to discuss all things Canucks and the future.
Benning on the scouting meetings: “The meetings went well. We go through all the teams, trying to figure out if there’s a fit – trade wise – with the teams. We planned for the expansion draft and what that’ll look like with each team. We talked about Utica and where our players are at with their development. Then we went through our drafts, talking about who we want to sign coming up this summer. We worked long hours, we got a lot done.”
Benning has spoken multiple times about his plans for the Trade Deadline. It’s a waiting game and he’s going to let the chips fall where they may. His interview did not reveal anything too juicy, but rather he stuck to his word of a few weeks ago. Nonetheless, it’s still a reminder of what to expect from the Canucks as we count down the days. Just like any other year, the playoff race is unsurprisingly tight. Trade activity has been rather quiet so far, aside from the deals of Vernon Fiddler and Tom Gilbert.
Benning on the trade market: “The problem is there’s so many teams still in the mix to make the playoffs. The conversations have been picking up, but teams don’t know if they’re buying or selling. Teams are going to wait and see where they’re at going into the deadline. There’s not a lot of teams selling right now because they’re still in the hunt.”
What also makes this deadline tricky is the expansion draft coming up one June 21st. For a player with term remaining on his contract, the acquisition of that player means that team would either
1) Keep the player and expose someone else
2) Acquire as a rental and expose
Both options would be terrifying for any GM, which is why it might be best for Benning and co. to lay low on that front. They already face the dilemma of potentially exposing Granlund/Baertschi/Hansen, therefore bringing another player would only add fuel to the fire.
I briefly laid out the Canucks’ expansion options in a previous article:
With the Las Vegas Expansion Draft approaching in just a few months, the Canucks will have some tough decisions to make. As a refresher, each team has two options for their protected list:
1) 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goaltender
2) 8 skaters, 1 goaltender.
If the Canucks choose Option 1, they will likely protect Daniel, Henrik, Eriksson, Horvat, Sutter, and two of Granlund/Hansen/Baertschi, Edler, Tanev, Gudbranson, and Markstrom.
Option 2 does not seem like much of an option since six spots will be taken by the NMC players and the three defensemen.
Benning on the Canucks’ deadline plans: “We still have some time, we want to see where we’re at going into the deadline. We’ll talk to players and find out what their thoughts are and go from there. We’re trying to figure out teams that might have a surplus of wingers – maybe we have some depth on defense – and there’s a match so we can try to improve our team in the long term. We’re going to look into everything at the deadline. If [nothing makes sense], we can keep players for the rest of the season and do it before the Expansion Draft.”
I do want to caution that, although the chatter has been heavy and speculative, there is also the possibility Benning does nothing at all. However, we must hope that the front office learned from last season’s fiasco. What they cannot afford to do is pull off another Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata situation. Letting a player like Jannik Hansen be claimed by Las Vegas at no cost would not only be disappointing, it would be infuriating. He brings an attractive package to the table with his contract, his versatility, and his speed. Pierre LeBrun reported last week that teams have already called, so it would be hard not to speculate about what type of return Hansen could fetch. Though numerous teams have already expressed interest, Hansen has the ability to submit his 8-team list of teams who would have none. The ball is very much in Hansen’s court as they are in Benning’s.
Although Benning said he will begin discussions with players during the bye week, both Burrows and Hansen would obviously prefer to stay in Vancouver. Hansen has a growing family and a new house, while Burrows, being the loyal person he is, has the “go down with the ship” mindset with this team.
Although his name has often been linked to the Montreal Canadiens, I do not believe it’s Marc Bergevin’s top priority to acquire a bottom-6 forward. However, that doesn’t discount the fact that “Bergevin loves Burrows”. If you’re scared a deal won’t happen, just remember those three words. Burrows brings playoff experience, veteran leadership, and most importantly, playoff performance.
The last of the Canucks’ “big three” trade targets would be Ryan Miller. I personally do not see a trade occurring, but the only trade partner that makes sense would be the LA Kings. Jonathan Quick’s return is unknown, but Peter Budaj has done a decent job holding the fort. I’m not sure LA would be willing to pay Benning’s price for Miller when they have Quick nearing (?) return. Another team linked to our goalie is the Dallas Stars. As much as Jim Nill wants to solve his goalie issue, I highly suspect this is a post-season task rather than trade deadline. If the team were on the cusp of a playoff spot, maybe I could see them trying to trade for a better goaltender. Given Miller’s situation in St. Louis, it might be hard to convince him that a rental situation is in his best interest.
Moreover, Linden and Benning have also spoken publicly about the possibility of re-signing Miller. It is a “wait and see” situation, but his salary and term demands could turn the Canucks the other way.
Of the numerous trades that have been made, the best by far have been those that acquired Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi. In Baertschi’s case, his career with Calgary was stagnant. He hadn’t hit his 13th overall ceiling, and it was clear he needed a fresh start. The Canucks successfully jumped on it for a 2nd-round pick. For Markus Granlund, Hunter Shinkaruk’s future as a Canuck, let along an NHLer, was questionable. The one-dimensional forward had multiple holes and question marks, which prompted John Weisbrod to propose a trade for a more steady, sure-fire NHL player. Despite possessing risks, both trades have turned out well for the Canucks.
Benning on the trade process: “That’s what we went over in our scouting meetings. Some teams have depth in a certain position and we have depth in a certain position. We see if there’s a fit and that’s the first step in the process. Then I call the general manager and see what he’s thinking on it. If it’s a fit, we’ll be able to make a trade. It’s hard making trades but we’re going to do anything we can to make our team better for the long-term.”
Here are some trade deadline primers put together by those in the media:
We, as Canucks fans, obviously have zero say in the behind-the-scenes operations. However, if there’s one piece of advice we could give Benning and company, it’s that we’d hope to avoid a repeat of last year if at all possible.