What They’re Saying: Jim Benning Addresses the Trade Deadline

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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, Sutterand two of Granlund/Hansen/BaertschiEdler, 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:

Vancouver Courier,TSN,Sportsnet,Jeff Paterson,Ed Willes

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.

  • wojohowitz

    Sounds like Benning doesn`t know if he will be buying or selling like maybe TrumpWorld is contagious and Benning is infected.

    The smart choice is to make a move early during the five day break and then be ready for a second move at the deadline. Dealing early could also become a three way play and allow Benning to get exactly what he wants. Holding off until the last minute could leave him with no options but a bad deal or even worse – no deal and no deal could be the end of him in Vancouver.

  • Freud

    Benning may be blowing smoke, but if he hasn’t approached players about trades yet, I have this sinking feeling things are going to go the same way as last trade deadline.

    I think we can all agree the next 4 months are the defining moment for Benning and Linden. There is no more room for error or excuses.

    If Benning had cap space, he could solve other team’s expansion and cap troubles by taking bad contracts back in any trade. Thereby, getting value for guys while increasing the value by also solving other teams issues. You know, do stuff that good managers do.

    But alas, there is no cap space for this 28th place team. You know, stuff that bad managers do.

    Teams knew about expansion coming for years and had years to plan. If this team ends up losing one of their current forwards to expansion, This management team will be historically incompetent.

    • Bro Horvat

      My thoughts exactly, this sounds very similar to last year when we lost Hamhuis for nothing because JB waited too long to discuss all the potential options with him. This is his chance for redemption. He’s got the gun and the ammo, let’s hope he can load and fire.

      BTW just ignore Bud Benning, he’s only trying to save his job.

      • Bud Poile

        It would be easier if it wasn’t so but some of you fans can’t accept it when an honest GM tells you the truth.

        Either way,regurgitated disinformation becomes tiring.

        Hamhuis knew his options,he didn’t want to leave,coupled with a full NTC and Dallas dickering around to get the cheapest of Russell and Hamhuis and you have facts.

        • Pat Quinn Way

          Honest GM Dud??

          “This is a team we can turn around in a hurry.” Jim Benning May 23 2014

          “We’ve never once said this was going to be easy or fast.”
          Jim Benning April 08 2016

          Dud?…..

  • Bud Poile

    2.5 years on the job and Freud decides Benning is incompetent because every team will lose a good player to Vegas and he has sinking feelings.

    Give yourself a rest on the couch ,Freud.

    • Freud

      Every team will lose a player.

      Not every team will lose a “good” player. The good teams are managed well and will be exposing only fringe players.

      Not every team risks losing a top 6, play driving forward on a good contract.

      Not every team will risk losing two young forwards acquired for 1st and 2nd round picks.

  • Brent

    Thanks Vanessa,

    Good overview. I have resigned myself to another poor asset management trade deadline, but would love to be wrong. Hard to know how influential the owners have been for the lack of action at previous trade deadlines, but hopefully even they realize that this team will not make the playoffs. Have to trade at least Burrows. A strong argument can be made to keep Hansen. After Markstrom’s outing last night. I am leaning to resigning Miller if the numbers and term are reasonable.

    But what the hell do I know?

  • Goon

    The biggest thing to take away from Benning’s comments is how clear it is that he has no idea what this team is and no plan for where it’s going. It’s the same problem he had at last year’s deadline, and the same problem he had in the summer. He can’t figure out if he’s rebuilding or trying to compete – he should have known for weeks if he was going to be selling at the deadline, not figuring it out a couple games in advance.

    This is a death sentence for the short- and medium-term outlook of the team.

    And people who say “Benning’s hands are tied by Gillis’s NMCs!!” drive me mental. Hamhuis OK’d a move to Dallas last year. Benning couldn’t get the deal done. Part of selling is being a salesman – Benning couldn’t convince Dallas to take the demonstrably superior player – that’s on him. Benning couldn’t convince any team on Vrbata’s trade list to take a player one season removed from 30+ goals. That’s on him. If Benning can’t convince Hansen, Burrows, and Miller to wave their clauses and can’t find teams who are willing to pay fair value for them, that’s on him.

    • crofton

      “he should have known for weeks” ? Not really , you may recall a winning streak “weeks” ago. I admit the possibility of meaningfully extending it was poor, and we do have the benefit of hindsight, but at the time the rose coloured glasses were in full view and there WAS a chance the team had turned a corner. I know, I know, not likely, but it’s like a team squeaking into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season and going all the way…it does happen. I think I prefer the optimistic approach. It has the added benefit of not unintentionally blowing up your team, something IMO we don’t need to do.

      For the umpteenth time, there was never going to be a Vrbata trade because 1 he was injured, 2 he was having a crappy year and 3 he had a very short list of teams he would go to and none of them were interested.

      The only worry about Burrows, Miller and Hansen is Hansen. Markstrom hasn’t proven to be #1 ready, although at times he has played very well, so re-signing Miller wouldn’t be such a bad thing for that plus it would give Demko another year to develop. And realistically you won’t get much for Burrows, who I wouldn’t mind seeing back in Vancouver if the cards fell just right. But you can’t expose Hansen

    • Billy Pilgrim

      Dallas overvaluing Russell is not Benning’s fault. Either Jim Nill is a poor talent evaluator, Hamhuis’s smashed face crippled his value, or fans overvalue their own players. Vrbata was injured and playing extremely poorly.