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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Trent Cull, Offer Sheets, and Tax Breaks for Sunbelt Teams

It’s a very complicated situation with a lot of moving parts. Overall, the fanbase seems united in their distaste for Cull, but he has his fair share of supporters in hockey circles. Personally, I’m as skeptical as you are, but the fact that enough smart people are willing to stick their necks out for him is enough to give me pause.

The truth is that this is really the first year the Comets really had a high volume of talented young prospects in their lineup. Obviously Lind, Gadjovich, and co. all had disappointing seasons but it’s possible that some fans may be putting the cart before the horse in this instance. I like a lot of the prospects the Canucks had in Utica, but they were by no means can’t-miss players, and one has to consider the possibility that the issue goes beyond coaching. Cull was given the unenviable task of trying to find spots for six rookie wingers to fill eight spots.

Overall, my sense is that the Canucks are a bit behind the rest of the league when it comes to adapting to changes in player development. Many complaints people have had this year about Cull are very similar to concerns I had about Travis Green a few years ago, and I happen to think Green is at the very least a decent coach at the NHL level.

Overall, I think it’s a good thing that the Canucks’ brass are getting heat for the way Utica’s season went, and that Cull is on the hot seat. Anything less would reek of complacency from the market. That having been said, because neither you or I were privy to how things went down behind the scenes, it’s impossible to know if Cull’s second chance is deserved. Either way, Jim Benning has planted his flag, and the success of the organization next year is likely to determine their respective futures. If things don’t significantly improve, I don’t see either of Cull or Benning returning for the 2020-2021 season.

It depends on how next season goes, I guess. If the team has success and it leads to a Benning extension then I’d see it as an overreaction, but if it’s another season of the organization spinning its wheels I’d have a hard time faulting you. Personally, I think getting to watch Elias Pettersson 82 times a year makes it worth it, but I understand your frustration.

The closest thing to a sleeper at 10th overall would probably be… Alex Newhook? He was a superstar by BCHL standards and is remarkably complete player for his age, but I’m not completely convinced he has first-line upside. Considering the Canucks have more need on the wing and defense than at centre I would be surprised if they took him, though. I’m hearing a lot of talk about the Canucks’ interest in Victor Soderstrom, and I would argue he definitely qualifies as a sleeper. There didn’t seem to be much hype surrounding him until the last few weeks or so.

I could see it being a talking point at the next round of GM meetings, but I think it’s a tough sell. Ultimately, every NHL city is going to have different advantages and disadvantages. Should the Tampa Bay Lightning get some sort of compensation because Steve Yzerman wanted to  be close to his family? Should the Islanders be compensated for Tavares’ desire to return to the province he grew up in? At some point, you just have to accept that every city is going to have it’s own unique strengths and weaknesses and that you can’t control every aspect of the free agent courting process. Ultimately, if the tax breaks were that much of a competitive advantage, the Panthers would have made the playoffs this year.

Does it even qualify as a rumour? It was a hot topic on twitter and local radio for about five seconds and seemed to stem entirely from a trade rumour website that deals mostly in idle speculation. Ultimately, it seems to me that it was a slow news day, and some people just like to find reasons to be mad. It’s not going to even come close to happening.

To be honest, since the early aughts it seems like the distinction between having a GM/President and having a GM and President changes at the drop of a hat. I’m not privy to to inner workings of NHL front offices, but it seems to me that the extra position serves mostly to obscure who is responsible for which decisions the organization is undertaking. In many instances, the position of President of Hockey Operations seems to basically be the middle-man between the owner and General Manager, and act as a human shield for any owner who wishes to interfere in front office matters. That may be an overly cynical analysis, but there’s a fair share of evidence to support it, especially in recent Canucks history.

Ultimately, I’m not going to judge a team’s front office based on whether or not they combine the roles of GM and PoHO. Teams should be judged first and foremost on process and results. For the most part, I would say it’s better to have more voices in your front office than less, but I don’t think the titles really matter all that much.

The compensation is a bit rich for me, and that’s ultimately why offer sheets are relatively rare in the NHL. If the compensation is low enough to be worth it, teams are likely to match. If it’s too high, teams are more likely to test the trade market. In Vancouver’s case, I’m unconvinced that they’re far enough along in their rebuild to justify giving up their first round pick in next year’s draft.

For my money, the best player to target for an offer sheet is Kasperi Kapanen. He’s 22 and coming off a 44-point season, which means he’s likely to be worth a second round pick and 4.2 million dollar salary. The leafs are in a tight spot, they need to sign Mitch Marner and he’s likely to command a cap hit north of 10 million dollars. I feel like the Leafs will find a way to wiggle out of the mess they’re in, but at the moment, they’re ripe for the picking.

If recent history is any indication, you just need to get a large enough group of people outside Rogers Arena advocating for his removal, and maybe start an in-game chant. That was enough to get it done last time.

  • If media types are hearing about the Canucks’ interest in Soderstrom, that kind of feels like a head fake and that they are not actually that interested.

    I don’t recall Jim B telegraphing his intentions when it came to EP and QH. And I’ve read stories over the years where management teams admitted in retrospect that they used the media to get misinformation into the market place about a player they planned to pick so they could be stealthy on their real focus.

    Maybe not JB’s style

      • there was speculation about QH, lots of it. The only problem was he likely wasn’t going to drop to the Canucks. There is a reason we all knew who he was going to pick.

        Same with EP but a little bit less openly. I remember Benning stating, whether a slip of the tongue or not that he was taking the best “swede” available. Not center or player….

        I truly hope he isn’t going off the board with Soderstrom. The best bet is taking the best forward left (BPA) as there are 10-14 forwards ahead of Soderstrom. Soderstrom likely isn’t one of the top 3 defenceman in this draft and could easily be #5. There will also be a handful of good RD available at 40 and it’s not impossible that another falls to 71. Lets not waste pick this high just to fill a position.

        • Benning seems to be draft BPA in the last few drafts. If they go Soderstrom, they need to trade down. Would be great if they could trade down a few times into the mid-teens and then go for Soderstrom, York, or Newhook, whoever is left.

          • I guess a flipside is: do other teams feel Soderstrom is a #10? If other teams think he’s a #14-17 as he has been ranked for most of the season, there is room to nab a 3rd round pick.

  • I agree that the player to offer an offer sheet to is Kapanen. They may, I repeat may be successful. He fills a need and won’t break the bank, either in salary or draft picks. Offering a first a second and a third for anyone is absurd

    • with as much cap space as the Canucks have, why on earth would you give up a 2nd round pick to get Kapanen? You do realize how much cap trouble the Leafs are in right? You could get Kapanen and possibly another asset for taking a bad contract back. Those bad contracts being
      Zaitsev
      Mareau

      and if they get desperate you can also include
      Kadri
      Nylander
      Hyman
      Brown

      Gotta remember TO currently has $8M in space and needs to sign (or replace) the following just to fill out their roster:
      Marner
      Gardiner
      Hainsey
      Marincin
      Johnsson
      Kapanen
      Ennis

      Looks like a team in desperate need for cap relief if there ever was one.

      • Marleau has a full NMC; he is not going anywhere other than a contender if in fact he wants to move. Zaitsev … meh. He is not breaking the bank and that would just create a whole on a very porous right side defence. A 2020 second round pick would be the cheaper option.

      • Marleau is a bad contract but it doesn’t handicap the team long-term. Zaitsev’s big contract was a knee-jerk reaction to one OK season – he’s has been pretty underwhelming in the subsequent two years. That’s a 5 year anchor, worse than Beagle, Sutter or Eriksson’s contracts.

        • So what would the Leafs pay for taking on that contract …. everyone suggests this but no one really put value to it … they ain’t giving up a first … or a second. These contracts are moved as parts of larger deals. Paying the 2nd rounder as compensation for the offer sheet is cheaper than taking on bad contracts for marginal assets.

  • Lotsa teams have turned it around in no time, and Boston are in their third final since 2011 after cleaning house. Swing for the fences or forever be rebuilding, retooling or retarding. It’s a complete Canuck borefest lol.

  • Given that Dubas gave JB Leivo for practically nothing, there isn’t a chance in Hell that Benning would offer sheet the Leafs. JB owes Dubas. But, JB could come to Dubas’ rescue with a trade proposal if the Leafs do receive an offer sheet from another GM.

    • Best thing Benning can do for Dubas is take Marleau with a decent draft pick. Benning gets his scoring winger and another shot at a prospect and Dubas get cap space for a core player. Win-win and it helps build a good trading relationship.

      • I agree 100% it should be explored, except the no trade Marleau has might complicate things. He and Callahan in TB are both 1 year contracts and would be great to try and get an asset with. I think TO is going to have to give up a fair bit to move Zaitsev and Marleau(if he lets them). The only other real option they have is moving Nylander(not enough alone) or Marner

        • Is it possible for a player like Marleau or Callahan (or both) to be traded to the Canucks. Have the Canucks retain half of their salaries, and send them back? Of course, this would involve some sort of asset being given to the Canucks… is that even an option?

          • Retention and trade back is specifically not allowed under the CBA. it is the equivalent of money laundering.

            Also, as commented earlier in a thread, you cannot trade a player that has accepted an offer sheet (either matched or not matched) for one year.

          • How about trade for Marleau (and make it clear there is a part 2 to the deal so he’ll waive) for say 2nd or 3rd and then send him off to another contender and eat half of contract to make him more attractive for another 2nd or 3rd? Is that doable?

          • Interesting idea LemonHart! It’s doable because we wouldn’t exceed our maximum for retained salary transactions (3) or RS transactions for the player (2). We could acquire Marleau and upgrade a low draft (6th round?) pick into a 3rd rounder and then flip Marleau to the Sharks for another draft pick (another 3rd rounder?). With the exception that Wilson screwed us on the Bieksa non-trade, I’m sure Wilson would love to have Marleau back for a $3.0M cap hit. Also, TO and SJ are low on high draft picks (TO does have a 1st and SJ doesn’t have a 1st or 2nd) which means they’d be loathe to surrender their remaining picks.

          • What contender is will to give up a second or a third for a 39 year old Marleau, with an (optimistic) AAV of $ 3M? He was productive with the Leafs in year one; time has caught up with him. The reality is I do not think he will waive. He could have stayed in SJ on a two year deal. Leafs went three.

          • If Benning could swing a three-way deal that sends Marleau back to San Jose, Marleau would waive. He played 19 seasons there, still has a home there, and would have the opportunity to retire as a Shark if he doesn’t sign again. It would be big PR for Wilson. But getting anything out of Wilson would be icing, the main asset would be what Dubas would give up for cap space.

  • Can’t agree on the need to fire Benning. If anything, ownership has been the anchor on how canucks chose to waste three years on a reload. Benning and Linden were were rookie hires who were/are u understanding who pays their salary and what those bosses wanted. All you need to do us read the headlines to know how greedy the Aquillinis are. It’s just a repeat of their years as slum lords who regularly made front page news for squeezing bucks out of rental accomodation units and refusing to make repairs until forced to.

    • The government just ruled against the Aquamen that they shortchanged migrant berry pickers from Guatemala… for $133K. That tells you how scummy they are.

      He’s the one who hired Torts and gave him a 5 year contract. Do people really think they were looking to rebuild? Then he used Linden’s good standing to fire Torts to fix his mistake. Do people really think that any GM that got hired would NOT have continued to retool under Aqua’s mandate? Ridiculous to continue on the “Fire Benning” bandwagon. Considering the empty cupboards then and the light at the end of the tunnel now, the continuing narrative is an absolute joke. Gillis was fired because he was shown to be incompetent as a GM, riding the coattails of the core, the scouts and the coach that Burke and Nonis acquired. I doubt if MG gets another league job ever again. Benning would be hired in some capacity from another team in a heartbeat.

  • Regardless of management titles, the canucks really need to get Benning some help on contract negotiations, pro scouting and trade negotiating skills. Not sure if anyone in their organization knows what direction they need to take in evaluating defenceman skill sets. Gudbranson and Del Sotto showed poor judgment and being late in understanding the evolution of the game.

    • some help on doing about 75% of his job? I mean he needs it, and there are no replacements that are available and obvious upgrades at the moment but he should have had that help already if he was going to end up as anything more than a scape goat at this point, right?

      • Exactly. Gilman. The master.
        Grabner and a 1st for Ballard;
        Hodgson for Kassian;
        30yr old Burrows 4 x $4M with NMC (equal to $4.93M at a $79M cap);
        Garrison 6 x $4.6M — full NTC (the equivalent of 6 x $5.7M with a $79M cap) …. just to name a few .

        But sure, GMJB does needs help doing his job.

        • That Ballard trade is right behind the Neely trade as the worst in franchise history. Grabner is no superstar like Neely, but he does have 162 NHL goals since then. And a 1st round pick, #25, which Florida wasted on some dude named Quinten Howden. The next player chosen that year? Evgeny Kuznetsov. Shoulda, coulda, woulda…..

          • Yeah,and the Booth trade that followed was no better.
            12 NTC’s.Aging vets that cannot beasily traded or will not be traded.
            Great for one kick at the can but not the health of the franchise.
            It’s just as well Gillis traded so many of his picks. He batted .000 ,anyways.

          • Gotta call ya on that statement, Beer Can…the 2nd worst trade in franchise history?

            When the pick MG wanted was taken the pick he traded along with Grabner –Howden as you mentioned—played 97 games sporadically for 2 teams, scored 5 goals and now plays in the KHL. Grabner was WAIVED by Florida. We got a 3rd pairing Dman who was brought in to mentor another non-draft gem—Chris Tanev. It would have been yet another theft of Florida except for a severe concussion Ballard suffered against Colorado (Winnick).

            Too bad MG couldn’t see into the future but on paper it was actually a very big win for Nux—“2nd worst in franchise history? Wow—revisionist much?

            Also, Gilman was an innovator on capology—salary cap management—which is what “IF” was lamenting we needed…..and we already had one of the best—who was fired by one of the worst….Trevor Linden….whose hire was actually “one of the worst in franchise history.”

          • arjay: Gillis overpaid severely in the Ballard trade. He gave up a 1st round pick, good prospect (formerly 1st round pick), and a roster player for a bottom-4 defender and an AHL depth player. After Grabner was waived, he scored 34 goals for NYI. Gillis traded his 2nd and 3rd for Torres and Alberts. With the rest of his draft picks in the 4th to 7th rounds, all 5 players collectively played 1 NHL. The entire 2010 draft year was a bust, and you wonder why Benning had to rebuild the prospect pool?

          • Hi Forever 1915….I don’t post often and am certainly not an argumentative sort BUT I have to push back on your opinion that MG “overpaid severely” in the Ballard trade.

            MG gave up a player that Fla immediately WAIVED, a last year pro in Steve Bernier who scored 5 goals, was a -15 and then retired, and a #1 draft choice who scored 5 goals, got traded and is now in the KHL.

            Compare that to what a “bottom pairing” Dman got in trade from Toronto this year. Muzzin garnered a 1st round pick and 2 players.

            If Ballard had not been concussed and had his career essentially ended (he did play for Minnesota but his career was over by then) this would be one of the “steals of the decade” type trades. A 3rd pairing Dman for essentially 10 goals for Florida.

            Grabner has played for 6 teams now so obviously other GM’s see what MG saw right away —a one-direction player.

            So, a favour to Bernier to try to earn a new contract (he failed), a player that Florida waived (sorry, no daisy chains in hockey trades; Van. connection to Grabner ended when FLA waived him) and a 5 goal 1st round draft pick.

            “Severely overpaid?” Sorry, we very much disagree on this one and facts are stubborn.

            Cheers.

          • Also, Gilman was an innovator on capology—salary cap management—which is what “IF” was lamenting we needed…..

            Innovator? Name an innovation Gilman came up with? Front-loading contracts against the spirit of the CBA which they were warned about

            What’s the other innovation? Getting players to sign for less in turn for an future IOU which essentially hamstrung the team for 4 years?

            Pretty sure this is the “innovative thinking” that retail chains like “EasyHome” rely upon.

          • arjay: I still maintain Gillis overpaid. Just because Florida waived Grabner is irrelevant because Grabner still scored 34 goals the next year. All that means is that Florida had no eye for talent. The knock against Grabner wasn’t that he wasn’t good – he averaged nearly 0.50 PPG with NYI and NYR over 7 seasons. He is a soft player but the main problem was that he was always injured – he played 11 NHL seasons and has never played a full 82 game schedule.

            As for the draft pick, just because Florida drafted a bust doesn’t change the fact that it was a 1st round pick. As pointed out earlier, Kuznetsov was the next player drafted.

            I will agree that Bernier wasn’t a very good player but he was still a roster player.

            I highly doubt Ballard would have been a “steal of the decade”. He was average 0.37 PPG before the trade and played 4 full 82 game seasons out of 5. But the only thing that ever really stood out for Ballard was the fact that he threw a good hip check.

  • Why on earth would you want Marleau assuming he’d give permission to be moved? With the Leafs in so much cap trouble the last guy I’d want is Marleau and for certain younger, more attractive talent will become available. Think Benning has problems?

    • It’s not about wanting Marleau, it’s about what will the Leafs give the Canucks to take him off of their hands. Having said that it’s unlikely they would get anything higher than a 3rd but you never know a 2nd might be there. I guess getting a prospect from them is also an option.

  • The only guys the Canucks should offer sheet are guys in the $4.2 million range or less. Giving up a second rounder for a proven NHL player is a worth it.