Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Post-Draft Edition

I’m as perplexed as you are. The Canucks should have been in on Marleau, but I’m still completely unconvinced that Jim Benning grasps the concept of weaponizing cap space and I think at this point he’s basically all-in to make the playoffs next year because he knows he’s out of a job if he doesn’t. It makes sense when you look at it from that perspective. If the goal is to save your own hide in the short-term rather than to build for long-term success, trading for JT Miller is an understandable move.

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To be honest, I don’t think the Canucks are in a position to be giving up first round picks except in very special circumstances; but had they chosen to go down that route, Jakub Vrana, Kevin Fiala, Travis Konecny, and Kasperi Kapanen would have probably been the best targets.

Gardiner is the better fit because he’s the better player, full stop. He’s also less likely to break down over the course of his contract. Judging by Myers’ size and play style, he’s probably 2-3 years away from completely cratering. I don’t trust any defenseman to make it through a contract that carries them until they’re 35, but Gardiner probably at least gives you an extra year or two of utility, and the decline won’t be as steep. Both players will be looking for long-term deals, so my preference would be neither player, but if I have to pick one it’s Gardiner every day of the week.

I have to be honest, I’m pretty unconvinced that Russian teammates play a big factor in convincing players to come over. It’s more about where the player is going to get a better deal. That’s why the superstar Russian players almost always stay in America and the mid-tier players go back home.

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If the number of Russian players was really the deciding factor for these guys, none of them would ever come over. You’re not going to beat Russia when it comes to having Russians. Besides, who’s to say Podkolzin and Tryamkin know anything about one another, or that they’d like each other even if they did? Maybe Vasili vapes on the team bus all the time. Then having him on the team would make him less likely to come over. I doubt it makes even the slightest bit of difference.

As for the second question, I thought the Canucks did about as well as they normally have under Jim Benning. Their first two picks were both great value, then things got more hit-or-miss in the mid-to-late rounds. They probably got an impact player in Podkolzin, and might get another middle-of-the-roster player in Hoglander. After that, it’s a crapshoot; but it always is, and the Canucks certainly didn’t to any worse than most teams do. Keppen, Malone, and Plasek look like decent selections even if there were arguably some more interesting options on the board.

All signs point to the team moving on from Loui Eriksson one way or another, so I don’t think he factors in to the question. It sounds like there’s a real chance Spooner could get bought out and he’s already cleared waivers so I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being a non-factor, too. Schaller spent most of last season in the press box and seems poised to take on the role of designated 13th forward again next season. Assuming your premise is correct, (there are issues with it, but it’s plausible) that leaves Goldobin, Motte, and Leivo to fight over that last spot. In this scenario, I would imagine they’d swap out Levio and Motte depending on the makeup of their opponent, and try to find a landing spot for Goldobin. My gut tells me there’s going to be a lot of movement between now and the fall, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in any projected lineups this early in the game.

I don’t think it’s an unreasonable question. On paper, there are a lot of similarities between the two players; but Miller has historically been more productive offensively and more consistent. The Canucks desperately need more offense and even if each player brings a similar profile, they’ll appreciate the 45-50 points Miller has usually potted per season regardless of how he gets them. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not that’s worth a first-round pick, but in a vacuum I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Canucks adding Miller.

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Before I get to the heart of question I should clarify that this season, being better than four teams in the Pacific would not have been enough to make the playoffs. The wild card system allows for 5 teams from one division to make the playoffs in a given year, and I’d expect the Central is good enough for it to happen again next year and possibly the year after, too.

As far as the Pacific goes, I think the Canucks are probably better than Anaheim and L.A., but all bets are off after that. The Yotes took a step forward this year and surprised a lot of people and the Oilers may be the Oilers, but they were still in the playoffs more recently than the Canucks and they have the best player in the game on their roster.

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There is a chance, albeit a small one, that the Canucks gave away a lottery pick in 2021 in this trade. That’s a bad bet to make, and there just isn’t another way to put it. It’s an unnecessary risk and they deserve to be criticized for it.

I’m gonna let our dear, departed friend answer this one for me.

  • Puck Viking

    Another player in Miller that gou have to protect for the expansion draft. His contract is horrible per year over played by millions.

    This team just doesnt get it. Those assets could have been used on Kapanen or carlo. Or to offer sheet players from the lightning. Miller for a 3rd would have been fine. We gave up a first for nothing.

    • Gino's 3rd Cousin

      Looks like you didn’t do your research Pucker. I know you take every opportunity you have to complain, but try harder to make your incessant wailing Air-Tight 🥴

    • Holmes

      Totally disagree. Great contract for a very underrated player. He hits like Ferland but has more scoring touch and he only turned 26 in March.

      If the pick we have to send to TB is in the 19-22 range, fine. It’s definitely not a discount price but I’d rather have the surety of a Miller in his prime years than say a the variability of a Norris or Yamamoto (picks 19/22 in 2017)

    • bobdaley44

      He’s big, strong, has character, has a decent contract, can put up points and hits like a truck not to mention only 26. There was a lot of interest. Tampa weren’t going to give him away. This team desperately needs what he can bring. Also being as 2021 is a weak draft I’m ok with this deal.

      • DeL

        I’m okay with the deal depending on where the first lands. The Myers situation gives me pause. Why not trade for Subban? Three years for what a million more a year than the projected cost of Myers with less term and he doesn’t have to be protected in the expansion draft. The Canucks should have been able to match NJ offer surely

  • Defenceman Factory

    I find the takes on Benning a bit odd and on the Miller trade pessimistic.

    If Benning is dead set on trying to make the playoffs next season it isn’t some hail mary to save his job. It is because he was told to. Aquilini is in his ear every day. If you actually believe Benning gets to tell Aquilini what to think you must also believe it was Gillis who wanted to hire Torts.

    If Miller forms part of a top line that scores 90 goals for a few years he is easily worth the picks given up. He could be just the type of player that allows Pettersson and Boeser to meet their potential. Not many picks in the 18-20 range will get you that. If in 2 or 3 years Podzolkin is ready for the role Miller will still have good value on the trade market.

    • Tedchinook

      I don’t think you draft Podkolzin if you’re dead set on making the playoffs next year. There were still players available at 10 that had far more likelihood of providing some help immediately.

        • Beer Can Boyd

          Agreed… who? And don’t say Caulfield. My prediction is that little flea will never replicate the success he had playing with Hughes when he gets to the NHL. So glad the Canucks passed on him.

          • North Van Halen

            Podkolzin was the right pick. Skilled sandpaper is so rare and valuable. Smurfs are okay but I’d take a 25 goal Pod over a 35 goal Caulfield in the playoffs everyday.

          • CamBurke

            Wow!!! I honestlydon’t know what is more pathetic – NVH happily conceding TEN GOALS in the playoffs or the 10 windowlickers who agree with his ridiculous statement. Hahaha

            GOALS win playoff series and Stanley Cups you morons! You simply couldn’t make it up… no wonder they are here alllll summer long, too thick to find something better to do.

          • CamBurke

            Then try using the ‘little’ proper English you were taught in school and explain yourself more concisely NVH… because without better grammar or punctutaion “Smurfs are okay but I’d take a 25 goal Pod over a 35 goal Caulfield in the playoffs everyday.” comes across as a rambling statement about ONLY the playoffs and sounds plain dumb.

            Here’s a clue… “Smurfs are ok but i’d rather take Pods 25 regular season goals *into* the playoffs than Caufields 35 *regular season* goals and reap the rewards when the physicality gets amped up in the post season.”

            If you’d said that I would’ve even agreed with you. Right, off you go NVH, tail between legs, told and chastised.

  • Dirk22

    JT Miller is a good hockey player.

    Unprotected first round picks from rebuilding teams should get you more than a JT Miller. Especially from a team in a cap crunch. He was their 9th highest for time on ice this season.

    The only thing more predictable than Benning making overpayments are the same people out here defending them.

    Let’s all act shocked as he prepares to sign Myers.

      • Dirk22

        Less than market value! Awesome. I mean apparently there weren’t any other teams in on this but hey if you say so that’s great news.

        It is unprotected BTW. Just slides to 2021 so the new GM will come in with no first rounder on a team who’s missed the playoffs 6 of the last 7 years.

          • truthseeker

            Is that why you never have a decent counter argument when I destroy all your points? It always ends with Dirk conceding by Dirk disappearing. Sitting out is your middle name.

          • Dirk22

            They did a study and found a direct correlation between guys with terrible take with guys who say “I destroy all your points.”

            Shall we dredge up your history of what you think ’20 goal wingers’ are worth? Or would it just turn into a battle of semantics? – something like “Dirk, you need to work on your comprehension! When I say 20 goal wingers I don’t actually mean wingers who score 20 goals”.

          • truthseeker

            No they didn’t Dirk. Cause if they did, you would have provided it as a link as proof. Typical of you though, you never really offer any. Funny how your little attempt at humor actually mirrors reality of never providing any actual evidence to support your view.

            And sure…go ahead. 20 goal wingers are really not worth a lot. Trade precedent keeps making that abundantly clear.
            67 wingers got 20+ this season. But whatever dirk…keep over stating their importance.
            I know when things don’t go your way it’s easier to just project and call it “semantic” rather than just admitting you struggle to make logically sound arguments, but that’s your problem, not mine.

        • DJ_44

          Okay Dirk, the potential slide to 2021 is the definition of protection.

          You claim it is an overpay, but do not offer any evidence to back it up. He is a top six forward on any tea in the league (few dispute this). His production puts him in bottom First liners, High end second liners.

          What is the value in this situation (realizing that TBL was not in a true cap crunch since Callahan went on LTIR).

          • Dirk22

            It’s either lottery protected or is not. Call it what it is – protected for one year. Unprotected in year 2. The Canucks were so leery of putting this deal out in public they couldn’t even include the terms of the deal on their announcement! Even IMac, the company man, reported that the asking price TBay set was a 1st and 3rd. Usually when negotiating any deal you hope to meet in the middle, no?

            Why don’t you try to find examples of when ‘rebuilding’ teams try to expedite rebuilds by trading first round picks – ie. how many of those deals have worked out?

          • DJ_44

            So you do not dispute the value; you dispute whether they should have traded for Miller. That is a valid argument.

            It is a decision where you believe the team is at, where it is heading. The have a excellent core and young prospect pool. The believe they are coming out of a rebuild, not in a rebuild. You disagree — fair enough.

            Show me a rebuilding team that trading a first round pick? Not a team like Toronto that traded for a young Kessel which was not rebuilding (they had no prospects), or Ottawa that traded for Duchence when they were looking to make one more run…… give me an example.

          • Dirk22

            Those were actually two examples I had in mind when I asked “how many of these deals have worked out?

            Cost Toronto Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton.

            Cost Ottawa Bowen Byram.

            Surprised you didn’t look at Edmonton when they traded for Griffen Reinhart? or when Columbus traded for Jeff Carter?

          • Chuk

            Shoulda went with this analogy… If you sleep with 2 people, one with an std and one without, you’re not protected and have a chance to regret it = Canucks in one of next 2 drafts

    • Marvin101

      i sincerely believe that relatives of benning or low level canucks office staff trash comments that are critical of jimbo. massive overpay for a player tampa needed to trade and coming off a 13 goal season.

      • Dirk22

        It’s not that strange a phenomenon – look at the political climate right now. Benning can do no wrong for many on here whether it’s his trades, free agent signings, draft picks. People so wrapped up in not being wrong over the past 5 years that they don’t realize the ineptitude they’re supporting.

        When he does something so bad even the most loyal supporters can’t defend it becomes Aqualini’s fault. Watch this happen as free agency starts.

  • TD

    Myers worries me, but I’m not sure where Gardiner fits long term without Edler, Hughes and Juolevi already on the left side. Even being pessimistic, Edler is #1, Hughes 2 and Juolevi finishes the year at 3. Hopefully, Hughes becomes 1 and Juolevi 2, even if Edler retires, you are paying big money for Gardiner in your bottom pair. I don’t want Myers, but he actually fills a need. Just make it an overpayment in the short term.

    As for all these moves, they are on Aquillini. He has left a GM in power in the last year of his contract. He should have given another 1 year extension or fired him, but leaving him in the last year forces JB to make moves like these.

  • DogBreath

    Come on Jackson. You don’t seriously think “I’m still completely unconvinced that Jim Benning grasps the concept of weaponizing cap space”. That comment completely diminishes your credibility. You assume he doesn’t get it (versus he gets it but the owner doesn’t want to invest that way). That’s a major leap with a hint of bias.

    • Kanucked

      I’ve had a conversation with Benning about this. He understands the concept but doesn’t believe in it as a way to build a team. He basically said that he would rather use contracts and cap to acquire players he believes will help the team as opposed.

      Benning is what we think he his. He’s a meat and potatoes GM who doesn’t really believe in asset management.

      • liqueur des fenetres

        I’m going to agree with Benning here. Taking on guys that are vastly overpaid is a recipe for damaging team morale. A guy earning $6M+ but playing like he’s worth <$2M is just going to be an attitude problem.

    • Locust

      saying an NHL GM doesn’t know how to do his job just parrots the salacious negative crapola that permeates this site. If he makes a bad move, call him out, but you cant say one of 31 guys in the world doesnt grasp an aspect of his job. Thats like saying the writers here consistently do a crap job. Oh, never mind….

      • KGR

        Keep in mind Locust that the writers here do not get paid! It’s harder to fire someone who works for free. And to be fair there are a couple of writers who write well. Seems this is now a stepping stone for the Atheletic.

  • HonestAbeX1

    Is J.T. Miller the Brandon Sutter 2.0 for 2019? Both are essentially 3rd line players brought in to play in a top six role for Canucks in the hopes it provides a boost to their production. Will it be another failed experiment and now you have another overpaid 3rd line winger to go along with Sutter and Erickson?

  • Kanuckhotep

    It’s quite perceptive to have someone suggest Benning has been making moves he wouldn’t normally have made because of ownership prompting. The Canucks have too many forwards and they can’t keep all of them heading into 19-20 and this seems puzzling. I thought the blue line needed more upgrades but the VC have too many of the same guy upfront IMO. July 1st will more clearly define what GMJB is planning because it looks concerning at the moment.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    I don’t mind the trade for Miller. The price was steep, but not unfair. Miller is a proven top-6 contributor, drafted 15th overall, on a reasonable cap hit for 4 more years, without an NMC. The last two hold real value.

    JB needed to upgrade the top-6. While trading a first was steep, it’s not unreasonable to start building a roster to win now. Miller will contribute. The kids need to be paid soon. Time to put some pieces around them and be ready to win in the next couple of years. Their window has opened given that the young stars will need to get paid very soon. The draft is not going to provide what they need soon enough. Waiting too long can be just as big a mistake as making these sorts of trades too early.

    • Gino über alles

      Miller won’t be the centerpiece on a line but he’s a solid complimentary piece to a great line, you’ve investing as much as Pettersson and Boeser’s development as much as another top 6 forward. It may have been a bit early to trade 1sts for adding to the young core but it would have to have been done eventually, we need to surround Pettersson with good wingers or we fall into the trap Calgary had with Iginla where you have a clear star and yet his entire career they struggled to find a centerman for him. This isn’t a home run win but it’s a justifiable move for Vancouver and yet as good as a salary dump gets for Tampa Bay.

  • Burnabybob

    I would feel better about about the Miller trade if I was certain the Canucks weren’t going to lose a high draft pick as a result. Knowing how things have gone for this team, they will miss the playoffs this year and next, and end up with a top three pick in the spring of 2021, only to have to give it to Tampa. If the team is out of the playoff picture by the spring 2021 trade deadline, it will likely create a real desperation mindset for Benning, too, who might be prone to making a desperate and ill advised trade or two. Hopefully that doesn’t happen, but it’s a possibility.

    • DeL

      They probably will not make the playoffs next year depending on how free agency plays out but I see them making them the year after so the price while steep will be mitigated. Miller is a good compliment for Brock and Petey and perhaps Podkolzin comes over a year early stranger things have happened. He’ll be ready for the big time a year from now

      • Billy Pilgrim

        If they don’t make the playoffs in 2021, the draft is unlikely to save them. They are in Oiler territory then, with all their young stars on big contracts and no cap space to fill needs. I don’t mind getting out in front of the problem, and getting Miller now. It’s a calculated gamble. The forward lines are in reasonably good shape now. Defense, on the other hand….

  • Goon

    I have my concerns about this trade, but what the heck are you talking about?

    $5.25 for a top-six winger who scores 50 points is fair value. And he does *not* have an NTC or NMC, which means he doesn’t need to be protected in the expansion draft. The contract takes him through to age 31, so he’s locked up for his prime years and the contract ends about the time you’ll expect him to start noticeably declining.

    • TheRealPB

      In a vacuum I don’t have a problem with the Miller trade — a (hopefully) mid-late first and a third doesn’t seem all that out of place; and I also think the idea that we were going to take advantage of TB’s cap crunch was overblown, especially when Callahan retired. I think that the trade of Subban was all about Nashville wanting to get a $10 million contract off the books and feeling that PK is quickly trending downwards, hence the seemingly ridiculous underpayment. The Hurricanes can afford to take on Marleau’s contract; even with it they are barely hitting the cap floor.

      My bigger concern remains with Benning’s eye for evaluating pro talent. He’s hit some solid singles (Baertschi, Motte, Leivo, Granlund, Vanek, Ryan Miller, Vrbata, Pearson, Roussel), had a bunch of duds (Etem, Vey, Clendenning, MDZ, Burmistrov, Nilsson, Leipsic, Pouliot, Larsen, Prust, Pedan) and a couple of full on disasters (Sutter, Gudbranson, Ericsson, Sbisa). He seems to be able to bargain with our own players (Baertschi, Horvat, Tanev, Edler) but gives out big overpays to UFAs who others don’t seem to be bidding on.

      I can get on board with this being the year we push all in with the new core. But a LOT of things have to work out in the Canucks favor to make it make sense including a lot of young players pulling through and a lot of the vets actually delivering in ways that many have not so far. Drafting the prospects is great, but you’ve got to actually deliver at some point on development and on building an actual winning culture. If JB can show restraint during the FA period and not splash money on Myers or someone else and offload Eriksson and Spooner for something, anything, I’d have a bit more faith.

      • Dirk22

        PB – TBay was/is in a cap crunch even after offloading Miller.

        “With the salary ceiling officially set at $71.5 million, the Lightning have just $10.6 million to take care of Point and fellow RFAs Adam Erne, Danick Martel and Cedric Paquette while bolstering a blue line that should see UFAs Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi leave.” – Sportsnet

        • TheRealPB

          The cap is $81.5 million but I take your point. I went back to look over their situation and it is challenging enough even with Miller gone that it’s disappointing that the Canucks couldn’t get him for cheaper. As I look into his comparables — in terms of production and contract — he looks much better than at first blush (Teravainen, Zucker, Niederreiter, Palat), but it still seems like a lot to pay. I was thinking at first that we need to address D if we’re going to trade first rounders but then it’s also true that outside of the big 3 there’s precious little offense coming either.

  • Hockey Bunker

    Here is an important point being missed in the Miller signing. If Petey or Bo go down, he can centre a scoring line. This is a great improvement from promoting Gaudette, Granlund, Sutter or Beagle as in past years. The earliest a first rounder in 2020 or 21 could fullfil that role is likely 2022 or 23. The earliest.
    Personally I’m happy to see the upgrade before Horvat is eligible for Old Age Security.

    • Locust

      Almost all the folks that actually get it agree with you.
      Just the blubbering whiners who think they are hockey minds ‘cuz they beat their neighbour at table hockey once dont get all the nuances. A proven player who is young and locked up for a drafted player with a 50/50 shot of even playing let alone contributing 2-3 years out ….
      Maybe if JB wore tight jeans, no socks, drank only cocktails with an umbrella in them and carried a man bag full of passionfruit moisturizers …. the hockey experts here would appreciate him more.

      • TheRealPB

        The point isn’t whether Miller is a good player — he is. And I think he’ll improve the Canucks. It isn’t even whether he’s worth a 1st and a 3rd — he probably is. It’s why the price was this high when the Lightning were absolutely up against the cap — in fact they wouldn’t have been able to sign potentially Brayden Point or three of their other young players had they not removed both this contract and Callahan’s cap charge. It is thus confusing as to why the Canucks still had to pay such a premium.

  • Whatthe...

    I love when the a keyboard warrior states that a team should just flush $6MM+ dollars down the drain as if it is just a drop in the bucket…and then goes on to insult the intelligence of the GM for not “understanding” how to take on and immediately buy out a player. No class.