Photo Credit: Canucks.com

Jim Benning discusses cap recapture, free agency and roster decisions

GM Jim Benning met with the media today to discuss cap recapture, free agency and roster decisions.

Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo made the decision to retire Wednesday with three years remaining on his contract with the Panthers. Since the Canucks signed Luongo to a 12-year back-diving contract in 2009 where the salary is heavily frontloaded, the Canucks will be penalized $3.03 million against the cap for each of the next three seasons. The contract was legal at the time, but a cap recapture penalty was added to the Collective Bargaining Agreement after the 2013 lockout. The Canucks are unfortunately getting hit with the second and largest salary cap recapture penalty in NHL history.

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Benning explained the Canucks were given a heads up to prepare for Luongo’s retirement.

“The NHL kind of let us know a week ago that this could happen. We planned that if this happened we’d have the cap space available, and we do. It’s not the best situation for us, but it’s something that we knew could happen. Looking at the bright side of it, it’s better to happen now that two years from now when it’s an $8M-plus cap hit. The rules are the rules and that’s just the way it is.”

Benning was also asked if he tried to appeal and if he was frustrated by the penalty.

“We talked to the league. The rules are in there for a reason. There isn’t much we can do. It’s frustrating. We knew it could happen and we planned accordingly.”

Utica Comets

Benning says the Canucks are currently looking at all their options for the Canucks and down in Utica. He makes it seem like the Canucks will be adding a few depth guys for Utica in the case they need to call up a few centeremen this season.

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“We’re going through that this week in free agency. We’re hoping to add a couple guys.”

Roster Moves

The team recently extended qualifying offers to eight players, including Brocker Boeser, Nikolay Goldobin and Josh Leivo. The Canucks didn’t opt to qualify Ben Hutton, Derrick Pouliot and Markus Granlund.

Benning was asked if the Canucks are close to signing any of the eight players they recently extended qualifying offers to.

“No, I wouldn’t say we’re close, but we’re in contact with some of them.”

One big question has been what led the Canucks to elect not to re-sign 26-year-old Hutton. Benning makes it apparent that it was not an easy decision.

“He’s been a good player for us the last couple of years. We talked to his agent and him through the whole process. He understood where we were coming from. We’re gonna continue to talk to them to see if there’s some middle ground so we can figure it out.”

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Brock Boeser

Benning was also asked if he has an update on Boeser, who is the most important player the Canucks need to sign. He said he has no Boser update, as the Canucks have been busy with the draft and preparing for free agency ahead of July 1st.

Free Agency

When talking about his plan for this upcoming free agency period, Benning makes it sound like it will be quite different than last year’s approach for the Canucks. The team decided to sign Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel and Tim Schaller last summer.

“I think last year with the Sedins not coming back, we were going to go with young players in skilled positions and we wanted to kind of support them with character players and some guys that can kill penalties. That’s why we signed the players that we did. Now I think we’re in a different spot so if we sign players in free agency it’s going to be with the intent that we think they’re top-four defenseman or top-six forwards.”

It’s going to be a competitive free agent market starting July 1st, but Benning believes Vancouver is now an enticing place to play for free agents and potential trade candidates.

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“I think the thing we do have going for us is players see our team kind of transformed last year with our young players. I’m getting the feel through free agency that players want to come out and be part of our group moving forward, where I don’t know if that was necessarily the case before.”

Of course, one of the biggest things surrounding the Canucks is the Tyler Myer rumours. The free agent blueliner met with the Canucks in Vancouver this week.

“I’m not going to comment on other team’s players at this point. We’re going to go through the free agency period. We’re going to see July 1st who we’re going to sign and then I can comment on that.”

Is Benning going to make a trade?

“I’m talking to teams still. Still trying to figure that out.”

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for the Canucks, and with free agency right around the corner, the offseason is just beginning.

  • Goon

    So Benning confirms he did nothing to attempt to mitigate the Luongo situation, and just accepted it with a passive shrug.

    He then confirmed that he thinks this team is competitive and he’s going to be pushing hard to sign some UFAs.

    Fire Jim Benning.

    • Gino über alles

      You know, generally I like a lot of what you say but this is an asinine comment to make. You aren’t giving any options, what would you rather he did than accept it with a passive shrug?

      Keep in mind that you’re talking about a player in Luongo whom was not acquired by Benning, did not sign that contract from Benning, did not play in Vancouver for Benning, and did not get traded to Florida by Benning. Basically, Benning did not have a single thing to do in any way, shape, or form with this transaction. We don’t even know if they’ve ever even met as this was a done deal long before Benning arrived, he just inherited this mess.

      Terms of the CBA aren’t negotiable; once they’re agreed to by both parties then there is nothing you can do and any attempt to amend this should have been done by Aquilini with the other owners during the ratification process after bargaining was agreed to. This is Bargaining 101 for any first year law student out there, you can’t just whine about it afterwards when it effects you and your feelings get hurt. Basically the league changed the speed limits on the road and are giving the Canucks a ticket for driving the old limit years ago, I agree that it’s not close to being fair but you’re fooling yourself if you think there’s any avenue for grievance or legal dispute here.

      But sure, fire the guy who believes in his team and had nothing to do with the Luongo contract but just gets stuck with the bill afterwards….makes total sense.

      • Goon

        You’re right. Benning had nothing to do with this transaction. That’s the problem. Benning himself has said he had notification that Luongo was considering retirement. He did nothing.

        You think Florida wouldn’t have traded the contract for a 7th round pick? Of course they would have – they get a minor asset and they don’t even take the $1 million recapture hit. You think Luongo wouldn’t have gone on LTIR and continued to receive his paycheque? Of course he would have. The fact that Benning didn’t think to do this, or couldn’t be bothered to do this, or didn’t know he could do this, is a fireable offense.

        The hand-wringing, apologies and excuses for Benning on this one are just pathetic. Two months ago all the same people who are now making excuses were saying this exact scenario was unthinkable because of course Luongo would go on LTIR – if not in Florida, then in Vancouver, or his contract would be traded to a cap floor team. Benning clearly couldn’t be bothered and now he’s stuck with even more dead cap space to go alongside Eriksson, Sutter, Beagle, Spooner, and the inevitable disastrous UFA contract that’s coming.

        • Gino's 3rd Cousin

          Luongo did not want to go on LTIR…but sure stick to your fire Benning narrative. Try coming up with something more substantial in your presentation of evidence. Yawn.

        • Nuck16

          OK so we trade for Lou’s contract and assuming he going on LTIR, but then there is a problem the NHL physical and they decide not to allow it. Then I believe we are on the hook for $6 mil in instead of $3.
          I believe Lou retired (vs LTIR) for 2 reasons. 1. He wanted to do right by the Panthers and since they don’t have a cap issue he didn’t want to force them to pay him. 2. There is honour in retiring vs claiming you can’t play because of injury…and because his paycheques would only be $1mil per over the next 3 seasons, it wasn’t worth it to him.

      • Goon

        Through Benning’s utter incompetence or complete indifference, the team now has $20 million this season tied up in players who are not playing (Luongo, Spooner), or players over 30 who are in steep decline and contribute nothing more than an average $1-$2 million player would bring (Eriksson, Sutter, Beagle).

        With some cap flexibility, the Canucks could have taken on the Marleau contract and received a 1st round pick. They could have gone hard after another Toronto player like Kapanen. Hell, they could have gone all-in and offer-sheeted Marner or signed a younger UFA who will actually make a difference, like Artemi Panarin. This team is being *grossly* mismanaged, and has been for years, and it absolutely baffles me that every time Benning f’s up through inaction, through a bad trade, or a terrible signing, the apologists come out to talk about how he couldn’t have done any differently.

        Other rebuilding teams find ways to trade pending UFA’s for assets. Other rebuilding teams find ways to acquire first- and second-round picks. Other rebuilding teams find ways to manage their pre-2012 long term contracts so they don’t get stuck with a recapture penalty. What’s so special about Benning’s situation, other than Benning’s own incompetence, that prevents him from doing these basic things?

        The man lacks any vision, creativity, foresight, or competence outside of amateur scouting and the fact that Aquilini continues to tolerate his utter, objective awfulness boggles the mind.

        • DogBreath

          Goon, I hear your frustration, but don’t you think Aquilini should receive the brunt of the frustration. He’s been through the process since the beginning, including during the contract negotiations, ratifying the CBA etc. He’s the one who has to approve spending (or not spending) his own money to weaponize the cap. It’s unfortunate because it could have been a good strategy.

          I understand their logic last year to support the young guys with slightly overpaid character guys. I’m withholding judgement on the most recent Miller trade. No one knows whether it’s an over or underpay because it’s based on where they place in future years. It’s a calculated risk.

          That said, my hunch is they’ve tried to jump up the standings a year too early – they needed another year of asset build-up to make a respectable, longterm run for the cup. This too points largely to Aquilini for pushing the approach and not extending Benning’s contract by a year. All this talk of patience by Aquilini last year was Bs. Unfortunately patience is not in his DNA and my hunch is they’ve just failed this rebuild.

          I’m holding out for a trade for Miller out of VGK. If we go high and long term on Myers, my hunch is we’ll top out as mediocre and that’s it.

      • james

        If Vancouver traded for Luongo to avoid recapture is a dreamy thought. How would it look if Vancouver acquired him and he went to the Vancouver docs and they said he was unable to play. Then he goes to NHL docs and they say he can rehab and play. Vancouver could then not put him on long term, Luongo would retire and then they would be paying full pop and giving up an asset in trade. Just a thought.

        • Tedchinook

          The LTIR issue is a non starter. Luongo himself said he could play he just wasn’t ready to go through the training regimen that he needs to be able to play.

    • TheRealPB

      There are things to be angry with Benning about. The Luongo situation is not one of them. He had limited cards to play — Luongo has explicitly stated that Florida asked him to retire so that his cap hit comes off their books and they can pursue Panarin and Bobrovsky. You can’t put a guy on LTIR without the acquiescence of the team and the doctors. It isn’t clear that Luongo is medically unfit to play and I think neither he nor the Panthers/Canucks have interest in playing the games the Leafs did with Robidas or Lupul (and besides the league has said it is going to crack down more on those kinds of shenanigans). Guys like Clarkson and Bolland are legit injured and unable to play again. Luongo is old and creaky but not broken. Let’s say he agreed to a trade to the Canucks (and he has a modified NTC) — what would you have given up for him? We just went through the overpay on Miller — would you now give up next year’s first for his contract? And then what, force him onto the LTIR? I just think this whole blaming of Benning for everything — Gillis’ crap drafting and dumb NMC/NTC contracts is ridiculous. There’s enough to get irritated with Benning about (especially pro evaluation) that you don’t need to go after him about stuff that’s not on him

    • Killer Marmot

      What should have Benning have done about the Luongo situation? Luongo is retiring. That is entirely his choice. Nothing Benning can do about that.

      The only option is to legally challenge the league over the recapture rule, arguing it can not be applied to contracts that were already in place when the rule was brought in. For all we know, Benning has talked to lawyers about that, who might have advised him he has no case. Or they might have advised him he has a case, but perhaps Aquilini decided it would be too divisive. We just don’t know.

      So far as telling free agents that the Canucks are now a competitive team, well what do you expect him to say? That the Canucks stink? Benning’s making a sales pitch to the UFAs.

    • Freud

      Trump still has 40% approval.

      The Benning apologists mirror the Trump lovers.

      They are entrenched in there position and aren’t changing. Remarkably, despite overwhelming evidence that boobs are running the show in both administrations, they will just continue to double down.

      They also resort to the same rationalizations and responses that Trump lovers default to when confronted. They cherry pick, they distract, they blame the messenger, they blame the past administration, they blame the fake news.

      I’m just enjoying the unintentional comedy and taking receipts for later.

        • Killer Marmot

          I have mixed feelings about Benning. He’s definitely made some unforced errors.

          But many of the criticisms are so over the top, cherry picked, poorly reasoned, or based on incomplete data that I find myself defending him more often than not. I suspect that a lot of the criticisms arise from the poster thinking he would be brilliant at managing a hockey club if he just had the chance, a common affliction among long-term hockey fans.

      • Defenceman Factory

        There are actually very few staunch Benning supporters. His record is far too spotty to believe him a good GM overall.

        There are however, those who believe each transaction should be judged on its merits rather that the moronic misrepresentation of facts used to paint Benning as an imbecile. Every move by the team is considered wrong because Benning was involved. At the same time Benning is also portrayed as some evil genius who convinced Linden and Aquilini to make no end of bad moves for the franchise.

        Perhaps if you ever demonstrated even a vague understanding of how management decisions were made and weren’t consistently a thorough douche with every one of your posts the voracity of posts supporting Benning’s decisions would be more realistic as well.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Can’t see what a contract signed in 2013 that the Canucks are being retroactively punished for has to do with Jim Benning re: salary recapture penalty. And am not cognizant of the legal steps the Canucks could possibly take to fight it. Gillis signed this contract but even GMMG can’t be blamed for the bureaucratic fascists who run the NHL.

    • It’s neither Benning nor Gillis’s fault. You know who’s fault it is? That asshat Lamoriello for trying to circumvent salary cap rules. The same asshat who had the “model rebuild” in Toronto that never happened. The same overrated model rebuild asshat who scored miserably in this year’s draft grades.

      • Cageyvet

        Feels like we could have a beer and talk hockey, F1915. JB is far from perfect, but there is a world where you can discuss the management without it being black and white, hero or zero. It doesn’t make one an apologist to not buy into every argument tossed out by the torches and pitchforks crowd, and blaming him for this one is asinine.

        For the beer, I think I’ll invite North Van Halen as well. There are some reasonable fans here who have seen enough of this league to know it’s a fool’s game to pronounce judgement too early. I’m pretty sure it was a certainty that Tampa would go beyond the first round this year, wasn’t it? Yeah, not so fast, the game involves humans, not robots who perform to their stat line, that’s the beauty of it all.

        • Well, if you’re on Vancouver Island, let’s do it. I just moved here last fall from the Lower Mainland. We can invite Jackson too, seriously. Although I disagree with a lot of what he says, I have nothing against him (or anyone else here) personally. Just his arguments and how they are (or aren’t) supported just gets on my nerves because they are so slanted negatively rather than being balanced. As a key contributor to an analytics blog, I feel he should be looking at the data and telling the narrative from what the data says, good and bad without bias. If I come across as overly optimistic, it’s more that I’m presenting the counterpoints that are not present in the articles. I’m pro-Benning but not without recognizing his faults.

          If I have one regret about moving away, it was not being able to make it to the CA analytics conferences. I remember the invite for the very first one, I signed up but had to cancel at the last minute because of scheduling. Would be great to meet other CA commenters and talk shop.

          • Cageyvet

            I live in the LM but hit Victoria and Nanaimo fairly regularly for work, and most everywhere there is doable unless you’re in Port Hardy. Stay tuned, and I’ll give you an email address that I will make for this purpose. Then I won’t have to check it constantly and can bypass the troll-mail that will undoubtedly show up. I love the Island, by the way, living there would be nice, can’t make the shift at this stage of my life, though. Gotta pay the bills and that happens here.

  • Gino über alles

    The cap recapture penalty that was negotiated in the last CBA was a way for owners to punish other owners that clearly circumvented the previous CBA with the front loaded, back-diving contracts that were handed out. The Canucks weren’t the worst offenders of this by any means but they certainly did their best to remain competitive with a team by seeking creative ways around the cap, and they’d have been silly not to. You look at the Franzen, Weber, Richards, Carter, et al deals and you saw a trend happening where the other owners were clearly livid about it; they saw themselves as playing by the rules and wanted to take advantage of teams that they didn’t think were when these contracts matured.

    I can’t blame them for being mad, they just went through labour hell and now a couple of rogue teams started driving salaries through the roof again, but the end result is that certain teams that don’t get the benefit of a player on LTIR instead get handcuffed as a punishment for being cute with the previous CBA.

    Really they should have just paid a penalty that was not against the cap and moved on, punishing teams after the fact only has the effect of punishing the fans. We can’t blame teams for seeking any and every competitive edge where the end result is a better product for us all to enjoy, this is just the NHL taking a particularly petty crap on us. How do you think the supporters in Nashville are going to feel if they sign Duchene to a contract and then Weber suddenly retires in Montréal? David Poile is going through more hair dye than Benning because he is worrying about that happening to him.

      • DJ_44

        I have zero problem with the idea of cap recapture or it being brought in retroactively. None. It was a blatant attempt to circumvent the rules. They (teams that structured contracts this way) were warned but ignored the warnings.

        I also do not subscribe to the idea that it is the “leagues” fault that the rules are in place. It was part of the CBA which was negotiated by the member teams of the league and the NHLPA. The Canucks, and other teams, were participants is crafting and ratifying the agreement.

        The biggest problem I have (and this is on the league), is the allowance of LTIR as it relates to cap recapture. Should not be allowed. If a player goes on LTIR into retirement, cap recapture must apply. This is no more evasion of penalty for circumvention of the CBA.

        • Gino über alles

          It wasn´t an attempt to circumvent the rules, it was an attempt to circumvent the cap….that´s a big difference. Everything signed was not only completely legitimate with the rules of the previous CBA but every contract also has to get approved by the league, and it was.

        • Killer Marmot

          It was a blatant attempt to circumvent the rules.

          I don’t know what “circumvent the rules” is supposed to mean. A contract is either within the current rules or it’s not. The Luongo contract was within the rules when it was signed, and it was duly approved by the league.

          If the rules are poorly designed, that’s the NHL administration’s fault, not the fault of the Canucks. The people who crafted and approved the rules should have been punished. Instead they took it out on individual clubs.

    • Hockey Bunker

      Sorry for the partial posts it’s the stupid pop up ads which interfere on my phone causing premature posting. I’ll see my Dr. next week to see what can be done

  • Hockey Bunker

    If JB ranted and raved would it make a difference? No
    Do you want that kind of irrational behavior from a GM? No
    The $3m is the rule and doesn’t hurt the team given this stage of it’s development.
    The Canucks have known this day is coming, it’s not a surprise, they are prepared for it, it has no impact.

    • Killer Marmot

      That $3 million may hurt in the third year. It is, however, vastly better than Luongo retiring two years from now, resulting in an $8 million recapture in 2021-2022. That would have been a catastrophe.

  • Fred-65

    I could never quite grasp why Vcr did not challenge the concept of changing rules retroactively. Seems to me that backtracking on an agreed set of rules. How many other rules can be chnaged after the fact

    • Killer Marmot

      Maybe they will. The summer isn’t over yet.

      But they might have decided it wasn’t worth it. Legal disputes can takes years and cost millions, by which time it may be too late to prevent the damage done by the cap reduction. Further, legal disputes are a huge distraction to a management that should be focusing on drafts, trades, scouting, and the like.