Over at TSN 1040, Jim Benning hosted a media availability to field questions on a handful of topics, including the newly-signed Nils Hoglander, a possible Nikita Tryamkin return, and whether any ground had been made on the team’s impending free agents.
On Nils Hoglander…
Q: Do you have any thoughts on where he might fit in? Do you think he could be a player that could contend to make the NHL roster next year?
BENNING: He could. He played in the Swedish Elite League this year and never looked out of place in the top-nine and that’s where I see him playing in the NHL. He’ll be a top-nine player and I think once he’s up and going and after he has a year or two under his belt I think he’ll be a top-six player for us. We got him signed [Wednesday] and the next step is to get to training camp and see where he fits in with everybody else and we’ll decide from there.
It seems as though Benning believes that Hoglander, the Canucks’ second-round pick from the 2019 draft, could crack the team’s roster next year and play in a top-six role. In his first full season in the SHL, Hoglander posted nine goals and 16 points in 41, though his breakout performance came when he scored 11 points for Sweden at the World Juniors.
It’s difficult to predict whether or not there’s room for Hoglander in 2020-21 given fact Tyler Toffoli is a free agent and may or may not be back, but Hoglander stated that he’ll head back to Sweden for another season if he doesn’t make the Canucks’ roster.
On Nikita Tryamkin…
Q: What is your level of interest in signing Nikita Tryamkin?
BENNING: We’ve had conversations with Nikita’s agent and we’ve told him that we’d like to figure something out to get him back in the fold for next year. But we’re in a holding pattern right now. As we get more information and we know more about what’s going to happen for next year we’ll continue those talks. When the time comes we want to get him back here and playing as a part of our group.
There’s nothing new on the Tryamkin front. The last we heard was that his agent said he was ready for a return to the NHL but he wouldn’t play for the Utica Comets. There’s no doubt that the Canucks would want to bring him back to North America, but assuring him an NHL roster spot is a big ask.
On the organization’s prospect pool…
Q: Whether it’s Hoglander or [Vasili] Podkolzin or some of the other guys you’ve discussed on this call, how important is it to have them contributing to your NHL roster at some point on those entry-level contracts?
BENNING: It’s important for us because we’re going to try to get some of our UFA players signed and we’re going to have to pay them market value to get them signed. On the other hand of that you’ve got to make sure that you have good, young players that can play and contribute to be cap compliant. I think we’re getting to a point now where the depth pool of our prospects is really good and we’re developing some kids down in Utica that we’re going to see in the next year or two. I’m happy with the way we’ve drafted and the way we’ve developed. When these kids are ready to play we’ll give them a chance to get in the lineup and show us what they can do.
Benning noted that he’s optimistic that the prospects the organization has drafted can be ready to contribute to the Canucks in the not-so-distant future. The question was fairly oriented at getting Benning to talk about how he’s staring down the barrel of salary cap hell, but he gave a fairly non-committal answer about how it’s key to continue to draft and develop talent that can provide on entry-level deals.
On signing impending free agents…
Q: Do you have an update on contract talks with Jacob Markstrom? And an overall comment on how challenging business like that can be where the future is so uncertain.
BENNING: I’ve been talking to his agent but we really haven’t been talking contracts or anything with the uncertainty of not knowing what the salary cap is going to look like next year or if we’re going to be able to finish off this season. There’s just too many unknowns right now. I’ve been in contact with all of their agents, Chris Tanev, Tyler Toffoli, just to say we want to try to figure something out to get their clients to come back but we’re just in a holding pattern right now. As soon as we have a better idea or better understanding of where we’re going to be next year and what the cap’s going to be at we’ll go hard at trying to get those guys figured out
Speaking of those free agents, Benning admits that he hasn’t been able to make any ground on getting anybody signed to new contracts, which makes sense given the fact nobody knows where the salary cap is going to end up next season. There’s a lot left to be decided that could have major ramifications for this year’s free-agent market.