WDYTT: If you could undo one Jim Benning move…
Photo credit:© Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports
10 months ago
Welcome back to WDYTT, the only hockey column on the internet that’s been inherited by one writer from another at least five times.
Speaking of inheritance, Vancouver Canucks AGM and POHO Jim Rutherford has inherited a lot more than just acronyms from the outgoing Jim Benning. He’s inherited eight years worth of decisions and consequences, for better or for worse.
On the whole, Rutherford can’t complain too much about what Benning left behind. After all, that very same roster has yet to lose a regulation game since Rutherford took over. But to say that the Benning Era was mistake-free would definitely be a bridge too far. There were many mistakes made over the years, and no doubt there are at least a couple that Rutherford now wishes he could retroactively undo.
He may be a supreme sorcerer when it comes to transactions, but even Rutherford can’t turn back time. But do you know who can?
You, loyal reader.
Today, we’re granting you a one-time use of the Time Stone to look back at the last eight years and ask yourself:
If you could undo one Jim Benning move over his tenure with the Canucks, which would it be?
Let us know in the comment section!
Which Canuck veteran would you trade first, if you had to trade one?
Your tradees* are below.
*Not a typo.
Miller is the obvious answer, because his value is high and the Canucks probably won’t have enough cap space to re-sign him if they keep everyone else. He’s also significantly older than other members of the Canucks’ core. But if Pettersson is still AWOL at the time of the trade deadline, then trading Miller would leave a huge hole at center heading into the playoffs.
Boeser would be my next choice, and I would also take offers for Pettersson, if not actively shop him. People have pointed out that they shouldn’t sell low on Pettersson, but there’s a huge opportunity cost in paying someone who’s producing like a third line center over $7 million per season.
It really depends on what the opportunities are in the trade market. At the moment, there is discussion about trading Halak, because there are teams that are trying to salvage their seasons (notably Edmonton) that are being sewered in part by poor netminding. That’s an opportunity that should be taken advantage of. Others will arise.
In a vacuum, it should be JT Miller. The guy is legitimately a top line center who produces on the power play, plays PK, is a big body, is under 30, and is signed for another year at a reasonable cap hit. But I really haven’t gotten the impression that the teams that need his services value him that way, and they’re just trying to get him at a bargain. The trade articles that the Minnesota beat writers have put out certainly suggested as much. If that’s going to be the case, then they should wait until the iron is hotter.
I mean, really, if you traded him to Minnesota at 50% retained, they’re getting a #1C for this year (Cup contender) and next (when they get absolutely buried by cap recapture and don’t have space for anyone else in that role)… Is that worth a first, a second, and Marco Rossi to them? Even more?
Chris the Curmudgeon:
(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
As I see it, the obvious answer to this question is probably the correct one: JT Miller. I believe Canucks fans have grown unaccustomed to the idea of selling high and reaping maximum benefit given the outcome of most recent trades, and/or have internalized the idea that veteran players should always get re-signed through their 30s even when this means paying for past performance. However, the case of JT Miller is a perfect opportunity not to do so.
JT Miller will never be more valuable than he is at this year’s trade deadline: a gritty, PPG, all three positions and PP and PK-capable, faceoff-winning, 21-minutes playing, possession-driving 1st line leader on a bargain contract with a year left. He is worth a fortune in trade and any lowball offers being floated from the Minnesota media should be laughed off the phone (Fiala and a 2nd? Is that supposed to be funny?) Conversely, the guy will be getting a salary that starts with a “9” after next year, and has as much negotiating leverage as it’s possible to have at the moment, and we just don’t have the cap space to afford him without major subtractions elsewhere. Moreover, it is highly likely that this is peak Miller, such that the big money he’s about to command will start to look like overpayment in short order, right as the rest of our core is trying to push for that elusive Holy Grail.
I respect that others think we should keep Miller and trade someone else (Boeser and Horvat being the two names I see thrown around) and I don’t deny that Miller is slightly more valuable on the ice than both RIGHT NOW. But, Miller is the one that should get you a 1st rounder, an A prospect, and more besides, he’s the oldest of the bunch, and he’s the one that will be most painful to keep once the dust has settled after 2023 free agency. Unless the team shows that the Boudreau bump has turned them to a legitimate contender by the deadline this year, you have to get that big trade haul for JT Miller.
Depending on the market: if there is an appetite for a high-end player or not. If I am the GM, Pearson would be the first veteran, I would try to trade and use to gauge the market.
The whole org/team is still under assessment and who becomes the GM, for how long will say a lot.
I understand and agree with the logic of trading Miller given his contract status, perceived market value, and the team’s competitive window.
But I’m going to go off the board a bit and suggest Tyler Myers. He’s been playing well, but still has two more years at $6M left. That cap space will be helpful to resign Miller and Horvat.
Stand pat for now, until you see if the playoffs are achievable.
Once the playoffs are unmakeable, it’s Moneypuck — trade every expiring contract for picks.
Put on your big boy pants and sell high on Miller and maybe Bo, too.
Listen to offers on everyone except Petterson, Hughes, Demko, Hogs, and Podzilla.
If you trade Bo, make Petey captain.
I’d be really careful about jettisoning certain vets regardless of the long-term goal. In a vacuum, it always makes sense to not hold onto aging players and to swap them out for prospects and picks. That’s why walking away from Markstrom and Tanev made sense (and I actually think Toffoli, too, in the long run). I’d choose Demko and Boeser and the other young players over investing in older guys (except that we then turned around and put some of that Tanev money into other older players).
But the problem remains that some (but not all) vets have an outsized influence on the games. We all saw how long it took the Canucks to recover from losing Tanev, Markstrom and Toffoli last year. I would’ve said on the current roster that Miller, Myers and Pearson are all probably the best combination of selling high and best return right now – I don’t think you’d ever get a higher return than right now on all three of them, with an argument to be made that all three are probably at a peak that they won’t get to again in the years to come. But I think you’re gambling again that a young core that isn’t really ready to step up and leaders will have another set-back if you do jettison them. Pearson jumping right in against Soucy after that high hit on Garland is a perfect example – didn’t even miss a beat to drop the gloves and defend his teammate. Miller has stepped up to speak on behalf of his teammates on countless occasions, not just the COVID outbreak last year. And Myers has deflected some of the negative attention on Hughes and even OEL, all while elevating his own game under Boudreau.
So I get the idea of selling off vets. But I don’t see it happening as long as the team stays hot and we’re firmly in the playoff race (which I think is more the case now with the other Pacific teams stumbling, and us and VGK getting better) and I think most of the ones we could sell off are marginal and not really worth it (Halak, maybe Dickinson, Motte) because you don’t save much on salary and you’d get mid-range picks back at best and it wouldn’t affect our salary decisions in the years to come. If we do come back down to earth and are out of playoff range by the TDL then maybe you focus on one to get rid of. I’d say Myers would be the best of that lot, or maybe Miller if the offer really was too good to be true (say Minnesota actually offered a first and either Boldy or Rossi, not a lame offer like Fiala and a second).
Pearson has a no-trade clause and is not bad for the cost, so I see him as being redeployed, not traded. Miller is the obvious one to move. He is outside of the core age and will be in decline when we are in contention, as well as before his next contract expires. He has only one year until free agency and will get offers we cannot match, given the people we need to sign and positions we need to fill. His value to a Cup contender this year is bigger than it will be next year because they get him at a good cap hit for two cup runs…next year, he is a rental.
I wish people would stop trotting out Petey and Boeser. Both are players who are getting better and are members of the core group. We will not get as much value for them as they are worth.
Trade no one this year unless an offer that can’t be refused becomes available. Rutherford is building for long-term success (playoffs every year for the ownership) there’s a good chance he doesn’t see a Cup-contending team coming together any time soon with this roster. If so, then next year is when it will be time to trade and sign to reshape the team.
In a perfect world, I would trade Pearson, but the return wouldn’t move the needle on any of our needs.
The vet trade comes down to either Miller or Boeser. We can’t afford both going forward, so if we could help our defence with a forward trade, we have to look at it. Miller is the better, all-round player and can play a premium position. Boeser is younger and fits our core better, but we do have some good young wingers on the team and in the system to restock that position. For me, it comes down to what they would bring back in a trade and whichever one can fill our need for a young right shot d-man with size. That’s the trade to make.
A River Named Curt:
Halak, and pronto to avoid the $1.25 million dead cap hit next season for his bonus.
Just peripheral players to start; so Chaisson, so they can get faster.
And then take a serious look at whether Pettersson will regain his form, because if the conclusion is no, his value in the trade market will drop the longer they keep him.
Miller needs to be extended and stay. Along with Demko and Hughes, he should be untouchable.
Boeser, for me, is the most likely move if they get value back, preferably on the back end.
Petterson needs to be playing way better to get any value, so unlikely move and his upside is still huge.
Look out for Horvat. He proved he is a beast in the playoffs. I suspect some team trying to win it all offers a bucketload of prospects for him.
Decisions on who to trade must be prefaced with clear goals and a plan to get there. The Canucks are unlikely to contend this season or next, too much dead cap on the books. They could and likely should be a playoff team. A plan to contend in the 23/24 season is too soon to pencil into the roster draft picks from 2022 and 2023. Maybe they get lucky, but it isn’t likely.
Accepting a step backward next season, a trading strategy can be built on that premise. Move any or all of Pearson, Dickinson, and Poolman for picks any time between now and next season. They can all be replaced by comparable players for the same or less cost. The picks could be used as future fodder in bigger trades and/or restocking the prospect pool.
Move one of Myers or OEL before next season for a young D-man with top-four upside but not there yet. Trade Brock Boeser this deadline. Becoming a perennial playoff team requires trading out good players that are not going to fit under the cap when they have high value. These trades bring the cost structure in line, provide ample room to re-sign Miller and Horvat, some extra picks, an end to pushing bonuses into next season, and needed flexibility.
Tyler Myers is the vet I would trade 1st — the Canucks would acquire $ 6mil in cap space and rid themselves of a poor-value contract. He can be replaced with a player at a much lower cap hit. Second choices: Pearson and Dickinson, for the same reasons as Myers.
The chemistry with this club seems to be at a level we haven’t seen in a long time. It wouldn’t break my heart if Rutherford stood pat on the trade front to see what he has in this team. There is obviously some dead wood that should be jettisoned next year, but to start moving big pieces now would disrupt the team chemistry. Stand pat and wait ‘til next year.
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