It’s two weeks to go until the 2022 Trade Deadline, and the Vancouver Canucks don’t seem to know if they’ll make any deals at all, never mind who they’d actually be trading if they did.
If they have an idea already, they’re certainly not leaking it to the press. Scenarios have been floated in which all of JT Miller, Conor Garland, Brock Boeser, Tyler Myers, Tyler Motte, Jaroslav Halak, Luke Schenn, and others have all been moved to other teams before or at the deadline, and yet there’s also a distinct possibility that each and every one of them stays, too.
Basically, nobody really knows what GM Patrik Allvin and his management team are going to do on March 21…and that’s a good thing.
In fact, as frustrating as all the ambiguity might be to those in the Vancouver fanbase, such open-endedness actually goes a long way toward fixing up an issue that had plagued the Canucks since Jim Benning took over in 2014.
Love him or hate him, Benning had a well-earned reputation for painting himself into corners as a General Manager. All too often, Benning would zero in on “his guys,” and pursue them wholeheartedly, regardless of the final cost. More times than not, it led to the Canucks getting ripped off in one form or another.
Take free agency, for example. When Benning decided he was going to go after a certain UFA, chances were very good that he would land them, because chances were good that he’d outbid all other suitors, even when he really shouldn’t have been.
There’s no way that Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel should have got four years at $3 million each, but Benning had already decided that he wanted them on his roster, and so that’s what they ultimately cost.
The same could be said for Loui Eriksson, who just had to be reunited with the Sedins in Vancouver, or Tyler Myers, who everyone knew was returning to British Columbia a year prior to him hitting the market, and who still somehow cashed in on a max-value contract.
From a UFA’s perspective, if you know that the Canucks have already penciled you into their roster, it’s pretty easy to turn down their first offer and wait for something better to inevitably be slid across the table.
Benning also fell victim to this foible when it came to trades. He was famous for throwing that extra draft pick into nearly every transaction, a sure sign that he was being squeezed for value by his fellow GMs. Like UFAs, rival GMs always seemed to know exactly who the Canucks were targeting and when Benning was “all-in” on a certain acquisition. Even when the target was a good one, the Canucks seemed to wind up paying more than they should have, given the market.
It’s how Benning wound up paying Jared McCann AND a second round pick for Erik Gudbranson. It’s how they ended up throwing an extra third rounder into the JT Miller deal, or somehow adding a second rounder to Nick Bonino just to get their hands on Brandon Sutter.
When Benning decided he wanted to trade for someone, he really decided, and that meant that he was always down to throw in a sweetener or two to get the trade across the finish line.
The same could be said of outgoing trades, too. When it came time for someone to be dealt away from the Vancouver Canucks, everyone in the league knew who was on the block and why, and that hurt the value of the offers that the Canucks received.
We all remember the debacles of Trade Deadlines past, with players like Dan Hamhuis not moving — and then walking as UFAs — because nobody would offer up much in return. And, really, could you blame them? If everyone, including Benning and the Canucks, knows that a certain player has to move or be lost for nothing, there’s really not much incentive to blow anyone’s socks off with an offer, is there?
That’s why, time and time again, it was Benning left holding the short-end of a transactional stick.
It’s also why the Allvin Era has been off to a refreshing start, even without any actual trades to base any judgment from.
The new Canucks front office has been spending all of their time doing a deep-dive into the true value of each of their assets — both in terms of what it would cost to keep them around long-term, and what they’d be worth in a trade.
And they’ve let it be known, fairly plainly, that all their options are on the table.
This is the opposite of painting oneself into a corner, and it’s obviously the better route to take when it comes to asset management. It’s so obvious that, were it not for the precedent set by the last eight years, it would be almost silly to even be writing about it.
The Canucks, as it stands, don’t have to do anything. Their only pending UFAs of note are Motte and Halak. Beyond that, they’ve got no real obligation to move any one player prior to the March 21 Trade Deadline.
They could, however, trade a number of different people, and that’s where the benefit to such an open-ended approach will really come into play.
It’s clear that the Canucks have set a high asking price for all of their high-end assets, and now they have no real impetus to budge off that — nor will that impetus increase at all as the deadline gets closer.
Don’t want to pay the asking price for Miller? That’s fine, someone else will. And if they don’t, then the Canucks will just move someone else, like Boeser or Garland, instead.
The Canucks’ future plans may be ambiguous, but the message being sent out to other teams is: pay us what we’re asking for our players, or miss out on them entirely. There’s no corners to be backed into here, just open floors for negotiating. The Canucks haven’t just opened up a bidding war, they’ve made it so that there can be an active bidding war for each and every one of their tradeable assets, all happening at the same time. Because anyone could move, no one has to move, and that means rival teams will have to pay up if they, like Benning of old, want to get “their guy.”
When a good enough offer comes across the table, the Canucks can snap it up. Until one does, they can wait. The ball is firmly in the Canucks’ court this time around, and that’s an extremely positive change of pace in Vancouver.
In hockey, it’s generally thought of as a good thing to be willing to go into the corners. But for too long, the Vancouver Canucks have had a GM who seemed to spend all of his time in them.
Really, it’s just nice to have the option of being pleasantly surprised on the table again.