According to a report from The Province’s Jason Botchford, Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning has been away from the team for over a week, dealing with a death in the family.
Botchford reports that Benning did not attend the 2018 World Junior Championships and has been granted leave from his position with the Canucks for “weeks” after his wife’s mother suffered brain hemorrhaging and fell into a coma. The Benning family matriarch has since passed away.
“They were best friends,” Jim said of his wife and her mother. “For 35 years, my job has meant I’m on the road all the time and they were each other’s support system back home, helping to raise our four children.”
It’s a tragic development and certainly explains why Benning has been relatively silent regarding all of the trade chatter amongst the league. There’s plenty of speculation surrounding Benning and the Canucks as the rest of the league anticipates what the team may do in advance of the NHL’s February 26th trade deadline.
Report: Canucks planning deadline fire sale?
Another season, another bottom finish five for the Vancouver Canucks. Despite bolstering their roster this past offseason with additions like Thomas Vanek, Sam Gagner and Michael Del Zotto, the hard luck Canucks find themselves near the bottom of the NHL’s standings once again. Not even a generational breakout star like rookie Brock Boeser can save the free falling Canucks, as it looks like they’re on a collision course with the NHL’s Draft Lottery once again.
Just as it they were at last year’s trade deadline, the Canucks are expected to be deadline sellers. Except this time around don’t be surprised if GM Jim Benning decides to be more aggressive in his approach. The Canucks shipped out fan favorites Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen at least year’s deadline, but waffled on goaltender Ryan Miller before ultimately deciding to retain him. The Canucks tried to convince Miller to return to Vancouver, but he split for the Anaheim Ducks on the opening day of free-agency. Look for Benning to avoid situations like that this time around.
As for who’s available, TSN analyst Ray Ferraro was on TSN 1040 radio in Vancouver this morning, where he broke down the value and potential return for two Canucks blue liners: Erik Gudbranson and Ben Hutton.
Gudbranson is no stranger to trade speculation. Multiple reports have indicated that the Canucks will look to move on from the rugged, tough 26-year-old defenseman after one and a half disappointing season. He’s on an expiring contract and will be a restricted free-agent this offseason.
“If you’re happy with him as a #4 defenseman, because in my mind that’s what he is on a really good team, are you going to be happy paying him $5 million,” asks Ferraro. “Because if you are, you’ll make this move. If not, you’ll try to get him at a rental price.”
As for Hutton, the 24-year-old was once thought to be a key part of the team’s future, but just like Gudbranson, two middling seasons on an underwhelming Canucks blue line, have worn on the youngster. Hutton managed 25 points in his rookie campaign, but is on pace for just 12 this season.
Does it make sense for the Canucks to trade Hutton now, when his value is at its lowest? Or should they hold onto him in the hopes that he can turn things around? “If you’re selling now, you’re at lowest possible return,” says Ferraro. “It wasn’t long ago that he was playing with confidence, with a view forward. It was a puck mover on a team that didn’t have any. He’s of the age where players either start to get it, or they don’t.”
You have to think, at this point, that the Canucks would be happy to get some future assets for either player really.
In terms of offensive options, it’s likely that veteran forward Thomas Vanek will also be traded before the NHL’s February 26th trade deadline.
The 33-year-old Vanek has been surprisingly effective this year, scoring 12 goals and 29 points in 43 games for the Canucks. If the team can recoup a mid-round pick for their $2 million investment, they’d likely take it in a heartbeat.
So, who else may be available? Certainly the Canucks would love to rid themselves of Loui Eriksson and his atrocious contract, but there’s almost zero possibility of that happening. Defenseman Chris Tanev could fetch a decent return, as several teams would covet the right-shooting, shutdown defenseman.
As for the rest of the roster, anyone not named Sedin, Horvat or Boeser is likely up for negotiations. Things could get interesting on the West Coast.