Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning could have had the best of both worlds by trading Dan Hamhuis.
For the first time in years, the Vancouver Canucks were in a clear selling position at the trade deadline. Fans of the club, eager for change to a team that has been woefully inconsistent this season, gleefully speculated which players would be traded, to whom, and what the return might be.
After all the anticipation of changes to come, fans were treated to a grand total of two trades: prospect forward Hunter Shinkaruk to the Calgary Flames for centre Markus Granlund, and a fifth-round pick to the Edmonton Oilers for defenceman Philip Larsen. Additionally, the Oilers took Adam Cracknell from the Canucks after he was placed on waivers.
While the rumours about Radim Vrbata gradually cooled off, Dan Hamhuis remained a hot topic right up until the 3 pm EDT deadline. Chicago and Dallas both had interest in Hamhuis:
The morning of the trade deadline, Dallas was the prime target:
Then Dallas was out:
Then they were in again.
Then Chicago was back in:
Then, finally, it was confirmed that neither team pulled the trigger on a Hamhuis deal:
Fans became dizzy watching the back and forth. The anticipation grew by the hour, until the deadline finally came and went, and… nothing. No last-minute trades. The Canucks chose to stand pat. The disappointment among the fanbase is almost palpable.
The Canucks had a total of nine players they stated they were willing to part with: Hamhuis and Vrbata, plus Cracknell, Brandon Prust, Yannick Weber, Linden Vey, Chris Higgins, Matt Bartkowski, and Ronalds Kenins. All of these players were either pending free agents, or had cleared waivers unclaimed and were languishing in Utica. The trade deadline has passed, and out of these nine players, only one — Cracknell — has a new home, and that comes not via trade but via waivers.
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In other words, Canucks management advertised the sale of nine players and only managed to sell one of them — for free. For fans that are rabid for either a playoff run, a high draft pick, or simply for something to take their minds off of the Canucks inconsistency on the ice, this is the worst-case scenario.
It’s also downright confusing. Granted, it was almost impossible to see Benning and Co. convincing another team to pay for Higgins, Prust or Weber, given that 29 teams had already passed them up on waivers. Fair enough.
But, given that Benning had offers from teams for Hamhuis right up until the deadline, it’s astonishing that the Canucks GM opted instead to keep him.
Hamhuis, it should be noted, did have a no-trade clause, meaning this was not solely Jim Benning’s decision to make. Yet, Hamhuis said afterward that was willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to either team:
Which means that it was Benning who ultimately rejected every single offer made for his veteran defenseman.
For fans, this adds a new level of frustration, given that there has been no talk between Hamhuis and the Vancouver Canucks about him re-signing with the club.
Hamhuis has stated repeatedly that his preference has always been to stay in Vancouver. The Canucks, however, don’t appear to be eager to keep Hamhuis past July 1st. If they were, they surely would have begun some form of negotiation by now, as the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lighning have done with Loui Eriksson and Steven Stamkos.
So, the question for Jim Benning is this: if you are willing to lose Hamhuis for nothing on July 1st, why did you not attempt to attain something for him today? Even if all the offers for Hamhuis fell short of your expectations, were these offers worse than nothing?
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On the other hand, if you prefer to keep Hamhuis beyond this season, why has no effort been made to sign him to a new contract or extend his existing one? And if there was even a slim possibility of trading Hamhuis today and then signing him again in the summer, would this have not been the best possibly scenario for both the player and the team?
No one can blame an NHL GM for trying to get the best possible return in a trade. But once it became clear that his asking price was too high for the teams making offers, Jim Benning should have seen the bigger picture and made the most of what was being offered.
It wouldn’t have mattered if the returned was a player or prospect that didn’t address the Canucks’ immediate needs, or a draft pick that they did not want. Any return would have given them more bargaining chips in the offseason.
Hamhuis has intimated that he might be willing to sign with Vancouver again, perhaps for considerably less then he could earn on the free agent market. Yet he would almost certainly have done this even if he was traded – Hamhuis’ love for Vancouver is no secret:
Despite Hamhuis’ no-trade clause, Benning and the rest of Canucks management had it in their power to make a trade that would improve their team in the future, while still signing Hamhuis for a discount in the summer.
Seems like a no-brainer.
Instead, all they gave fans is 22 more games of Dan Hamhuis, on a Canucks team whose season seems destined to end with the regular season.
Benning could have had the best of both worlds: trading Hamhuis for one or two marketable assets now, then re-signing him at a bargain price later. Instead, the Canucks have lost out on any assets they could have had, and whether Hamhuis is a Canuck next season is questionable.
A golden opportunity has been lost, and Canucks fans know it – even if management refuses to admit it.