Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning Wants Big Splash in Free Agency

Feb 28, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Loui Eriksson (21) during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 28, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Loui Eriksson (21) during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning gave insight into his plans for the 2016 NHL Draft and the following Free Agent Frenzy.

On Friday, Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning sat down for an interview with TSN‘s Farhan Lalji and touched on a number of topics that should be of particular interest to both casual and diehard Canucks fans. Indeed, Benning shone considerable light on the team’s draft plans, potential buyout situations and strategies for July 1st, also known as the Free Agent Frenzy.

Right off the bat, Lalji asked Benning about the lack of draft picks in the first four rounds and whether or not Benning would be looking to acquire some more picks prior to or at the draft. Benning then stated that the Canucks would love to possibly add another third-round selection and that he’s been in constant contact with the majority of the other GMs around the league, but so far hasn’t had any luck.

Most tellingly, Benning said “the assets that we have are players that we have plans for in our organization.” In other words, breathe deeply and relax, Canucks Nation, because Brock Boeser isn’t going anywhere.

Makes sense, considering the Canucks should be looking to only add pieces, not subtract by sending sacrificial lambs to other teams in order to quickly fill organizational needs.

Trading 5th-Overall Pick?

Benning also revealed that he’s been receiving numerous calls about the Canucks’ fifth-overall pick. He confirmed that he’s not actively seeking to move the pick but he will, as all good GMs do, listen to any offers coming his way. In fact, for those of you out there who are wanting some serious draft day action, Benning offered this juicy tidbit:

"“There’s some interesting names in the marketplace that I really hadn’t heard before, so I think the closer we get to the draft, I could see that there could be a lot of action going on. I think teams are just kind of waiting to see where the salary cap ends up and then once they know for sure where it’s going to be, there will be a lot more movement.”"


Unexpected trades are usually more intriguing than trades involving players who have long been rumored to be on the move, so this is a positive indication that we may be getting an exciting draft day.

Related: 5 Possible Draft Day Scenarios

Benning went on to talk about the fifth-overall selection in detail, claiming that there are six players the Canucks like near that spot and that he loves the fifth pick because he believes that, no matter what, the Canucks are going to get a top-line forward or a top-pairing defenseman. Regardless, Benning views the pick as a “foundational piece” for the team’s future.

Does this shed any more light on which players the Canucks may be leaning towards? Not necessarily. It still leaves me under the impression that the Canucks will take Pierre-Luc Dubois if he’s there at No. 5. And if he’s not, they could opt for Olli Juolevi or another young stud defenseman over Matthew Tkachuk.

And speaking of Dubois and Tkachuk, Benning offered a brief comparison.

On Tkachuk:

"“Tkachuk is from the top of the circles down. He’s got amazing hands around the net. He’s thick, from the trunk down, where he can protect the puck. He goes to the front of the net. He scores dirty goals. He’s a lot like his dad was when he played. He’s not as big as his dad but he might have better vision of finding other players in and around the net. But he’s going to be a point-producer at the NHL level for a long time.”"

On Dubois:

"“Dubois I see as more of a two-way player. He can play — if it’s a hard, physical, heavy game he can play in that style of game or if it’s a fast, skilled game he can play that style game.”"

Additionally, it’s worthwhile noting that Benning specifically mentioned Dubois’ ability to effectively play all three forward positions. That gives a coach a lot of lineup flexibility. Part of the reason why Dubois is so highly-ranked and coveted is the way in which he can adapt to any style of game, as Benning said. Dubois sounds like the closest thing to the full-package, complete player in this draft.

Making Big Splash in Free Agency

When pressed about his free-agent inclinations, Benning stated his preferred signings: a 20-30 goal scorer and a versatile two-way player. If accomplished, Benning feels that those signings would be all the Canucks could really do to improve the team for next season.

If Benning is looking to add a couple of players from free agency, then it stands to reason that the more expensive FAs out there are outside the team’s price range. No more Steven Stamkos dreams. Signing Milan Lucic might still be a possibility, but he’d have to do it for less money. That leaves the following players: Loui Eriksson, Andrew Ladd, Troy Brouwer and Kyle Okposo.

More from The Canuck Way

As myself and fellow The Canuck Way writers have established, each player merits consideration but it seems as though Benning’s ideal solution would see the Canucks signing Eriksson and Ladd or Brouwer. Eriksson provides the bulk of the scoring, Ladd or Brouwer provide scoring depth, versatility, strong two-way games, and leadership. All three players provide valuable playoff experience.

Shoot for the stars, Jimbo!

Finally, the Canucks’ GM spoke to the team’s potential buyout candidates and goaltender situation.

While no final decisions have been made about Chris Higgins or Alex Burrows, Benning is keeping his eyes and ears open for opportunities. There is, after all, still time for the Canucks to make these decisions, so Benning can explore the marketplace and see if mentioning those players’ names piques any interest. The Canucks would, of course, look to trade first before buying out Higgins or Burrows.

Burrows may prove valuable to a team in contention at the trade deadline and could still fetch something, especially if he begins the year on the team and performs adequately. Higgins’ situation is a little more uncertain. He could be headed for a buyout.

No Reason to Worry About Goaltending

As for the goaltending tandem of Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom, Benning seems to like the relative stability there:

"“I’m not looking to trade Ryan Miller now. I think our goaltending is one of the strengths of our team, having Ryan and having Jacob back there. Jacob had a good first year. We want to continue to work with him. We think he’s going to be our No. 1 goalie going forward and I think Ryan is going to be a good mentor for him.”"

That shouldn’t be a shocker to anyone. There were rumors of the Canucks trading Miller last year but nothing really ever came to fruition because of Miller’s limited NTC. Why blow up a solid goalie tandem now? It will be a simple case of whoever is hot plays and all the while Markstrom can learn from the veteran Miller. Win-win situation, really.

Every NHL draft and offseason is of the utmost importance to any team in the league but for the Canucks this draft and offseason is shaping up to one of the most critical in the franchise’s history. The team is retooling on the fly — rebuilding but not in full tear-down mode — and trying to remain competitive while they still have the aging superstar Sedin twins and an ever-improving core of youth. The Canucks are selecting fifth-overall at this year’s draft, in a position to draft a key piece for the future, and are poised to wade into free agent waters with a decent ammount of money to spend and a very solid crop of talent from which to choose.

Next: Best Free Agent Fits for the Sedins

Any success at the draft and in free agency will erase last season’s disappointing memories but any failures will undoubtedly emphasize the organization’s gaping holes and errode the hope of Canucks fans across the continent.

Can you feel the crushing weight of all that pressure, Jimbo?