Vancouver Canucks: Jim Benning defends Loui Eriksson

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 25: Loui Eriksson
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 25: Loui Eriksson /

Jim Benning has come under plenty of fire for signing Loui Eriksson to a six-year deal worth $36 million two summers ago. Eriksson hasn’t come anywhere close to earning the money, but Benning defended him nonetheless.

At first, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning looked like a genius for signing Swedish star Loui Eriksson in 2016 even though the price tag was a whopping $36 million over six years.

Eriksson was coming off a 30-goal, 63-point season wit the Boston Bruins. It was the sixth time in his career in which Eriksson scored at least 20 goals. Put him with the Sedin twins, and you had a guy who would surely score 20-goal goals, and at least 40-something points.

But Benning is instead one of the many general managers who got duped by handing out big money to an ageing commodity. Through his first two seasons in Vancouver — which have been hampered by injuries — Eriksson has just 21 goals and 47 points in 115 games.

Nonetheless, Benning spoke about Eriksson and admitted the hefty price tag was “probably his fault,” per Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province.

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Benning then pointed out that Eriksson’s strong production with the Dallas Stars and Boston Bruins came from playing with Brad Richards and David Krejci, respectively.

“Nothing against our centres, but he hasn’t found the chemistry or fit. Maybe it’s (Elias Pettersson) when he comes in and plays centre at some point,” Benning said.

“Maybe it’s (Adam) Gaudette. I understand the criticism because of the money we’re paying, but with Daniel and Henrik (Sedin) gone, we need to rely on him and bring leadership to some of our young guys.”

The chance

s of Eriksson suddenly regaining his 20-goal, 50 to 60-point form are very slim, however. This is a man who turns 33 in July and has missed 49 games over the last two years. Given his physical two-way style of play, it’s not going to be easy for Eriksson to stay healthy and keep his body in peak condition.

“He understands the situation,” Benning said. I feel he can get back to being a 20-goal scorer and other things can help us be competitive.”

Health is the key for Eriksson, but chemistry is the other. He hasn’t found the right fit with any Canuck players. Should we really buy the idea that an oft-injured forward past his prime will suddenly become a scorer again with young kids who are trying to develop their own games?

The Canucks can really only hope for the best, but if anything else, they’re stuck with a bad contract for four more seasons. It’s not ideal, but at least they figure to have plenty of cap space for at least the next two years.

Next: Vancouver Canucks: Capitalizing on a wild draft

Benning seemingly learned from his lesson and opted to only hand out cheap short-term deals in free agency last year. Though this year’s market is loaded with quality scoring forwards and top-four blueliners, Benning may want to play it safe and avoid throwing out big bucks on July 1.