Vancouver Canucks: Jim Benning sounds off on Loui Eriksson’s struggles

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 14: Loui Eriksson #21 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the Florida Panthers at Rogers Arena February 14, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n
VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 14: Loui Eriksson #21 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the Florida Panthers at Rogers Arena February 14, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n /
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Almost half of Loui Eriksson’s contract six-year pact with the Vancouver Canucks is complete. General manager Jim Benning talked about Eriksson’s well-documented struggles here on the west coast.

For Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning, signing Loui Eriksson to a six-year, $36 million deal came with plenty of risk — but also the possibility of reward.

The Canucks had to find a winger for Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Signing Eriksson — a two-way stud with six 20-goal seasons on his resume — seemed like the solution. Obviously, there were some concerns about his injury history and Eriksson’s age (he turned 31 shortly after signing the deal).

Well, it’s safe to say the Canucks thought Eriksson would produce far more than the mere 31 goals and 69 points through his first 184 games with Vancouver. The signing has been heavily scrutinized by fans and media here, and obviously, Benning didn’t expect Eriksson to produce far more.

On Monday, Benning talked about what his early expectations for Eriksson, and how discouraging it is to see the former 30-goal and 70-point forward struggle here.

“When we signed him, we expected him to be a consistent 20-goal scorer,” Benning said, via Daniel Wagner of the Vancouver Courier. “He hasn’t done that. That part, that’s been disappointing.”

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Injuries obviously haven’t helped since Eriksson joined the Canucks. He missed 32 games in the 2016-17 season, and in 2017-18 Though Eriksson suited up for every game this season, he’s only managed 10 goals and 22 points through 69 games.

If Eriksson manages at least two more goals and/or three more points, he’ll have registered his best season as a Canuck.

Eriksson wasn’t able to produce with the Sedins, who turned guys like Alexandre Burrows, Anson Carter and Mikael Samuelsson into 30-goal scorers.

Thus, it’s hard to not be disappointed in his overall production here in Vancouver.

On top of the aforementioned six 20-goal seasons, Eriksson had reached the 70-point mark three times in his career, and notched 60-plus points five times.

Even if the term was too much to begin with, it wasn’t hard to envision Eriksson scoring 20-30 goals multiple times here in Vancouver.

But again, his age and injury history haven’t helped Eriksson a bit. He was simply a better fit with the Dallas Stars and Boston Bruins, playing for coaches who leaned heavily on his excellent two-way game. Joining a rebuilding Canucks team — with a handful of past-their-prime veterans — never made things easy for Eriksson upon his arrival.

Benning was trying to balance the need to rebuild while also fielding a competitive hockey team, which explains why he went out and signed Eriksson — even though the Canucks were coming off a 28th-place finish in the league standings.

According to CapFriendly, buying Eriksson out would cost approx. $5.55 million in the first two years, around $3.55 million in 2021-22 and $555,556 for the following three seasons. It doesn’t make sense to buy out Eriksson and keep him on the books for an additional three years.

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The Canucks don’t have many options with Eriksson here. They won’t be able to trade him unless Benning takes back an equally struggling player with a comparable contract. It’s hard to see such a scenario happening, though. Vancouver has no choice but to just stick with Eriksson and try to learn from this when it comes to future free agent decisions and such.