Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning is seeing little production from his free agent signings, and he must learn from all of this.
When Vancouver Canucks head coach Travis Green made Loui Eriksson a healthy scratch for Wednesday’s home game against the New York Rangers, some of the focus automatically shifted back to general manager Jim Benning.
After all, this is the man who rewarded Eriksson a six-year contract worth $36 million three summers ago. The Canucks were supposed to enter a rebuilding phase at the time, but Benning couldn’t avoid the temptation to add a veteran goal-scorer — even if it cost him plenty of term and dollars.
Per Daniel Wagner of the Vancouver Courier, Benning admitted earlier this weak that Eriksson’s struggles with the Canucks are “disappointing,” since he expected the veteran two-way player “to be a consistent 20-goal scorer.”
During Vancouver’s eventual 4-1 victory over the Rangers, Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre shared some interesting tidbits regarding Eriksson’s future:
Through his first 184 games with the Canucks, Eriksson has totaled just 31 goals and 69 points. Simply not good enough for a player who has six 20-goal seasons on his resume. Once renowned for his strong defensive play, Eriksson hasn’t been that reliable in his own end, either.
But despite Eriksson’s struggles, Benning decided to be semi-aggressive in 2017 and 2018 free agency. The results simply haven’t been there.
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In 2017, Benning’s biggest signings were Michael Del Zotto (two years, $6 million), Anders Nilsson (two years, $6 million), and Sam Gagner (three years, $9.45 million). None of them were able to produce in Vancouver, and all three of them were only traded this year.
Last summer, Benning signed Jay Beagle (four years, $12 million), Antoine Roussel (four years, $12 million), and Tim Schaller (two years, $3.8 million). That was plenty of term and dollars to hand out to a trio of players who aren’t exactly known for their scoring.
Prior to his season-ending knee injury sustained on Wednesday, Roussel was actually among Vancouver’s top forwards.
His 2018-19 campaign ends with nine goals and 31 points in 65 games, and he’s been a great locker room leader for the rebuilding Canucks. You can make a case that he’s probably worth around half what the Canucks are paying him, though.
Beagle has a mere nine points in 46 games with a woeful 39.5 Corsi For percentage. Even if you like his energy and toughness, there’s no denying that Benning could find a comparable player for a fraction of the price he’s paying for Beagle.
As for Schaller, he has just five assists in 36 games, with a Corsi For percentage of 45.3. His contract isn’t eating up much of the team’s cap space, but the Canucks would probably like to replace him with a younger and more skilled player for next season.
Benning has been excellent at drafting here in Vancouver, and his hits have mainly been hit-or-miss. But he obviously hasn’t seen that much success in free agency, and as another non-playoff season winds down, it’s important for him to learn his past mistakes.
That is, don’t give so much money and term to veteran players who are nearing the end of their primes and/or bring very limited offence. If he can’t find any quality players at somewhat reasonable prices in free agency, Benning’s best bet is to avoid big splashes and just keep building this team through the draft and trades.
*Stats courtesy of Hockey Reference*