The Vancouver Canucks need to be aggressive in the trade market, and the cap-strapped Tampa Bay Lightning are an ideal trade partner.
The Canucks only missed the playoffs by nine points, and if Benning can rebuild the defence and bring in one or two more impact forwards, Vancouver should be a legitimate threat to make the postseason in 2020.
Benning has the cap space to be an aggressive buyer in free agency, but judging by his lackluster track record there, it’d be best if he avoided the temptation of throwing more money around. Rather, Benning should try to do most of his work in the trade market — where his track record has been quite successful.
And if Benning wants to start making calls, he should have Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois on speed dial. Why is this? Because the Presidents’ Trophy winners are the ideal trade partner for Benning.
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Tampa Bay was swept by the eighth-seeded Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round of the playoffs, and their historical 62-win season was simply all for nothing. BriseBois is going to have to shake up his roster a bit — and he must clear cap space for pending RFA Brayden Point — who’s coming off a 92-point season.
It gets worse for Tampa Bay. They have virtually no cap space to work with right now, and four of their defencemen are pending UFAS. BriseBois is simply going to have two move out one or two hefty contracts — and this is where Benning can make his move.
The Lightning would probably love to move out the final year of Ryan Callahan‘s contract, which carries a $5.8 million cap hit. Could he throw in some form of a sweetener, perhaps a draft pick or prospect, if Benning takes on Callahan’s deal?
Ondrej Palat carries a $5.3 million cap hit for three more seasons. Palat has seen his production decrease, but he is a former 23-goal man with a trio of 50-point seasons on his resume. He’s absolutely worth a look.
Alex Killorn carries a $4.45 million cap hit for four more years. Could Benning offer to take on Killorn, who would be a fine addition to the team’s bottom six? This is a guy with five seasons of 15-plus goals under his belt now.
Look at some more recent powerhouse teams like the Chicago Blackhawks. They were hit so hard by the salary cap that they had to trade out impact players like Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg for minimal returns after their 2010 Stanley Cup championship. Two years ago, they had to practically give away top-four blueliner Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes.
Well, Tampa Bay is in a similar situation now. Sacrifices have to be made, and they’re going to have to move out some key impact players without getting much in return. That’s how the salary cap system works.
And that’s where the Canucks need to jump on some golden opportunities here. They could acquire one or two quality players from Tampa, have the Bolts retain some of that salary, and maybe they throw in picks and/or prospects as a thank you.
That would be quite a win for Benning. He could upgrade his forward group and earn more assets simply for helping Tampa get much-needed cap relief. This is something the Canucks simply must explore in the offseason.