Vancouver Canucks: Jim Benning needs to take risks in trade market

VANCOUVER, BC - MAY 23: Vancouver Canucks new General Manager talks during a press conference at Rogers Arena May 23, 2014 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - MAY 23: Vancouver Canucks new General Manager talks during a press conference at Rogers Arena May 23, 2014 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Entering his most important offseason yet, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has to take more chances when the trade market opens.

The Vancouver Canucks will have approximately $26 million in cap space to work with this summer, although a chunk of that will go to re-signing star sniper Brock Boeser — and perhaps top blueliner Alexander Edler.

Assuming he gets those two deals done, Benning should still have enough cap space to add one or two impact players in free agency and/or the trade market. Right now, Benning’s focus is to determine whom the Canucks should take with the No. 10 pick in the draft, which is only two months away.

But Benning should also start mapping out a plan for the trade market, because it’s bound to open up very soon. Most of the 2019 Stanley Cup favorites were eliminated in the first round, and you can bet that the vast majority of teams will be looking to shake up their rosters after untimely exits from the postseason.

Lots of these teams are strapped for cash, and I wrote here about why Benning needs to target those clubs. But Benning shouldn’t only focus on trying to acquire quality roster players from cap-strapped teams.

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He needs to see if there are some ways to upgrade his roster while also getting rid of some not-so-great contracts. As discussed here, Benning would likely have to take on a comparable contract and player to move out Loui Eriksson.

Jason Botchford of The Athletic appeared on TSN 1040 and offered a potential trade scenario with the Calgary Flames.

Botchford talked about how the Canucks could look to take James Neal‘s contract off Calgary’s hands — adding that Vancouver could get some “significant assets.” Botchford then suggested the Canucks could use some of these assets to acquire P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators.

This isn’t to say that the Canucks should and will go down that exact path, but Botchford was on the right track, and hopefully Benning was listening.

He simply needs to explore all the markets and see what contracts teams are desperate to get rid of, and if they’ll give Benning extra picks and/or prospects just for taking an unwanted contract off of their hands.

Neal was a good suggestion by Botchford, but he turns 32 in September and carries a $5.75 million cap hit for for more years.

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For example, the Toronto Maple Leafs would probably love to get out of the final year in Patrick Marleau‘s contract that carries a $6.25 million cap hit. The Winnipeg Jets should look to move out Dmitry Kulikov and the final year of his current deal, in order to free up more cap room to re-sign Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor.

It’s moves like this that Benning has to afford. What if these teams are willing to attach a B-level prospect and/or picks, just for the sake of giving them cap room? What if they’re happy to swap out one of these contract for somebody like Eriksson, Brandon Sutter or Jay Beagle?

One of the best and most convenient ways to add more young assets is to simply take on a bad contract from a contending team that needs the space. The Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning might all be open for business, too. These teams are trying to win now, and if they have to sacrifice draft picks and prospects to keep the core together, so be it.

Benning has so many opportunities here. With all that cap space, he may be better of avoiding the temptation to overpay for veterans in free agency. Rather, he should be aggressive in the trade market and simply look around to see where he can pick up more assets to help this rebuilding team.

And as I suggested above, it wouldn’t hurt to see if other teams are interested to swap out players that also aren’t living up to their deals. Eriksson and Sutter need fresh starts, and it’s up to Benning to try and find those.

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Benning has never been that aggressive in the trade market, and he’s never been one to take on bad contracts if it means adding more assets. Well, it’s time for him to be more aggressive and to start swinging for the fences here. It’s time to start making some bold moves that can help Vancouver accelerate its rebuild here.