Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning must learn from the disappointing Loui Eriksson contract ahead of free agency.
Like every other person in the field, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has made his fair share of mistakes that simply can’t be erased.
Benning, like every other NHL GM, has made his fair share of good moves as well. But once again, the Loui Eriksson contract has entered the spotlight — and for all the wrong reasons, as you may know by now.
In an interview with Ronnie Rönnkvist of HockeySverige.se (h/t Patrick Johnston of the Vancouver Province), Eriksson expressed frustrations with his role on the team and opened about his difficult working relationship with head coach Travis Green.
“The coach and I don’t really get on 100 per cent,” Eriksson said (translations provided by Johnston). “It is difficult when I do not get the same trust that I received from all the other coaches I had during my career. Of course it is tough on that front.”
It’s obvious that Eriksson isn’t happy with how he’s been used under coach Green, but the former simply hasn’t produced enough to earn a bigger role.
Halfway through the six-year, $36 million contract signed two years ago, Eriksson has only scored 32 goals and 76 points in 196 total games with the Canucks.
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Last month, I explored three realistic trade ideas for Eriksson — emphasizing the Canucks would have to take back a comparable contract. That’s the only way Benning could get out of the Eriksson contract, because buying out simply isn’t an option.
Per CapFriendly, buying out Eriksson’s final three years would carry a cap hit of just over $5.55 million for the next two years, approx. $3.55 millio in 2011-12 and $555, 556 for three years through 2024-25. Simply not worth it.
All Benning can do right now is try to learn from his mistakes and not get stuck with a contract like this one again.
Even though Eriksson was coming off a 30-goal 63-point season with the Boston Bruins when he signed the $36 million deal, Benning shouldn’t have ignored the red flags.
Eriksson was entering his age-31 season, and teams always make the mistake of signing players over 30 to long-term deals. Benning should have known that Eriksson — a reliable two-way player throughout his career — was going to slow down early as well.
Players with that strong defensive game tend to wear out quicker. It’s the nature of playing a two-way game, and Benning should have been more cautious with this. But there’s nothing he can do about the Eriksson contract except learn from it.
For example, Benning would be wise to avoid throwing lucrative contracts to the likes of Joe Pavelski (35 in July), Wayne Simmonds (31 in August), and Mats Zuccarello (32 in September). As talented as those players are, they only have so many productive years left. Benning should stay away from signing any free agent in their 30s to a long-term deal. Plain and simple.
Debate among yourselves if you think Benning should chase the prized free agents. But Erik Karlsson (29 in May), Artemi Panarin (27), Kevin Hayes (27), and Matt Duchene (28) are relatively young and still in their primes. If Benning were to sign either one, at least he knows he’s probably getting several productive years from each — given their ages and consistent play.
Those are among the many talented free agents in this year’s class that don’t come with too much risk. If Benning can pay $36 million to Eriksson, he may as well not be afraid to hang out bigger dollars to more skilled players who will actually produce.
The Eriksson contract simply hasn’t worked out, and he’s not happy about it. Benning may be stuck paying Eriksson for the final three years, but maybe there is a silver lining. Perhaps the Vancouver GM will learn from his mistake and manage to stay away from handing out such contracts to ageing and regressing players for the rest of his career.