The Vancouver Canucks haven’t had a formidable top six unit for a while now, but general manager Jim Benning can easily fix that in the offseason.
Entering his sixth offseason as general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, Jim Benning has two primary tasks on his to-do list.
The first, of course, is to rebuild a blue line that’s underperformed and struggled aplenty over the last five years now. Having Quinn Hughes for an entire year should do wonders, but Benning’s going to have to add one or two new faces to complement the 2018 first rounder.
After that, Benning has to work at fixing up a top-six unit that hasn’t been championship-caliber since Vancouver won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2011-12. They relied too much on the Sedin twins in their final years, as Henrik and Daniel went through a revolving door of linemates.
Well, he’s got half of the top six well established now. Elias Pettersson is the new face of the franchise. Brock Boeser figures to be an annual 30-goal threat, and future captain Bo Horvat should be good for around 20-something goals and 60-plus points a year.
More from The Canuck Way
- Which team won the Bo Horvat trade?
- What to expect from newcomers Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Räty
- Back to the future: How the skate uniforms became a regular Canucks’ feature night
- Canucks kick off 2023 with disappointing 6-2 loss to Islanders
- 2nd period penalty trouble sinks Canucks in 4-2 loss against Winnipeg
Sven Baertschi formed good chemistry with Boeser and Horvat on the “Killer B’s” line during the 2017-18 season, but the Canucks cannot rely on him to stay healthy.
Trade deadline pickup Tanner Pearson tallied nine goals and 12 points in 19 games, so he should get another look on Horvat’s line next season.
Now, Benning just needs to find a reliable left winger that can fill out the top line, alongside Pettersson and Boeser — and at least one more winger that can skate on the Horvat line. It can’t be that hard, right?
So, how can Benning go about adding two more wingers to fill out his top six? It’s actually not going to be that difficult. Unless he wants it to be.
Draft and free agency
The Canucks own the No. 10 pick in this year’s draft, and unless Bowen Byram is available — and I doubt he will be — Benning should take a winger with his selection. And he’ll have many great candidates to choose from.
This year’s class features stud wingers such as Vasily Podkolzin, Arthur Kaliyev, Cole Caufield, Raphael Lavoie and Matthew Boldy. At least two of them should be available for Benning, and either of them would be tremendous adds to the top six.
After the draft, Benning will have plenty of cap space to add one or two impact players in free agency. It’s hard to see him engaging in a bidding war for Artemi Panarin and, but Benning still has lots of quality options in this year’s market.
Might he break the bank on Jeff Skinner, a seven-time 20-goal man who just put up 40 with the Buffalo Sabres? I wouldn’t be against it, but otherwise Benning can look at Anders Lee (four 25-plus goal seasons), Jordan Eberle (hello, captain clutch), the speedy and slick Gustav Nyquist or a Stanley Cup champion and do-it-all veteran in Carl Hagelin.
That’s one easy blueprint for Benning to follow. He can draft a skilled and crafty winger to play with Pettersson or Horvat, then find a reliable 20-goal scorer in free agency at a non-Loui Eriksson price.
If Benning can add those two impact wingers this offseason, the Canucks will have finally shored up their top six. They’ll grow into an offensive juggernaut, and it’ll obviously increase their chances of making the playoffs in 2019.