Canucks: Jim Benning’s aggressive moves have paid off

Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning received plenty of criticism for his aggressive trades and UFA signings, but they’ve paid off big time.

The Vancouver Canucks are in strong position to end a five-year playoff drought in 2020, and if they manage to do so, fans should prepare to send a plethora of gift baskets to general manager Jim Benning.

He’s one of the more polarizing figures in franchise history. On one hand, Benning has hit the jackpot more often than not in the draft. Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes have already grown into franchise cornerstone players.

But Benning’s critics are quick to point out the inability to land valuable young assets and draft picks at the 2016, 2017 and 2018 trade deadlines, the Loui Eriksson contract and the Jared McCann-for-Erik Gudbranson trade.

Much of the criticism is warranted, but Benning has made up for his mistakes by shaping up a playoff-caliber team that’s on the verge of perennial Stanley Cup contention.

Entering Monday, the Canucks sit third in the Pacific Division with 54 points, trailing the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes by just one point.

Simply put, Benning’s aggressiveness is why Vancouver is in contention for a playoff spot.

Instead of trying to get a prospect or draft pick for Gudbranson at least year’s trade deadline, Benning took a chance on veteran forward Tanner Pearson, who was struggling with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pearson performed nicely with nine goals and three assists in 19 games with the Canucks last year. He’s been an ample part of their secondary scoring this season, with 12 goals and 34 points in 46 games.

Benning received a ton of heat when he acquired J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning at last year’s draft, since the cost included a 2019 or 2020 first-round pick. It was the ultimate go-for-it trade, and it’s paid major dividends. Miller is second in team scoring with 44 points, and he’s in line to easily set career highs in most offensive categories.

Signing Tyler Myers to a six-year pact worth $30 million caused a lot of folks in Vancouver to scratch their heads. Myers is still overpaid, and the deal might be a burden in a few years. But so far, Myers has played an integral role on the blue line, providing vital toughness and physicality while chewing up over 21 minutes a game.

2018 free agent signing Antoine Roussel is proving to be a valuable commodity both on and off the ice. The four-year, $12 million deal he signed looked like an overpay at the time, but Roussel is providing much-needed grit and some nice secondary scoring with seven points in 18 games.

It was easy to question Benning’s decision to suddenly become more aggressive in the trade and free agent markets. But you simply have to credit the man for capitalizing on the opportunities that were presented to him.

Next: Canucks: What to do with Chris Tanev

The Canucks aren’t a legitimate Stanley Cup contender yet, but they’re certainly trending up after a dismal second half to close out the 2010s decade, and it’s thanks in large part to Benning’s decision to become aggressive.

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