Canucks: Jim Benning needs to unload some bad contracts

With the NHL season on pause, Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning has more time to plan a way out of some bad contracts.

Vancouver Canucks general manager put himself in a messy salary cap situation, and it’s up to him to get out of it.

Sure, he got Bo Horvat to sign a bargain six-year extension worth $33 million two seasons ago. Getting Alexander Edler to sign a short-term two-year extension last summer was a massive coup. And Benning especially deserves a pat on the back for getting Brock Boeser to agree to a three-year bridge deal worth a modest $17.625 million before the start of the season, too.

But the Brandon Sutter, Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel contracts are really hurting Benning and the Canucks, with a serious cap crunch looming. Fortunately, at least three of this contracts are somewhat moveable.

Per CapFriendly, Eriksson is owed a $4 million signing bonus here in 2019-20, followed by $3 million next year and only $1 million in 2021-22. Eriksson’s base salary for 2019-20 and 2020-21 is only $1 million, though it moves up to $3 million in 2021-22.

But with most of his contract paid out, the Canucks might be able to find a taker for Eriksson. Teams like the Arizona Coyotes, Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes have happily taken on bad contracts in trades that include young assets.

Maybe Vancouver could convince a team with plenty of cap room to take on Eriksson’s contract if they’re willing to add a sweetener like a mid-round selection or a decent prospect (and the Canucks aren’t short in those).

Sutter only has one year left on his contract, and the cap hit is fair at $4.375 million. Some clubs might value a capable checking centre and quality penalty killer with 20-goal potential when healthy. Vancouver should perform a salary dump and give Sutter away, even for something as low as a seventh-round pick. They need the room, and he’s not part of the long-term picture..

Though Roussel has provided some much-needed grit and plenty of leadership on a young Vancouver team, he still isn’t worth the $3 million cap hit. With only two years left on his deal, Benning shouldn’t have many issues finding a taker.

Skilled teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers could use a reliable checking forward like Roussel, who could also offer protection towards their star players.

This offseason, Benning stands to lose either Chris Tanev or Troy Stecher. Star goalie Jacob Markstrom could price himself out of Vancouver, too. And it’s going to be tough to make room for a Tyler Toffoli extension.

And with Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson in line for mammoth extensions down the road, the time is now for Benning to start saving every dollar he can. With a little creativity and magic, he should be able to move out at least two expensive contracts.

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Otherwise, Benning will eventually be forced to move on from some of his key contributors, and that would not be ideal for a Vancouver team that’s ready to take the next step.

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