Canucks: Revisiting Jim Benning’s tenure in Vancouver so far

Vancouver Canucks Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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VANCOUVER, BC – FEBRUARY 22: Tyler Toffoli #73 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates after scoring a goal. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC – FEBRUARY 22: Tyler Toffoli #73 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates after scoring a goal. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

The most recent years – 2019 to now

On June 22nd, 2019, Benning acquired J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning, in exchange for Marek Mazanec and a conditional first round pick, which was eventually used during the 2020 NHL Entry draft. He also selected winger Vasily Podkolzin 10th overall, just one day earlier.

At the season deadline, he made one of the bigger blockbuster deals in the league, trading for winger Tyler Toffoli, and sending back Tim Schaller, prospect Tyler Madden and a second round pick to the Los Angeles Kings. This would mark Benning’s first major transaction since signing his surprising three-year contract extension on August 20th, 2020.

Of course, the Miller trade has proven to be one of Benning’s best transactions during his tenure. The 28-year-old slotted perfectly into the team’s top six forward group, bringing about a solid combination of toughness, speed, versatility and offensive prowess. He recorded 72 points in 69 games on the “Lotto Line” in 2019-20, and followed up that performance with 46 points in 53 games in 2020-21.

Toffoli, on the other hand, didn’t go as well.

The winger, who found immediate chemistry in Vancouver’s top six forward group for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, was apparently kept in the dark by Benning throughout the offseason, prompting him to go ahead and sign a four-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens instead. To add even more salt to the wound, Toffoli absolutely lit up the Canucks this past season, scoring eight of his 28 goals against his former club.

He was also the fourth free agent that signed with another club during the 2020 offseason, despite all of them expressing strong interest to stay in Vancouver. As we all know, the Canucks were unable to hold onto goaltender Jacob Markstrom, or blueliners Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher.

Benning also continued to make blunders in the front office.

On May 29th, 2020, Benning announced that the team would be parting ways with Brackett after 12 years in Vancouver, once again showing his poor contract negotiation skills with important members of his team. Brackett would eventually take on the same scouting role with the Minnesota Wild, which became official on July 9th, 2020.

Fortunately, Benning was able to do something right during that offseason.

On October 12th, 2020, he acquired right-handed defenceman Nate Schmidt from the Vegas Golden Knights, taking advantage of a team who had made it abundantly evident that they needed to clear up cap space ASAP.

Yes, Benning only had to give up a third round pick in 2022 to secure Schmidt, but that may not have been the case if Vegas didn’t end up signing Alex Pietrangelo to the long-term deal that pushed them over the cap. In other words, he was able to come away from the situation more unscathed and much more lucky than what most of us expected, and it makes you wonder what he would’ve had to resort to had the Vegas cap crunch not occurred.

One week later, Benning also resigned Virtanen to a two-year deal just north of $5 million, essentially putting all of his eggs in Virtanen’s basket instead of in Toffoli’s.

As we know, that didn’t age well.

This past year alone, Benning continued to be aggressive from his front office (apparently still without a long-term plan in sight), dealing Gaudette to the Blackhawks in exchange for Matthew Highmore, as well as sending Jordie Benn to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a sixth round pick.

As mentioned above, he also signed Pearson to a three-year contract extension worth a head-scratching $3.25 million per, but not before inking Demko, his goaltender-of-the-future, to a much-better five-year, $25 million extension.

He was able to come to an agreement with Green in the 11th hour, inking the bench boss to a two-year contract extension, but has yet to come to terms with the rest of the coaching staff, including goaltending coach Ian Clark.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In the next few months, Benning will need to deal with limited cap space, pending UFAs, depth scoring issues, a missing third line centre, a depleted right side of the blueline, and a looming expansion draft, STILL without a concrete plan laid out in front of him to guide him through this mess.

Time and time again, Benning has been unable to work with pressing deadlines, execute proper player and personnel management, manage money effectively, or hold onto important draft picks, and all signs are pointing towards a repeat of that.

In other words, if you thought these past seven years were bad, you might want to brace yourselves for what could be coming next from Benning and his team.

Next. 3 reasons the Canucks didn't make the playoffs. dark

What are your thoughts on Jim Benning’s time in Vancouver so far, Canucks fans? Make sure to drop a comment below!