Can the Canucks become a contender in two years?

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 22: Jim Rutherford of the Pittsburgh Penguins attends the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 22, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 22: Jim Rutherford of the Pittsburgh Penguins attends the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 22, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

It’s no secret that the Vancouver Canucks haven’t been a legitimate Stanley Cup contender for almost a decade now.

During Jim Benning’s tenure as General Manager, he tried to make that happen. However, he was taking shortcuts with many short-sighted moves. As a result, the Canucks became capped out and the cup window is still shut.

Vancouver enjoyed a nice run under new head coach Bruce Boudreau which included seven straight wins. Despite that, there is still room for improvement.

Now with Jim Rutherford in as President of Hockey Operations and Patrik Allvin as General Manager, they have to steer the ship but it won’t be easy.

Rutherford spoke about what it would take for the Canucks to become a contender on the Bob McCown Podcast. You can listen to the full episode here.

The Canucks president believes a full rebuild isn’t necessary.

“I would like to think with the players we have, this team can be retooled, ” said Rutherford. “We can get it to a point that we get more comfortable with it over a two-year period to contend again but I can’t sit here and guarantee that’s how long it’s going to take.”

Retooling was something the previous regime did. Benning even put out a two-year window for the team to be competitive in a press conference last March.

“In two years’ time, I think we’re going to be real competitive,” said Benning.

This time around, shortcuts cannot be allowed. Rutherford has spoken about the Canucks acquiring more draft picks instead of trading them away in the past.

“You want to become a contender as soon as you can, but you have to be realistic about it,” said Rutherford. “There’s a lot of good teams in this league. If you look at the teams that did a total rebuild, it’s nice to see those teams doing well now, but everybody forgets about the four or five years they had to go through of tough years to get there.”

While he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he would be trading away picks and prospects for players but that was because the Penguins were competing for the Stanley Cup.

“In Pittsburgh, we were all-in every year to win the Stanley Cup,” said Rutherford. “It was at whatever cost, which was a high cost over and over, giving up draft picks, and things like that. In Vancouver now, we’re in a different situation. We’d like to get more draft picks. We’re not trading our first-round pick. We’d like to build up the depth in the organization, we want to strengthen the NHL team.”

Tough decisions are coming up. Trades look to be on the horizon for the Canucks and it looks like fan-favourites could depart. For Canucks fans, it will be tough to see fan-favourites go but the trades will be necessary to open the Stanley Cup window.

There is a slim chance that Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes are still all together next season. All five are loved by the fans but we could see at least two of them traded.

Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman metioned that Pettersson, Hughes, Demko and Horvat aren’t likely to be traded so everyone else can be used as sacrificial lambs.

Rutherford played down the recent trade rumours and spoke about how they might not need to move out a top player.

“We don’t start those rumours,” said Rutherford. “When a name is thrown out there, especially in Canada, it takes on a life of its own. So, I don’t think that the names that are out there, people should automatically think that they’re going to move. We do have to make some kind of moves to get some flexibility cap-wise, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be with our top players.”

The Canucks may not want to move someone like Miller yet. They might be waiting until they get a really good offer on players before moving them.

Can the Canucks become a Stanley Cup contender in two years? As Rutherford said, it is not guaranteed but it certainly is possible.

When Benning said the team would be competitive in two years, he went and traded the Canucks first-round pick for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland, which is a win now move. With Rutherford and Allvin now in charge, the days of trading high picks are over.

Trading certain players away are necessary. The Canucks prospect pool is shallow and the defence other than Hughes needs a lot of work for instance. If this team is going to be a contender whether that is in two years or a bit longer, sacrifices are going to be made. Of course, returns have to be worthwhile if top players are going to be traded.

Two years is a reasonable goal. In that time, some cap space will be coming off the books and the Canucks have the opportunity to make moves to free up more cap space, fill the prospect pool and retool.

There will be trades that could hurt short term and will be tough pills to swallow for Canucks fans but they could help long term. If Rutherford and Allvin do make the Canucks contenders in two years then losing fan-favourites might have been worth it.

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