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Weekly Thoughts: Did Benning Handcuff Himself At the Trade Deadline?

2016 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Did Benning Handcuff Himself?

While fans and media lamented the Canucks’ failure to acquire draft picks at the trade deadline, management was adamant in expressing that none were offered for Thomas Vanek.

I’m not doubting management’s honesty on this topic, but I do wonder if their rhetoric leading up to the deadline affected the way other teams approached trade negotiations. Benning failed not only to establish an intent to acquire draft picks but worsened the situation by publically indicating that they’ll be hard to trade for.

If I’m the GM of a contending team, I would have taken those soundbites as a sign that the Canucks aren’t expecting picks back for any of their prime trade targets.

It’s no surprise then that Tyler Motte and a cap dump in Jussi Jokinen was the best Benning could bring back for Vanek.

The 34-year-old’s postseason track record did no favours for his trade value, but neither did management’s comments prior to the trade deadline.

Holm For Leipsic Swap

The disappointing return for Thomas Vanek overshadowed the Philip Holm for Brendan Leipsic swap with Vegas— which is unfortunate considering it’s a great example of shrewd asset management.

Holm was a pending UFA, and in my opinion, unlikely to re-sign with the Canucks.

He’d gotten only 1 NHL game this season, and with Alex Edler, Michael Del Zotto, Ben Hutton, Olli Juolevi, and Derrick Pouliot all competing for spots on the left side next season, the odds of Holm cracking the NHL roster would’ve been slim to none.

By trading Holm, the Canucks got value back for a player that would’ve very likely walked in the offseason.

In Brendan Leipsic, the Canucks get a prolific junior and AHL scorer who has yet to translate his success to the NHL level.

The 23-year-old doesn’t quite have the talent to be a top-six scorer, but his relentless work ethic and decent offensive toolkit mean he can chip in as a bottom-six forward.

Increased ice time and normalization of Leipsic’s 2.9% shooting clip should result in improved production as time wears on as well.

Oh, and he’s also a top-class agitator.

Canucks Should Have Shopped Baertschi

I’ve been against the notion of trading Sven Baertschi in the past, but the returns for players with term at this year’s deadline made me rethink this situation.

Seeing Tomas Tatar go for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick makes me wonder what the market for Baertschi could have looked like.

Tatar is the more productive player historically, but he’s also older, more expensive, and scoring at a slower pace this season compared to Baertschi. The former’s reputation boosts his value compared to Baertschi, but it gives us an idea of what scoring wingers go for.

Another comparable points-wise in Ryan Hartman went for a 1st round pick and a mid-level prospect.

Baertschi can certainly be a useful piece for the Canucks moving forward, but he’s due for a significant raise— one that might not be in the team’s best interests.

It’d be tough to see one of the Canucks’ few productive players depart, but there’s good reason to believe that they could have gotten a haul capable of rejuvenating the rebuild.

Alternative Ways To Acquire Draft Picks

While acquiring picks would have required a proactive and creative approach, it doesn’t seem like an impossible proposition in hindsight.

The Canucks saw depth defensemen like Michal Kempny, Joe Morrow, Mike Rielly, and Jakub Jerabek all attract mid-round picks, but failed to move their own in pending UFA Alex Biega.

Moreover, how about selling Nic Dowd as an insurance option down the middle for a late round pick?

There are also veterans like Brandon Sutter, Michael Del Zotto, and Sam Gagner that would have attracted varying levels of interest depending on the Canucks interest in retaining salary.

You’re not expecting every one of those players to be dealt, but it’s still plausible for at least a couple of them to be moved for picks.

Another creative idea would have been to leverage whatever cap space the Canucks had left. Vegas, for example, picked up a 4th round pick to take on salary in the Derrick Brassard trade.

The idea of taking on bad contracts for future assets applies not only to this trade deadline, but for management’s entire tenure to date.