Jim Benning has a vision, and he’s a great boss, but he’s not afraid to move people out if that helps the team. That’s how you build a great organization. Don’t let the “Aw Shucks,” act fool you. He knows the business side of an NHL franchise.
Consider the off season so far.
Sautner and Boucher were sent to Utica where they can bolster a winning environment in the AHL and be ready for injury call up (or compete for a spot at camp). Bachman was extended. No waiver worries for any of these guys.
Lukas Jasek, Eilas Pettersson, Petrus Palmu, and Michael DiPietro were all signed. The prospect pool is better and bigger than in living memory.
The kids will have a chance to compete for spots.
Some of the stagnant depth players have likely been wished well and sent on their way. Wiercoch, Dowd, Mackenzie, Jokinen, Labate, and Megna became UFAs.
There are some players on value contracts that are reliable role players but won’t be sorely missed if they are traded or even lost on waivers due to better, younger, higher ceiling prospects impressing a demanding coach. Especially when they came cheap and turned out to be great value. If they can turn into more picks or prospects that would be a bonus.
Markus Granlund is a versatile two way centre or winger who does everything he’s asked to do. He singed a very reasonable deal and will still be an RFA when he’s up for another deal next year. This Swiss Army knife of a player cost a failed prospect (Hunter Shinkaruk) He was drafted 45th overall.
Derrik Pouliot is a decent young 6/7 defenceman who can play both sides. He signed for less than he was likely to get in arbitration. This bona fide every day NHL player cost a 4th round pick (and Andre Pedan). He was drafted 8th overall.
Sven Baertschi is a decent young middle six winger with top line chemistry. He signed a reasonable deal that could see him mentoring a budding young centre, or bolstering an opportunistic second line. If he continues to click with Bo and Brock that’s fine too. This every day offensive player cost a second round pick. He was drafted 13th overall.
I know everyone is buzzing about UFA Darren Archibald. I get it. I like Archie. Everyone likes Archie. Big win. Another good guy to have in Utica ready for injury relief and to show the kids they’ve got to work to win spots, and games.
There are less interesting UFA signings that I suppose I should mention:
Tim Schaller is a value player. If you’ve got him as the 4th line centre (or the press box, or the AHL) you’ve got a reliable NHL player. Everyone likes this signing.
Jay Beagle is a winner. That’s how you build a winning culture - by winning. As a guy with Malhotra-like usage he is both valuable to let scoring lines start in the O-Zone, and to mentor and cover for kids who are learning the NHL. As our friendly Caps fan wheresmymojo said: “Caps fans love him to death, we just can’t afford to keep him.” Many people have speculated that signing Beagle (over offers from many other teams) allows Benning to consider trading Sutter. Trades can happen now, after the start of the season, at the deadline, or later on. If Sutter gets hurt the team still has the defensively reliable mid-six centre. Redundancy is good. Single point failure is bad.
In a fitting bit of symmetry, the Canucks signed Antoine Roussel in the same week that Alex Burrows retired from playing. If you don’t think that’s a valid comparison, you should listen to Dan Hamhuis here. This is not just a great signing, it’s a reminder that Benning is a good boss. Head Coach Travis Green has been trying to make this team “Harder to play against” since he got here. That was his main message to Jake Virtanen. Having a new version of AMFB goes a long way towards that. It’s reminiscent of the behind the scenes video where Benning was discussing a player and said “Our head coach wants this guy.” No further comment needed, the clear message is that he’s going to hire good people, put them in a position to succeed, and give them the support to do that. That was a player Willie Desjardins wanted, who helped the team out-perform expectations (he’s also went on to win two Stanley Cups). Benning was right to support Desjardins. Even though that coach lasted a year longer than some people wanted, GMJB gave him a fair shot, because that’s the way you build a good organization.
To all the people quibbling about UFA cost and term, I’m going to remind you that:
1) It’s not your money. The ownership will have to sell more blueberries. Big whoop.
2) There’s a metric crap-tonne of cap space. No opportunity cost here.
3) The term is just right because
- Seattle’s expansion draft,
- These guys can play until the kids are likely to be ready to fly on their own,
- Reliable depth guys are what contenders trade for, and they are at a premium if they are not just rentals.
Now that you all understand General Manager Jim Benning is a genius, I’m sure no comment will be required. Have a serene day.