Benning and boldness has not gone hand-in-hand in the past, but could that change this offseason?
With a young core emerging as NHL stars, this is arguably Benning’s most important offseasson at the helm in Vancouver. Moves can and should be made to insulate the young core, but how far will he go with his moves?
He started the roster “cleanse” by shipping Erik Gudbranson, Michael Del Zotto, Anders Nilsson and Sam Gagner out of town. In case you missed it, I theorized ways in which he could ship other vets out of town as well.
Those three all outlined players that aren’t integral to the Canucks success. These next three, however, do hold more value.
They don’t come without their flaws, however, with their health being right at the top of the list.
Why he should stay: When healthy, Sven Baertschi is a fringe second-line forward That’s not an invaluable piece, especially when the Canucks desperately lack quality wingers.
Baertschi only played 26 games this season, but he was on pace for 28 goals and 44 points over a full 82 games. He was also the Canucks most productive player on the power play, averaging 5.5 points-per-hour. Elias Pettersson, in comparison, posted 3.8 points-per-60.
If Baertschi could stay healthy, he’s a cheap player (making $3.36 million) relative to his production. He also takes high-percentage shots, one reason why his shooting percentage has never dipped below 13% in a season for the Canucks.
Why he should go: With Bo Horvat, Pettersson and Brock Boeser in place, the Canucks need to solidify the rest of their top-six. How can they count on Baertschi as one of those players when he can’t stay healthy?
Over the last two seasons, Baertschi has played in 79 of 162 games for the Canucks. He’s also never hit 70 games in a season during four full years in Vancouver.
Maybe he’s just cursed and will never stay healthy. Perhaps a fresh start will give him some luck.
Possible trade destinations: Nashville Predators, New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets
The best fit for Baertschi would be a team looking for cheap offensive production, preferably on a team that needs help on the power play. Baertschi’s 5.17 points-per-hour with the man advantage over the past two seasons is 60th among 436 NHLers who received regular power play time. Not an insignificant total, especially for a team that needs power play help.
Nashville jumps to the forefront here. The have the cap room to trade for a player like Baertschi, although they don’t have a ton of young, attractive assets to give up. A trade like this makes sense for the Canucks if they were to sign another winger in free agency who would push Baertschi out of the top-six. If Benning could re-coup a 2nd rounder for Baertschi, that would be a steal of a deal considering Baertschi’s spotty health record.
Why he should stay: When on his game, Chris Tanev has been one of the NHL’s premiere shutdown defencemen. That being said, Tanev was nowhere near that level this season.
Honestly, the biggest reason why Tanev should stay is that his value is at an all-time low. While right-shooting defencemen are always at a premium, Tanev’s injury history and declining play is a major red flag to teams.
The Canucks might be better off keeping him and hoping for a rebound, rather than selling him for pennies on the dollar. In an ideal situation, the Canucks acquire a top-pairing right-shot defenceman, and Tanev slides into a third-pairing role with Ben Hutton.
Why he should go: Tanev isn’t getting any younger, and the injuries are catching up. He’s missed at least 27 games in each of the last three seasons. How can you pencil in a roster spot for a guy who’s going to play 60% of your games?
This also hinges on the Canucks re-signing Tanev. If they have no plans to re-sign him, they need to trade him before the start of next season.
Possible trade destinations: you know I’m going to say Toronto...I’ll also throw Chicago and Buffalo into the mix.
After yet another playoff collapse, the Leafs defence is to blame once again. Regardless, it sounds like Toronto would rather promote one of their prospects (like the budding star Rasmus Sandin) rather than trade for a player like Tanev.
Both the Blackhawks and Sabres, however, might be a fit. These two teams bled goals last season, and both have holes on the right side. The only right-shot defenceman in Chicago are Brent Seabrook and Connor Murphy. In Buffalo, there’s a hole there now that Tanev’s glass twin, Zach Bogosian, is out for 5-6 months after hip surgery.
The time to trade Tanev was 2-3 years ago, when you could have easily gotten a first-rounder and a good prospect. Now? You’re probably looking at a third rounder and a middling prospect, which is probably why the Canucks keep Tanev.
Why he should stay: On paper, Alex Edler has one of his best seasons as a Vancouver Canucks. Over a full 82 games, Edler was on pace for 14 goals and 49 points.
When healthy, Alex Edler was deployed like a Norris-calibre number one defenceman. His average ice-time of 24:34 per game was 10th highest in the league. His numbers did get a boost by playing on the number one power play unit, although it’s not like the Canucks’ bottom-ten power play was that much of a boost.
Why he should go: In a perfect world, this would be a pristine time to sell high on Edler. He’s turning 33, has endured a ton of injuries, and likely won’t score at a 49 point pace next season. All signs point to the Canucks re-signing him, but a bold move would be to trade Edler and recoup younger assets.
Possible trade destinations: Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets.
Edler’s next contract will be telling, and you know he’s going to push for a no-trade clause. Now, if he doesn’t, is there any chance that Benning pulls off the sign and trade?
It’s very unlikely, but that’s the kind of bold move that does get teams ahead. Reports around the trade deadline were that the Calgary Flames were willing to part with prospect Oliver Kylington and a 3rd round pick for Edler.
If true, that’s exactly the type of move a rebuilding team makes. It’s unlikely to happen now, but Edler would be one of the team’s best trade chips if he was open to a move.