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Quality options on defence dwindling for Canucks

Benning has stated that he wants to improve the defence, but how much longer is he willing to wait?

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers
Mar 7, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defensemen Alex Edler (23) celebrates his third period goal against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place. 
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

They say patience is virtue. That’s something you might say to your kids, but not an NHL general manager who’s hungry to improve his team.

However, the longer Jim Benning waits to improve this blueline, the more it seems like he’s taking “patience is virtue” to a whole new level.

Benning has stated that he wants to improve this defence, but some of the best options on the market are disappating. Erik Karlsson, who would have looked pretty good next to Quinn Hughes, recently re-signed in San Jose.

Another one of the best options out there via trade was Jacob Trouba. However, the New York Rangers once again schooled the Canucks in the art of rebuilding. They essentially traded 26 games of Kevin Hayes and defenceman Neal Pionk for a bonafide, right-shot, first pair defenceman in Jacob Trouba.

Even if he refused to accept a trade to Canada, players like Trouba are exactly what the Canucks need. Ditto for Karlsson. There are right-shot defenceman available on the market, but the options are dwindling.

No firm answers in free agency

There are only three, perhaps four, noteworthy UFA defencemen left on the market — and one of them is Alex Edler.

While some think Edler’s departure is a foregone conclusion, there’s a good chance that his agent, Mark Stowe, is just playing hardball with the Canucks. I still find it hard to believe that Edler will walk. He’s continuously stated his desire to stay in Vancouver and he’s blocked trades that would have seen him dealt.

If Edler does go, it rips open another hole in this Swiss cheese defence. The only other options on the market that would improve the team next year (in theory) are Jake Gardiner, Tyler Myers and Anton Stralman.

Stralman is very similar to Chris Tanev — solid when he’s in the line-up, but injuries are an issue. He played only 47 games last season, and will probably get a raise on his $4.5 million/year salary on the open market.

Myers is a fine hockey player, but the problem is that he’s going to command top pairing money. He’s likely going to get a deal with term, and one that pays him more than $6 million per season. If that’s the asking price, the Canucks need to walk away. There’s clear evidence that he’s not worth the money.

Gardiner is an intriguing option but again, he’s probably going to command north of $6 million per season on a long-term deal. That really isn’t in the best interest for the Canucks.

There are some other under-the-radar free agent defencemen, but it’s really just a list of intriguing depth guys. No one else on the market could realistically slide into a top-four role.

Canucks reactive, not proactive

I mean, at least their active?

By all reports, Jim Benning is working the phone and trying to get something done. As great as that sounds, Benning still sits with his hands in his lap while guys like Trouba, Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun have all shuffled teams.

The Canucks have been tied to some names that have been out there, and they range from intriguing (Rasmus Ristolainen) to very intriguing (Shayne Gostisbehere) to groan-worthy (Nikita Zaitsev).

Both Ristolainen and Gostisbehere have defensive deficiencies, but both would give the Canucks a serious offensive punch to the blueline, something that’s been lacking for years. They’ve both averaged more than 40 points per season for the last four years.

Another option would be to target a cap-strapped team like the Golden Knights. Colin Miller is a great, low-cost right-shot defenceman would would instantly improve this team. Again, offence is his calling card instead of defence.

One other big name that the Canucks could chase — and they tried to previously — is P.K. Subban. Nashville could absorb his cap hit for next season but there are questions moving forward. Benning striking a deal with, and winning it, with David Poile seems unlikely. However, Subban would instantly improve this defence, and would look great next to Hughes.

The Canucks do lack assets compared to other teams, but the market has now been set after deals for guys like Trouba and Braun. There’s a good chance that if the Canucks want a player like Ristolainen, Gostisbehere or Subban, then they’ll have to part with their 2020 1st rounder. Is that worth it for the Canucks?

It’s a tricky question to answer, but this team is in need of serious help on the blueline. Benning’s job likely depends on it, so don’t be surprised if he takes that leap in the coming days.