While we try to make this a weekly feature, we decided to allow for various factors in choosing not to have a Roundtable for the last few weeks (the highs and then low of that playoff experience, a bit of burnout, the draft, and then the last few days with free agency kicking in). Now that we’ve been able to absorb/come to terms with/stop crying about the various things that have happened over the last few weeks, we’ve asked our writing staff to weigh in on some of the more pressing matters in Canucks Nation.
1- Let’s get the current tire fire dealt with first: What the actual hell is Jim Benning doing?
Strang (@noahstrang_): What a start to free agency for Canucks fans and not the one I think anyone was hoping for. Watching fan favourites walk for nothing, one after another was definitely tough but the deal for Schmidt yesterday helped ease some of that pain. Still, Benning’s passiveness worries me. While this year’s playoff run was great and proved that the kids can play, it shouldn't be used as a benchmark as to where this team is at as a whole.
Westy - Jim is doing whatever Francesco orders him to. I’m not going to complain too much about Marky and Tanev leaving....or Stecher. I would have liked to have seen Toffoli stay, but the money is all going to Petey and Hughes in their next contract. People want bridge contracts for them...I think they might want to get paid. GMJB is playing hardball with Jake which will send a message to Gaudette to get his shit together. Jim might need one more defenseman to sacrifice to the fairies whenever the season begins.
jimmi - “Trader-J is not available - please leave a message. If you’re Schmidt’d with cap pressure, press 1 now and a 3rd round armchair GM will take your call. If not, thanks for reaching out and stealing fan favs you rich, cheap bastards!”
Beggsy - Jim Benning must have been partying like he won the Stanley Cup when the Canucks made it to Round Two. Perhaps that prolonged hangover explains his staff’s inability to multitask.
In fairness, Jimbo did well by letting Markstrom and Tanev walk. The team should have found a way to keep Toffoli though, but perhaps the Aquilini’s couldn’t stomach buying out the likes of Brandon Sutter or Sven Baertschi. There’s a firm “incomplete” grade on this offseason at the moment.
Rob - Benning has been methodical, resolute and patient in his approach to the off season. He made the right decisions to let the aging Jacob Markstrom and Chris Tanev retire in Calgary. Canucks’ fans will be mocking Flames’ fans for these signings more and more as the years go by. Travis Green has always been luke warm on Tony from Richmond. They were only going to try and keep him if all plans to upgrade the defence group failed. His spot is better filled with a youngster like Brogan Rafferty or alternately Jordie Benn with Olli Juolevi to his left. Or maybe Benning will still try and Cap-fit in a Travis Hamonic or Sami Vatanen in the third right D pairing spot.
Benning was laser focused on obtaining Oliver Ekman-Larson and when that fell through he moved on to target Tyson Barrie. When Barrie chose frozen Edmonton he kept moving ahead and pounced on the unexpected availability of Nate Schmidt. Schmidt’s positive effect on the D group next season will be similar to J.T. Miller’s effect on the forward group this past season.
I always envisioned Thatcher Demko as the Canucks’ goalie of the future. The future has arrived. Stanley Cup winner Braden Holtby will be an excellent mentor for Demko as the youngster prepares to fully take over the number one reins.
Losing Toffoli was painful but he was a luxury until a top four defenceman was acquired.
Kent- Some things were kinda obvious that they were going to happen, and we likely should have prepared ourselves better for. Jacob Markstrom was always going to go to free agency because of the expansion draft next season. Chris Tanev might have been willing to go for a short and discounted deal, but one can hardly blame him for taking the kind of money and term that the Flames threw at him. Also, Calgary honey? What are you doin’?
As for Troy Stecher, that one just frustrates the hell out of me. The whole way it went down reeks of disrespect in terms of Canucks management not having even a remotely acceptable amount of contact with the player and his agent. It sucks to see a hometown kid get shown the door like that, especially one of those character guys you need on your team. And then we get to Tyler Toffoli. (Lets out a long, exaggerated sigh) Not really sure what’s worse: that there are STILL people who insist there is no cap space problem, or the ones who tried to insist that Toffoli’s really not that good and they’re better off with Jake Virtanen. Well, you got what you wanted. We see you, and believe me, if this doesn’t work we’ll drag out the f’ing receipts.
Nick: Unfortunately the ghost of July 1st’s past have come back to haunt Jimbo and the Vancouver Canucks.
Letting Markstrom and Tanev walk at those prices was the wise, long term plan but losing Toffoli and Stecher for their contract stings a ton. I think his plan was to go hard after OEL, and when that fell through he was forced to scramble to sign the UFA’s —who by that point had already decided to move on.
2- So, we’ve said goodbye to Jacob Markstrom, Christopher Tanev, Troy Stecher and Tyler Toffoli, while welcoming Braden Holtby and Nate Schmidt. What’s your confidence level in this team, knowing that there’s still two unsigned RFA’s in Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette and less than $2 Million in cap space. How ya feelin’ about that?
Strang (@noahstrang_): It’s clear that more moves are going to have to be made. I still think a Virtanen trade is on the table but I hold out a shred of hope that Benning can find a way to move one of the bloated contracts with a lesser sweetener attached. I would be comfortable giving up any prospect except for Hoglander, Podkolzin, or Rathbone if it had to be done.
Westy - I hope Jake has bought that extra suitcase. His 18 goals will get Jim a 5th rounder in return and scorn from Twitterland.
jimmi - No Toffee for you! Oh... Virt and Gaud... need to make some sort of arrangement - get creative. Suggest they both receive free accommodation at one of Franny’s deluxo condos. And some FREE cases of mediocre Washington state wine. That and a million dollars. Still seems pretty excessive considering the entire summer of bubbly hockey only brought in $90M total. Total. For 24 teams.
Beggsy - Benning has put himself in quite the pickle here, and my confidence level in him having a firm plan is, well, a little flimsy.
I’m sure by now, the Canucks have explored the trade market for some of their bottom six guys. Benning probably doesn’t like the fact that he’ll have to attach an asset to offload a bad contract, so my guess is that he plays hardball with Virtanen and Gaudette, the same way he did with other RFA’s such as Horvat and Boeser. Even if he plays hardball and gets Virtanen and Gaudette to sign for a combined $3.5 million (which would be a hell of an accomplishment), you’re still looking at a team that can only afford to roster 22 players as opposed to 23.
Rob - By my math we currently have $4M in Cap space not $2M. CapFriendly has a couple of misleading assumptions in its calculation. They assume Jack Rathbone will make the club and that Sven Baertschi won’t be buried in Utica again. The $4M will cover signing both Shotgun and Hockey Gaud. This will leave them two defencemen short of a full roster of twenty-three players. But if as expected Olli Juolevi and Brogan Rafferty are pegged for the 6th and 7th D spots they will only need to find about $1.6M in Cap space. This can be accomplished by buying out Brandon Sutter in the second buy out period. That said I expect a trade or two to still happen before New Years’ Day that will impact the Cap situation.
Kent- Rob’s correction withstanding, that’s still not a lot of money to try and address some issues with this team. If Benning’s not able to move at least one of these burdensome contracts, they’ll have to look at other moves, and that means someone else will be forced out to atone for the Benning regime’s interesting interpretation of cap management. I mean, there is always the chance that he does get something done, and buys himself some time, but you can bet that Francesco Aqualini is not going to accept missing the playoffs next season.
Nick: I still believe Jake Virtanen will be gone, dealt for a pick or packaged to clear space. Would have been smarter to just not qualify him, but whatever. You can probably get a good deal for Gaudette, but it’s all about minimizing the damage for next season when Hughes and Pettersson are up.
3- On a more positive note, is it just me or was the Canucks draft kind of devoid of picks that made you go “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS, JIM?!?!?!”
Strang (@noahstrang_): The Canucks not having a pick until the third round made this draft a lot less exciting. To some extent, I missed the wild range of reactions that would happen every time the Canucks made a selection. Refreshing twitter and seeing a tweet calling our latest draft pick the next coming of Bobby Orr right beside another tweet calling for Benning’s job was top quality offseason entertainment.
Westy - Wait? The draft happened already? Jim is sneaky like that. If there are no picks, he can’t be blamed for bad ones.
jimmi - I enjoyed the choice
s that JB made in the 1st 2nd uh... 3rd round and by the time I sobered up for round 7 it was all over. The least stressful Nucks draft ever.
Beggsy - In the words of Sippin on a 40’s Kyle Bhawan... “It was nice to not have to care about the draft.”
I feel ya Kyle.
Rob - The draft gave me three more Euro players (Joni Jurmo, Viktor Persson and Dmitri Zlodeyev) to watch and track. I am already impressed by Jurmo and Zlodeyev. I haven’t seen Persson play yet. I’ll have more information about them in my next overseas players’ report.
Kent- While I don’t share Rob’s feelings in terms of the former head scout (It’s going to be a couple years before we know for sure) I do think the Canucks made the most out of a pretty bleak looking draft hand. Joni Jurmo seems to be a steal according to a majority of people who track prospects, and all of these kids seemed to elicit the same response when chosen: “I’m surprised he was still available!”. Now, we see how they develop (Persson will be suiting up for the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers this season, so we’ll be able to keep a close eye on his progress) find out how good a job JB, Todd Harvey and the scouting team did in trying to restock the cupboards.
Nick: I watched the first half of the first round and then went to do something else. Don’t even remember what.
4- I really tried to keep this positive, but it’s not easy these days. We’re coming off one of the most entertaining seasons the Canucks have given us in years, plus 17 unexpected playoff games. Given the personnel changes, is this team going to be able to build on what happened this summer?
Strang (@noahstrang_): While the summer is far from over and much could change before the 2020-21 Canucks team hits the ice, at this point I would say that there is no guarantee that we build on last seasons results. This isn’t a terrible thing, we have an elite young core that proved they can perform on the big stage, but we might have to wait for some of these bloated contracts to expire before the Canucks are in that top tier of contenders.
Westy - My guess is the “next” season is a short one and they allow more teams for “play-ins”, so the Canucks can get away with kinda sucking and still sneak in. Once you’re in the play-ins, it isn’t far from the playoffs and then....elimination by the Golden Knights.
jimmi - Love to dream about the legendary next season. If there is one. I’m not worried about it and neither is JB. My only worry is bubble hockey is a thing until 2023. And NHL franchise bankruptcies are a thing until 2035. Oh well... it was fun while it was fun.
Beggsy - At best, this team is as good as they were last season. In all likelihood, they’re worst if only by a small margin. But hey, as we saw this year, anything can happen in the Parity Hockey League.
Rob - Schmidt will be a catalyst to a much improved defence corps. It has been many years since the Canucks had the potential to have 30 plus points from each of their top four defencemen. Juolevi and Rafferty are also gifted offensively if they make the team.
The team was winning without Toffoli. He was in reality a rental to replace an injured Brock Boeser. Nils Hoglander and Vasily Podkolzin should be in the NHL line-up at some point this season. Keep an eye on Hoglander to crash the top nine forward group out of NHL training camp. Demko is the real deal.
The Canucks will strongly challenge again next season for the Pacific Division crown.
Kent- A funny thing about this question: it was written a couple days before Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Daley spilled the beans on the NHL’s bubble realignment next season.
Golden Knights owner Bill Foley to @BrianBlessing on Vegas Hockey Hotline on facing Nate Schmidt/Canucks: "Yeah, but they're going to be in the Canadian division."— David Schoen (@DavidSchoenLVRJ) October 14, 2020
So that means that if things go the way it appears, it’s going to mean a LOT of games against the other 6 Canadian teams. There’s pros and cons to this: They avoid having to play Vegas, Dallas, St Louis, Colorado and Los Angeles if they do roll with a 48 game schedule that would begin Feb 1st as has been suggested. The downside? That means 8 games of having to deal with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. 8 chances for Markstrom to shut out his former team. And 8 opportunities each to be reminded how unbearable some Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens fans are.
So, as far as the question goes: As they stand right now, I think the Canucks are not as good as they were a few weeks ago. There could still be changes, but at this point in time, I see them either not making the post season or bowing out early.
Nick: It’s hard to argue that this team is better than last year’s. Best case scenario, their best players take another step forward and pick up the slack. Worst case, the lack of depth comes to bite them in the rear end and they fizzle out. That’s why I think management has been so wary of trading away 2021 draft picks.
5- And finally, the giant stinking Orca in the room: How many of Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle, Micheal Ferland and Jordie Benn are in the lineup on New Years Day?
Strang (@noahstrang_): Too many.
Westy - Over/under set at 4.5. (I set it) I would say 4....Ferland is done and I’m still not sure why they signed Benn if Green and Benning don’t like him.
jimmi - Firstly, Benn is loved and is a playoff monster - check out the
soon-to-be or never finished J Benn report card. Secondly... holy hell, Loui will never retire! Re-up him now.
Predict Ferlie ain’t coming back into the bubble or it’s pandemic-be-gone replacement. Roos might provide some cap relief if the NHLPA goes along with my negative-income-sinbin initiative. Beags is gonna be keen to show Holtby he hasn’t lost a step. Or gained one. Sutz may still be traded for country bbq music from Nashville. Although, Kent will probably nix the deal.
Beggsy - I think even Kent would trade Suttsy for Country BBQ music...right Kent?
I’m going to say they’re all in the line-up...except for Eriksson, who finally books his first class ticket to Utica.
Rob - Loui will be waived for a $ 1.075M Cap savings buried in...Abbotsford.
Sudsy will be bought out in the second buy out period unless GMJB can find some more Cap space before then.
Beagle will form the Three Musketeers with his old Capital Gang. He is not going anywhere.
Roussel and Benn will also be on the roster.
Ferland will go on the long term injury list eventually freeing up Cap space to trade for Tyler Toffoli again at the 2021 Trade Deadline.
Kent- Jimmi couldn’t be more wrong. I would like to state that I would be thrilled to see Sutter bootscoot boogey his way to another team this fall, and if having to endure that horrid music would help, sign me up. Sadly, I am not at all confident that JB’s gonna trick anyone into taking any of these dudes off their hands. I hope to hell I’m wrong.
Nick: Five. Ferland will likely go on LTIR, and you can probably still get something for Benn with his one year at 2 mil contract.