Trades around the NHL show Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning is misreading the market

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      Canucks fans have been eagerly anticipating the February 26 deadline. After all, the event has long been considered the only chance at salvaging this season, other than a Brock Boeser Calder Trophy run.

      So it was a tough Valentine’s Day last week when GM Jim Benning was brought back on a multi-year deal and said things like “we’re probably not going to be able to do the same sorts of trades we’ve done in the past.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t talking about deals like the ones that brought Brandon Sutter and Erik Gudbranson to Vancouver.

      No, he was referring to a couple acquisitions he made last trade deadline, when he dealt Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen to contending teams for future prospects.

      Up until today, many Canucks fans were expecting similar fates for Erik Gudbranson and Thomas Vanek (and maybe even Alex Edler, Anders Nilsson and Chris Tanev).

      Alas, with defenceman Gudbranson re-signing with the team for three years at $4 million a season, that fantasy is out the window.

      Some are speculating that there simply aren’t offers out there for the assets that the Canucks are toting.

      But, looking around the league, that looks like nonsense.

      In the last couple of days, Chicago traded defenceman Michal Kempny for a third-round draft pick. Kempny has seven points in 31 games and has been scratched a few times this year. The New York Rangers sent veteran rearguard Nick Holden (of 12 points in 55 games) to the Boston Bruins for a third-round pick and a prospect.

      Both Kempny and Holden make less than Gudbranson (even before the extension) by a hefty margin. Gudbranson averages around the same amount of ice time as the two, but his status as a hard-to-play-against rugged defender meant he was drawing interest from teams around the league.

      It’s an important question to ponder. Are the Canucks better off with Gudbranson occupying space on their bottom four for three more years at $4 million or taking a shot with a second or third round pick? Given the club’s savvy drafting of late and the strength of this year’s draft class, you’d have to say the latter.

      It’s a little strange actually, since Benning was ostensibly extended because of his drafting and scouting prowess, yet he’s giving up the chance to turn expiring assets into draft picks on rebuilding teams.

      One wonders how much Edler or Tanev (before his latest injury) could have fetched on the market, and whether Benning should have acted quickly, especially on Tanev, whose contract will expire in two years and whose value is definitely at its highest right now.

      It’s also hard not to see goaltender Petr Mrazek moved to the ‘tender-desperate Philadelphia Flyers for two conditional picks and wonder whether the Canucks should have tried to sell the team one of their two giant Swedish netminders. 

      Especially since the team has a strong prospect between the pipes in AHL Utica in Thatcher Demko. Would it be terrible to give him some backup experience at the NHL level if it meant earning a draft pick or two? It would not.

      One wonders if Benning just missed the boat and cost himself a few extra shots at the draft table. He’s going to need as many good picks as possible on this rebuilding team.

      If the team ends up not trading Thomas Vanek or sitting pat on defenceman Ben Hutton as well (who the team seems to have no idea what to do with, certainly sitting him out for games isn’t the answer), one imagines Vancouver’s fans and media won’t be too happy.