Don’t ask, don’t trade.
That’s Jim Benning’s policy for moving players with no-trade clauses this season. That list includes Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Loui Eriksson, Alex Burrows, Brandon Sutter, and Alex Edler.
Jannik Hansen and Ryan Miller have modified no-trade clauses and theoretically wouldn’t have to be asked to be traded.
Despite the fact that players like Jason Garrison and Kevin Bieksa were asked to waive their no-trades and were moved by the current Canucks regime, it’s not going to happen this season.
The question is, why?
“There’s a couple of reasons why I wanted to put that out there about not trading the guys with no-trade contracts,” Benning explained on TSN 1040 on Friday. “The first reason is I wanted to be honest with our players and our fans about I wasn’t going to ask the players about waiving no-trade contracts. The other reason is I want to try to limit the unnecessary distractions so our players can focus on getting better and winning games. I think we’re improving as a group, our young players are getting better. This last 10-15 games I think we’ve been competitive in all the games, so I want to see the team keep growing and moving forward.”
I love Benning’s honesty. Unfortunately, I hate his reasoning.
Whether the Canucks are good or bad in the last 15 games doesn’t change a whole heck of a lot going forward. What matters is the play of the players who will be difference makers in three years, which is probably the most optimistic timeline for this team to compete for a Cup again.
The more Bo Horvat looks like a potential #1 centre, the closer you are to another Stanley Cup window. The better Nikita Tryamkin and Troy Stecher look, the better the forecast for your blueline.
But if Jack Skille and Jayson Megna each tally two goals in one game, that doesn’t mean much in the big picture.
Benning added that he won’t ask players to waive their no-trades, even if they’re out of the playoff race. The only way he’d consider it is if the player is the one that asks to be moved.
“The players that we have left that have no-trade clauses are some of our best players and they’re important to the development of our young players. If we look at Alex Edler for an example and how he’s helped our young defencemen break into the league. Or we look at Alex Burrows and how he’s helped Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi get to the next step in their games. The players that we have with no-trade contracts are experienced players and the players that help drive us winning.”
It’s true that some of the players with no-trade clauses are some of Vancouver’s best players. News flash: bad players get you a whole lot of nothing.
Mentors are important in any line of work and hockey is no exception. Young players need to be shown the way, and having veterans around for that holds value.
But that value needs to be weighed against the value of losing a player for nothing. Edler, despite the venom he draws from fans, is still a top-two defenceman on this team. he’s a top-four defenceman on any team in the league. But a leader? A mentor? Those are not traits that have often been associated with the productive blueliner in his 11 seasons in Vancouver.
Edler turns 31 in April, so it’s possible that he could still be a big contributor in three or four years, but it’s not likely. But if he doesn’t fit into the next Stanley Cup window, he needs to be moved as soon as possible.
Trading Edler now, with two years still left on his contract, would theoretically get the biggest return. Hold on to him for two more years and he might fetch the same as Dan Hamhuis.
With the number of good young defencemen breaking into the Canucks’ lineup, the timing is right.
At least Edler is under contract beyond this season. Benning’s reasoning becomes much less clear when it comes to players with expiring contracts.
Fans and teammates love Burrows – and so do I – but the fact of the matter is he’s 36 in April and in the last year of his contract. If you can get something for him at the trade deadline, that will help the team more in the long run than a couple of extra months of mentoring.
Miller will be 37 before next season and could be brought back. But if he isn’t? Get what you can for him before it’s too late.
Jannik Hansen is a very effective player, too, but he’s on the wrong side of 30. Add the fact that keeping Hansen will likely mean losing Sven Baertschi or Markus Granlund in the expansion draft, and you have to wonder what the benefit of keeping him long term is.
It wasn’t all bad news for people wanting to intensify the rebuild on Friday.
Benning said that he’s looking at acquiring more draft picks and didn’t beat around the bush about the possibility of trading away picks, as he has done in the past.
“I’m not trading any of the picks that we have,” he said.
When you try to find a shortcut in a rebuild, you often find a dead end instead.
The Canucks don’t seem have illusions that they’re a playoff team anymore, but recent comments still suggest a reluctance at the kind of rebuild that many fans are clamouring for.
The Canucks don’t need to blow it up at this stage. They have some useful pieces coming through the pipeline. Thatcher Demko just turned 21 and has found his form as a goaltender with the Utica Comets. Their defence has a number of good, young pieces. Bo Horvat has all the makings of a future captain.
But getting nothing for useful players on the wrong side of 30 – like Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata last season – is just bad business.