Canucks GM Benning says COVID outbreak will affect trade deadline strategy

Apr 9 2021, 11:23 pm

Don’t expect the Vancouver Canucks to be busy ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Given where the Canucks sit in the standings — eight points back of the final playoff spot with just 19 games left — in a normal year, they would be deadline sellers. They would be expected to trade players on expiring contracts for draft picks, gearing up for next season.

But of course, this year is anything but normal, and that’s especially true for the Canucks in particular.

Ten days after discovering that COVID-19 had infiltrated their team, 25 members of the team have tested positive for the virus. They still have 19 players on the NHL’s COVID protocol list.

The NHL is a business, but given what has gone on with the team, it’s become quite personal too. And for that reason, Benning says he’s not planning on doing much before the deadline.

“Given what our team and the individual players have gone through this last couple of weeks, I don’t expect us to be doing a whole lot at the deadline,” said Benning.

Benning did qualify that by saying that he’ll take calls and talk to other general managers, and if there’s something that “makes sense,” he’ll make a move.

But the Canucks GM also expressed reluctance to make a move right now due to “human side of things.”

“[Our players have] dealt with a lot in the last couple of weeks, getting the virus themselves and it running through families. I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do at this point in time.”

It remains to be seen if Benning will be less reluctant to trade any of the handful of players who haven’t contracted the virus during this outbreak.

Jordie Benn landed on the COVID list in January, but not during this outbreak. As a versatile depth defenceman on an expiring contract, he should be able to garner something at the deadline. Jimmy Vesey is also not on the COVID list, though he is likely less marketable.

Tanner Pearson would have generated the most interest of Vancouver’s moveable pending UFAs, but he was re-signed on Thursday.

Two defencemen on expiring contracts, Alex Edler and Travis Hamonic each have full no-movement clauses in their contracts, and don’t expect them to waive them at a time like this.

If COVID wasn’t a factor, Brandon Sutter would be generating a ton of buzz. The 32-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent, and has only a limited no-trade clause allowing him to submit a list of 15 teams that he cannot be traded to according to CapFriendly.

Sutter has had a symptomatic bout with COVID, which included body aches, headaches, and chills according to Sportsnet. “He was pretty down and out, feeling pretty sick,” his father Brent described.

Sutter and his wife have two young children, with a third on the way. If Benning is considering the “human side,” it would be hard to envision him trying to trade a respected veteran like Sutter in his sixth season in Vancouver, at a time like this.

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