The 2021-2022 season will be a make or break for Jim Benning and could be a make or break for the Canucks core. Benning has made some questionable decisions since joining the Canucks front office in 2014, but he has also made some franchise-altering moves. Of all his moves which were his best and which were his worst?
Worst: Jim Benning 2016 Summer
The Summer of 2016 was not too forgiving to Jim Benning and the Vancouver Canucks. It all started when Benning made public comments about acquiring then big-name players P.K. Subban and Steven Stamkos, who were still under contract with their own respective teams. The NHL deemed the comments as tampering and fined both Jim Benning and the Canucks. That was the first domino to fall.
On July 1st Jim Benning would sign Loui Eriksson to a massive six-year $36 million deal, carrying a $6 million cap hit until the end of the 2021-2022 season. Eriksson’s contract has not worked out for the Canucks and continues to be a burden on the Canucks books today.
Best Drafting With Jim Benning
Many praise Judd Brackett for the Canucks drafting success, although Brackett is the man behind most of the Canucks drafting success Jim Benning was the face of it all. Throughout Benning’s tenure in Vancouver, the Canucks have drafted exceptionally.
2020: Joni Jurmo (third-round) no first or second-round picks.
The Canucks success in the draft speaks for its self. As big of a role as Judd Brackett played in the Canucks drafting, Benning himself was also involved.
Worst: Benning and Toffoli Storm
At the 2020 trade deadline, the Canucks were at a crossroads. With the playoffs in sight, the Canucks knew they had a shot, but star winger Brock Boeser was hurt with no timetable for his return. So Jim Benning did what any good general manager would do, he made a deadline splash trading for Tyler Toffoli. Toffoli cost the Canucks a second-round pick in 2020, Tim Schaller, and Tyler Madden. Toffoli would notch 10 points in 10 games with the Canucks. Then in game one of the NHL’s restart, he would injure his ankle, sidelining him until game two of their second-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights. In six games against Vegas, he would notch just one goal and two assists.
Fast forward to the offseason. Toffoli played just 10 regular-season games with the Canucks and was a shining star that Canucks fans adored. He openly said he wanted to stay in Vancouver, yet Jim Benning put all his focus in trying to bring back goalie Jacob Markstrom. As well as trade for Oliver Ekman-Larson When all was said and done the Canucks failed to bring back either player. This was the nail in the coffin between Benning and Canucks Fans.
Best: Benning 2019 Draft
2019 was a big draft for Jim Benning and company, not just for their picks. On day two of the draft, the Canucks made a splash, trading goalie Marek Mazanec, a 2019 third-round pick, and a 2020 conditional first-round pick in exchange for the final piece of the lotto line, J.T. Miller. At the time of the trade, fans were conflicted trading a first-round pick plus for Miller, but just two short seasons later it has paid off as Miller has played himself into a key part of the Vancouver Canucks core.
Wost: Ryan Kesler Fiasco
Jim Benning handled the Ryan Kesler Fiasco well, he traded the disgruntled star, which could be classified a great move, the trade itself could be one of Benning’s best. On the other hand, how he used the pieces is where things get sticky. Let us dive into the trade tree and timeline.
June 27th, 2014: Ryan Kesler to the Ducks for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, a 2014 first-round pick (Jared McCann), and 2014 third-round pick (Keegan Iverson). Third-round pick traded to Rangers for Derek Dorsett.
May 25th, 2016: Jared McCann, a 2016 second-round pick (Rasmus Asplund, Buffalo), and 2016 fourth-round pick (Jonathan Ang) to the Panthers for Erik Gudbranson and a 2016 fifth-round pick (Cole Candella).
June 21st, 2017: Luca Sbisa selected by Vegas Golden Knights in expansion draft.
February 25th, 2019: Erik Gudbranson to the Penguins for Tanner Pearson.
Seven years after trading one of the faces of the franchise all the Canucks have left to show is Tanner Pearson, William Lockwood, and maybe Brandon Sutter who may be entering free agency. Sure, Benning’s hands were tied when trying to deal away Kesler, but if he would have held onto Nick Bonino this could be a different story.
Best: Stealing From Vegas
Las Vegas as a whole does a great job taking money from people daily but just once was it nice to see Jim Benning take something from Vegas. Benning managed to pry away defenseman Nate Schmidt from the Golden Knights in exchange for a 2022 third-round pick. At the time that looked like highway robbery, but as the season went fans pondered whether or not that was a sound move. Schmidt is locked for four more seasons with a cap hit just shy of $6 million, he averaged 20 minutes of ice time in 2021 and could play a huge role when the Canucks are ready to contend again.
The Schmidt trade may seem iffy now, But my crystal ball says this will be one of Jim Benning’s most memorable moves.
Jim Benning’s Time In Vancouver
Benning has made some good and bad moves. He has signed some bad contracts, Tyler Myers included but made some great trades. His drafting has been great, but his focus has been questionable. All Canucks fans want is a legit playoff run and Benning may not be the guy to get the Canucks to that level, but regardless he hasn’t been all bad.
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