The lead-up to last year’s trade deadline saw a number of high profile deals.
The struggling Canucks went into sell mode by trading Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen. Bolts netminder Ben Bishop was sent to the L.A. Kings, and Kevin Shattenkirk went to Washington as the Capitals attempted to bolster their lineup for what they were hoping was going to be a lengthy Stanley Cup run.
Of course, this year’s trade deadline will include the Vegas Golden Knights and general manager George McPhee. They have nine players that will be eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of next season.
Some early positive signs in Canucks’ reluctant rebuild
The times – and the Internet – haven’t always been kind to Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning. That’s particularly true when Benning, Trevor Linden, and others resisted the rebuild far longer than most found acceptable.
Even now, it’s difficult to resist putting up the funniest Benning photo available, whether the context calls for it or not.
While Benning struggled greatly in extending the Canucks’ lifespan as a playoff-caliber team, there have been some positive signs that this group might have its act together at the very different job of rebuilding.
(Granted, this sentiment is laced with lowered expectations, so consider that a massive caveat.)
This Fansided breakdown by Isha Jahromi argues that Benning’s been a solid hand at trading, in general, but this seeming renaissance really kicked off at the 2017 trade deadline.
Even then, it would have been nice to see even more moves, especially when we’ve seen teams like the Philadelphia Flyers really stockpile picks during their own rebuilds, but at least the Canucks made some progress.
And, hey, sometimes it’s actually nicer to get prospects who’ve already taken steps in their development rather than draft choices of variable quality.
The Canucks’ competent run of off-season free-agent signings doesn’t do a ton for their rebuild, really; even so, any sign of the lights being on is promising for Vancouver.
Now, it definitely hurts that the lottery balls didn’t bounce the Canucks’ way, but give them credit for a well-received draft. Pettersson generally seems to be the right choice at number 5, and people like Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek raved about selections deeper in the draft, too.
Now, look, the Canucks still have a long way to go.
It’s also plausible that management can still be doing more. After all, it’s easier to make something look better after it has been reduced to rubble.
Still, there were worrisome signs that the Canucks would fight any idea of a rebuild until the bitter end of Benning’s tenure, exposing fans and players to extra years of misery without much of a light at the end of that tunnel.
That light may only be dim after some positive gains, but at least there’s a faint glimmer of hope for the Canucks.
Two fewer defensemen means Canucks less likely to trade Tanev
“I’m going to look at all our options, but for us to move [Tanev] off our blue line, we’d have to get a good defenseman back,” Benning said Thursday.
Among Vancouver d-men, only Alex Edler logged more ice time than Sbisa in 2016-17.
“He provided physicality on the back end,” Benning said of Sbisa. “He was a good penalty killer for us. I thought last year, on a game-to-game basis, he was one of our better defensemen. So we’re sorry to see him go. It’s going to be a new opportunity for him and it gives us a chance to kind of reshape our blue line.”
Shouldn’t a rebuilding team be less concerned about next year, and more concerned about four or five years down the line?
“That’s a good point,” Benning said, “but I think we’re going to have a lot of young players in our lineup next year, and we want to be competitive in the games. Chris Tanev is still a relatively young player for a defenseman. We’re going to have him for the next seven or eight years. But like I said, if something makes sense and we can get a player back that can play on our blue line, we’ll look at it.”
The Canucks will draft fifth overall tomorrow at United Center, and most expect them to select a center like Cody Glass, Gabriel Vilardi, or Casey Mittelstadt.
But don’t be shocked if they go for a power-play defenseman like Cale Makar or Timothy Liljegren.
“Anytime you can get a high-end offensive defenseman in today’s game, that drives the play for your team, I think that’s something we’re going to look at,” said Benning.
Colton Sissons received a match penalty for crosschecking Olli Maatta in the face. All told, the two teams combined for 100 PIM.
It’s the kind of hate we haven’t seen from a Cup Final in quite some time.
In fact, you’d have to go back six years to the now-infamous Canucks-Bruins battle of 2011. That series had a slew of nasty incidents, from Alex Burrows biting Patrice Bergeron to Aaron Rome knocking out Nathan Horton — and receiving the longest suspension in Stanley Cup Final history as a result:
There are parallels between that series and this one.
“I just don’t understand that moron that keeps talking about how bad Nashville is or how we pipe in music,” Henry said. “He’s a schmuck, to say what it is.”
You never know when a series will pop off. It never really happened between the Kings and Devils, or Blackhawks and Bruins, or Kings and Rangers, or Blackhawks and Lightning. It certainly didn’t happen between the Penguins and Sharks last year, which ended up as one of the least feverish Cup Finals in recent memory.
And so, it will be interesting to see how things evolve from here.
The series is going back to Bridgestone, where the Preds have been virtually unbeatable this spring, thanks in large part to the energy their frenzied fans provide. This is also the first time Nashville’s faced elimination this postseason, so the desperation level will be high.
And what about supplemental discipline? Sissons could be facing some for the aforementioned crosscheck, though Laviolette argued against it during his postgame remarks.
“I watched it play out,” Laviolette said. “Saw Maatta crosscheck him, Colton crosschecked him back, Maatta crosschecked him again, and they were doing that somewhere in the midsection.
“On the last one, Maatta, seemed to slip and his head dropped. I don’t think there was any intention there whatsoever, so I don’t think [it deserves supplemental discipline.]”
Given what’s at stake in Game 6, it’s hard to see a suspension coming.
It’s also hard to see this series calming down.
Talks continue with pending UFA Miller, but Markstrom is Canucks No. 1 goalie … eventually
The Canucks finally made the definitive statement last month that they are, in fact, rebuilding.
On Tuesday, another proclamation, this time from general manager Jim Benning: Jacob Markstrom will be the team’s starting goaltender.
Benning, in conversation with Pierre LeBrun of TSN, again admitted that he continues to talk with Ryan Miller‘s camp. Miller turns 37 years of age on July 17, and is a pending unrestricted free agent, having spent the last three seasons in Vancouver. The last two have certainly been difficult, with the team plummeting near the bottom of the NHL’s overall standings.
“Jacob Markstrom’s going to be our No. 1 goalie going forward. We feel like Ryan — he had a really good year last year, and he can help Jacob in that transition to being the No. 1 guy. We feel with where we’re at, we need good goaltending every night to be competitive with these young players up front.”
Oh, wait a minute. . .
Just talked to Jim Benning to clarify his Markstrom quote about "being the starter moving forward." He meant eventually, not now. #Canucks
This past season, Miller was actually pretty good considering how bad the team in front of him was, as they went through a rapid fall that culminated in the Canucks trading away veterans Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen for talented forward prospects Nikolay Goldobin and Jonathan Dahlen.
In a bid to keep the Canucks — as they further the transition of younger players into their roster — “competitive,” Benning has expressed his interest in keeping Miller in Vancouver. However, that same transition will continue in goal. Markstrom, who is about to enter the first year of his three-year, $11 million extension, played only 26 games last season, with a .910 save percentage, and eventually had to undergo knee surgery.
Goalie prospect Thatcher Demko saw improvements as his rookie AHL season continued, and he could be the future in net for Vancouver. At 27, the need to get Markstrom more playing time was a hot topic of conversation during the season in Vancouver.
It appears the Canucks are finally going to allow him that opportunity.