Zack Kassian

Despite rumors, Linden says Canucks haven’t tried to trade Higgins

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On Monday, Canucks president Trevor Linden addressed trade rumblings surrounding one of his team’s most veteran skaters, Chris Higgins.

“Chris Higgins is an important player on our team,” Linden said in a statement, per The Province. “We have not talked to any clubs about trading him.

“We value Chris both for his on-ice abilities and his leadership in the locker-room.”

That Linden responded to the Higgins rumors was telling… because, um, Linden’s kinda the reason they’re out there.

Last week, he and Vancouver GM Jim Benning caught heat during a ticketholder event, as fans voiced their displeasure over the club’s offseason moves. Benning was actually booed after revealing he could’ve traded veteran goalie Ryan Miller rather than fan favorite Eddie Lack.

After the event, Linden reportedly pulled aside some of the more vocal attendees for a mini-hotstove.

From The Province:

It was not an easy night for Linden or Benning.

“When you’re sitting in this chair, it’s not as easy as you think,” Linden said.

What he did do, when it was over, was call over the biggest critics of the night for a 10-minute session.

It was a nice gesture, but may have been ill-advised.

In it, Linden revealed several tidbits, including his pitch that the Canucks have been trying to trade Chris Higgins but have found they cannot move his contract.

In short order, the comments were all over social media, and then on the radio. The Higgins trade horse is officially out of the barn.

Maybe they’re hoping something will change in August — unlikely — or people will forget to ask Higgins when he comes back to town in two months. Again, unlikely.

(Take this for what it’s worth, but one attendee apparently recapped meeting Linden on HF Boards.)

It’s hard to know where this leaves Higgins, 32, who’s heading into the third of a four-year, $10 million deal with a pretty affordable $2.5M average annual cap hit. It’s not a Benning contract; Higgins was extended by Benning’s predecessor, Mike Gillis, and the deal includes a Gillis staple — a no-trade clause (granted, it’s a limited NTC.)

As such, it wasn’t surprising to hear rumors of the Canucks trying to move Higgins. Benning’s already shipped out Gllis-era holdovers like Lack, Kevin Bieksa, Zack Kassian, Jason Garrison, Ryan Kesler and Tom Sestito in his attempt to reshape the club — in that light, it would make sense that Higgins, who had 12 goals and 36 points last year, was dangled in potential trade talks.

Unless, of course, he wasn’t.

Virtanen has sights set on making Canucks

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The sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, Jake Virtanen has high expectations for next season.

“My goal is to make the team,” the 18-year-old said this week at Vancouver’s prospects camp, per the Times Colonist.

Virtanen is a big winger the Canucks are hoping can turn into an elite power forward.

If that description sounds familiar, it’s because the Canucks just traded away Zack Kassian, a big winger they’d hoped would turn into an elite power forward.

Canucks GM Jim Benning has said of Virtanen: “He knows how to hit. He likes to hit.” Which is something that was never said of Kassian during his time in Vancouver. In fact, some felt Kassian was miscast, that he’s really a finesse player, not a wrecking ball.

Virtanen concedes his defensive game remains a work in progress.

“A 200-foot game is what I have to work on,” he said.

And yes, they said that about Kassian, too.

Related: Kassian vows to give it all for Habs: ‘As you grow older, you mature’

Changes continue for Canucks after reportedly letting go of their head trainer

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Eddie Lack was traded. Kevin Bieksa was traded. So, too, was Zack Kassian.

Assistant general managers Laurence Gilman and Lorne Henning, and director of player personnel Eric Crawford were all let go this week, following the NHL Draft and first day of free agency.

The Vancouver Canucks, under the regime of general manager Jim Benning and president Trevor Linden, have undergone numerous changes in player personnel and hockey operations in the last week, as the management group, entering its second full year, continues to put its stamp on the organization.

On Friday, there was another change, this time to the training staff, according to a report from Jason Botchford of The Province.

From The Province newspaper:

Along with gutting their front office, the Canucks have also let go Mike Burnstein, their 20-year head trainer, the team has confirmed.

This one is going to gut many players who have bonded strongly with “Burnie” over the years.

Among the non-players, there are not many people the Canucks work with more closely than Burnstein.

Video: Addition of Prust gives Canucks two willing fighters along with Dorsett

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Brandon Prust is known to drop the gloves on occasion. So, too, is Derek Dorsett.

After Wednesday’s trade that sent Zack Kassian to the Montreal Canadiens and Prust to the Vancouver Canucks, it’s possible both Prust and Dorsett are on the same line when the 2015-16 season begins, and that could make things interesting for opposing teams as well as for fans, who will surely have to keep an eye on both players when they’re on the ice.

Dorsett, acquired by the Canucks at the 2014 NHL Draft, had 17 fighting majors this past season, according to hockeyfights.com. The 31-year-old Prust had 16. Last season, while playing on different teams, Dorsett and Prust combined for 309 penalty minutes.

“Prust is going to supply us the toughness for our young kids so they don’t get pushed around,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning told TSN 1040 radio on July 1.

The addition of Prust should help ease the burden Dorsett faced last year as Vancouver’s tough guy, a role he accepted while also playing regular minutes as a bottom-six forward and establishing career highs in assists and points.

Of course, given their penchant for fighting, it seems only natural they’ve had a disagreement between them in the past.

Discuss: Where’s the best fit for Alex Semin?

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Alex Semin isn’t the only NHLer who’s been accused of wasting his God-given talent.

Two others — Phil Kessel and Zack Kassian — were traded yesterday. The latter vowed today to figure out in Montreal.

But Semin remains unsigned. Earlier this week, he was bought out by the Hurricanes, whose GM proceeded to say of the 31-year-old winger: “He did not have that high compete level, for whatever reason.”

He didn’t score many goals either. Just six of them in 57 games last season, while seeing his ice time fall to an average of 15:55, the lowest since his rookie campaign over a decade ago.

In 2009-10, Semin scored 40 goals for the Capitals. He has 238 tallies in 638 career NHL games.

Hence, his agent’s claim that there was immediate interest in his client.

For a cheap, short-term prove-it deal, signing Semin has the potential to pay off.

Maybe he joins a contending team, unlike Carolina, and rediscovers his enthusiasm.

Maybe he has a little more puck luck. His shooting percentage dipped to 6.5 percent last season, whereas his career rate is almost double that (12.8).

Maybe he’s a complete bust and at least he was cheap.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are still looking for a winger. Imagine Semin and Phil Kessel on the same team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?

The Florida Panthers could use a scoring winger, though there may be a concern about Semin’s attitude around all those talented young players.

The Devils need to score more.

Any other teams come to mind?