Canucks: 5 Worst Jim Benning Trades

Jim Benning was the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks from May 23, 2014 until Dec. 5, 2021. During his time as GM, he made questionable signings, free agents, and waiver placements. Today, we dive into his trade history to determine the five worst trades of the Benning era.

Honorable Mentions

  • Linus Karlsson for Jonathan Dahlén
  • Ryan Kesler and a third-round pick for Luca Sbisa, Nick Bonino, first-round pick and a third-round pick
  • Linden Vey for a second-round pick

5. 2015- Sven Bärtschi for a 2015 Second Round Pick

Sven Bärtschi was the 13th overall pick by the Calgary Flames back in 2011 after a fantastic career with the Portland Winterhawks. He had speed, a great shot and was pegged as a dynamic, ca n’t-miss prospect. Unfortunately, he could not provide consistent production with the Flames and spent most of his time bouncing between the NHL and American Hockey League (AHL). Benning saw this as an opportunity to get him from Calgary, offering up the high price of a second-round pick.

Sven Baertschi Canucks
Sven Baertschi, Vancouver Canucks, Nov. 21, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Just like in Calgary, Bärtschi struggled. He put up 110 points in his 225 games and could not stay in the lineup. As for the pick traded away, the Flames selected Rasmus Andersson, who has developed into a top-pairing right-shot defenceman. The exact player Vancouver needs today.

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Although Bärtschi did have some production for the Canucks, Benning overpaid for a forward who could not fully adapt to the NHL. It isn’t the worst of trades, but it lands on the list considering who the Flames got in return.

4. 2015- Brandon Prust for Zack Kassian and a 5th Round Pick

Many in Vancouver will remember Zack Kassian as the return in the Cody Hodgson deal back in 2012. Both players needed a change of scenery, so Buffalo and Vancouver swapped their struggling stars for each other. The Canucks traded Kassian to Montreal only three years later, along with a fifth-round pick for Brandon Prust. It was a move that did not make sense back in 2015 and still doesn’t make sense now.

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Although he did not light the lamp in Vancouver, Kassian was showing promise putting up 59 points in 179 games. However, the real reason he was brought in was to be a protector as he was not afraid to throw hits or stand up for teammates. He was doing his job fine, but the Canucks decided they wanted a more experienced player and brought in Prust.

Prust flamed out in Vancouver and was a distraction to the team. The real kicker is that Vancouver also gave up a draft pick despite giving up the better player. Today, Kassian is a key part of the Oilers, while Brandon Prust hasn’t suited up for a professional game since 2016-17. This is a trade Canuck fans want back, especially with today’s issues facing the team’s overall toughness.

3. 2015-Adam Clendening for Gustav Forsling

Benning selected Gustav Forsling during the 2014 draft in the fifth round. The Swedish-born defenceman was a project but showed potential throughout his junior career. Less than eight months later, the Canucks traded him for Adam Clendening of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Gustav Forsling Chicago Blackhawks
Gustav Forsling, see here with the Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Clendening, who was 22 at the time, was a second-rounder who had was just breaking into the league. He was an excellent two-way defender in college and was lighting it up in the AHL. During his one season with the Canucks, he played 17 games and spent most of his time in the AHL. At the end of the season, he was traded to Pittsburgh as part of the Brandon Sutter trade.

Related: Canucks’ Best & Worst Trades All-Time

As for Forsling, he has become an everyday NHLer for the Panthers and has played almost double the NHL games that Clendening has played despite being four years younger. Benning decided he wasn’t needed in the organization anymore instead of giving him a chance and seeing what they could do. This is one trade Canuck fans wish they could undo, especially with Forsling becoming a key part of Florida’s blueline over the last two seasons.

2. 2019- Tyler Toffoli for Tim Schaller, Tyler Madden, a 2nd Round Pick and a conditional 4th Round pick.

Benning made a splash at the 2019-20 deadline acquiring Tyler Toffoli from the L.A Kings for Tim Schaller, Tyler Madden, a second-round pick, and a conditional fourth-round pick. On the surface, this is a decent trade, but in hindsight, it cost Vancouver big time as the Canucks “ran out of time” to make this deal meaningful.

This trade lands at number two on the list because Toffoli never re-signed in Vancouver despite wanting to play for the team. According to Benning, the Canucks “ran out of time” and lost the sniper to Montreal in free agency during the offseason. Now the Canucks are without a strong prospect and a second-round pick in 2022, all for 20 games of Toffoli.

Tyler Toffoli Calgary Flames
Tyler Toffoli, Calgary Flames (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It is unknown what the actual damage here will be as Madden hasn’t made the NHL, and the second-round pick is being selected this season, but it is already known Vancouver lost this trade. If Toffoli had been re-signed, this trade goes down as one of the best in Benning’s tenure, but it lands on the worst trades list because of how everything played out.

1. 2016- Erik Gudbransson and a 5th Round Pick for Jared McCann, a 2nd Round Pick and a 4th Round Pick

The Canucks needed some toughness, so they went out and acquired Erik Gudbransson and a fifth-round pick from the Panthers for Jared McCann, a second-rounder and a fourth. Another example of Benning being impatient with his draft picks, McCann was only 19 when traded despite having a promising rookie season with the Canucks.

Why this deal lands on the top of the list is that not only did Vancouver give up on McCann after only one season, they also threw in a second-round pick that turned into Rasmus Asplund. There was no reason to give up additional assets to acquire Gudbranson, and it is another example of Benning’s poor assets management that has plagued him his entire career.

Jared McCann, Seattle Kraken
Jared McCann, Seattle Kraken (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Gudbranson never worked out in Vancouver because he couldn’t stay healthy, had problems with his foot speed, and couldn’t help keep the puck out of his own net. As for McCann, he is now a vital piece of the Seattle organization and is finally living up to his first-round pedigree. Throwing additional picks in and giving up on a prospect way too early are just some of the reasons this trades lands at number one.

Not A Stellar 8 Years For Benning

As good as Benning was at drafting, all other aspects of his job were problematic. From trades to signing to players placed on waivers, he showed asset management was not his strong suit. These five trades are just a piece as to why the Canucks missed the playoffs in five of his seven seasons as GM, but they loom large over the organization, especially after seeing how the pieces they traded away have turned out.

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