As the slumping Vancouver Canucks sink further into the league’s basement, it becomes increasingly obvious that the rag-tag group of misfits Jim Benning has thrown together for the 2017-2018 season must be dismantled. The Feb. 26 NHL trade deadline is less than three weeks away and it is time for the Canucks to sell off some of their short-term signings and for a return that will help the organization in the future.
Perhaps the most valuable and tradable asset on the roster is Thomas Vanek, who is second on the team in goals, assists, and points (15-22-37). Though trading Vanek for a high-round pick and a mid-level prospect seems like the obvious move, the Sedins provide an interesting alternative when debating the future of polarizing Austrian winger.
Vanek Talking Extension?
It was reported by TSN 1040’s Jake Edwards last weekend that Vanek and Benning are talking contract extension, which has the Canucks faithful scratching their heads. The organization seems to have been avoiding a long-needed rebuild since their loss in the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, attempting to retool every summer through free agency patchwork signings such as Vanek.
The Sedin twins are far past their prime and are not fast enough to keep up with today’s NHL, the clock is ticking dangerously close to retirement for the future Hall of Famers. Though they have had a reasonably successful season, on pace for roughly 50 points each while averaging only 15 minutes of ice-time a night, rumors have surfaced that the reduced role has Henrik and Daniel butting heads with head coach Travis Green. If the Sedins are to retire this summer, it may not be a bad idea to have Vanek return for another season to buy some time for up-and-coming prospects Elias Pettersson, Jonathan Dahlen, and Olli Juolevi, to ease into the league.
Though it doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep Vanek around for the final stretch of the season after the deadline, if extension gossip is true and Vanek has fallen in love with the west coast and is serious about returning to Vancouver, why not trade him off for some assets at the deadline and have him return to the organization via free agency this summer? In order to rebuild the team into a Stanley Cup contender, the Canucks must acquire more picks to strengthen their organizational depth.
Moving on from the Sedin Era
If the Sedin twins choose to retire, there would be a major hole in the Canucks’ leadership core. Henrik is the captain and Daniel an assistant. They have been a big part of the organization and the community for 17 years; their departure would mandate dispersing the burden of leadership to those relatively unfamiliar with the role. This is where Vanek turns from an expendable piece at the deadline into a valuable asset on a Canucks team that does not include the Sedins.
Despite that management may have to overpay a little bit to retain Vanek’s services, there are benefits to keeping him. His current ticket is a one-year deal at $2 million but with the winger on pace for a 20-goal, 50-point season and the salary cap rising to approximately $82 million, he may demand between $5-6 million on another one or two-year deal.
Though one could easily fashion together an air-tight argument on how the Canucks need to move on and “give the keys to the car” to Petterson, Dahlen, or whoever the Canucks can grab with their 1st round pick in 2018 (praying for a lottery win and the rights to franchise defenseman Rasmus Dahlin), it could be good to have some experience in the new-look locker room to ease their transition to the big leagues.
All in all, the Canucks are at the bottom of the league for the third straight season and it is clear that they will be sellers at the deadline and have some big personnel decisions looming, especially when it comes to Vanek. Having Vanek around after this season could essentially buy some time for the budding prospects and take the pressure off of the youth in a market that has historically been one of the most ruthless in the league.
That being said, I believe it is in Benning’s best interest to trade Vanek for future assets at the deadline and attempt to bring him back in the fold on July 1. Using Vanek to acquire two valuable pieces is the right move for the franchise, and it doesn’t necessarily mean he will be wearing a different jersey this time next year. He would be a familiar face and an experienced veteran that could help smooth the transition to a new era after ‘22’ and ‘33’ are hanging from the rafters.