Grading the Canucks’ Trade Deadline Moves

After Vancouver Canucks‘ general manager Jim Benning stated in the days leading up to the trade deadline that he didn’t foresee making any moves, he went out and made three:

  • Acquired D Madison Bowey and a 2021 fifth-round pick from the Chicago Blackhawks for a 2021 fourth-round pick.
  • Acquired the Winnipeg Jets’ 2021 sixth-round pick in exchange for D Jordie Benn.
  • Acquired C/W Matthew Highmore from the Chicago Blackhawks for C Adam Gaudette.

The trades weren’t groundbreaking by any means, but at least one was a bit of a headscratcher. So without further ado, let’s dive in and give Benning his 2021 Trade Deadline report card.

Canucks Give Gaudette a Change of Scenery

Of all the players that needed a “change of scenery”, I don’t think anyone would have pointed to Gaudette as the person who needed one. By all accounts, it appeared that he liked it in Vancouver and wanted to stay long-term. Unfortunately for him, Benning didn’t seem to agree and ended up shipping him off to Chicago for an underwhelming return.

To be quite honest, we expected him to take another step this year…He has played alright for us, but we were expecting after the season he had last year, we were expecting him to come in and take another step (and) we didn’t really feel like he did that. Now, maybe a change of scenery, he can get that back.

Jim Benning on trading Adam Gaudette

After hitting career-highs in goals (12) and points (33) last season, Gaudette’s production has slipped to only four goals and seven points in 33 games this season. He also has not played his natural position either, playing mostly as a winger on a third line centered by Brandon Sutter.

Adam Gaudette Vancouver Canucks
Adam Gaudette, seen here with the Vancouver Canucks (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

With Kole Lind excelling as a pivot in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Utica Comets, Benning could be thinking of the future and the possibility of him taking over the third line center spot after Sutter moves on. If Lind is actually good at faceoffs in the NHL, he would have a huge leg up on Gaudette, who has yet to master that art.

Related: Canucks Prospects Report: Podkolzin, Kunz, Jurmo, Comets & More

Admittedly, Gaudette is not the best defensively and is somewhat ill-suited for the bottom six. With Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Hoglander looking like future wingers for captain Bo Horvat, his future with the team was clearly not on the top two lines. All in all, a change of scenery might actually be good for his long-term development as a top-six forward.

The Return: Matthew Highmore

I wouldn’t have a big problem with this deal if the Canucks got something more substantial for Gaudette. Nothing against Highmore, who is said to be a solid two-way forward with a strong work ethic, but you would think a 24-year-old established NHLer with offensive potential would garner a bit more.

Highmore is already a year older than Gaudette and has not proven to be an everyday NHL player yet. Since joining the Blackhawks in 2018 after five seasons in the QMJHL with the Saint John Sea Dogs, he has only four goals and ten points in 73 games. To put that in perspective, Gaudette has 21 goals and 52 points in 153 games.

Highmore might surprise everyone and become a great two-way player in the NHL one day, but for now, he’s an unknown. I’m sure Benning is hoping he has caught lightning in a bottle twice, as the last player he acquired that had ties to the Blackhawks worked out quite well in the form of Tyler Motte, who he got at the deadline in 2018. He played 33 games for them during the 2016-17 season before getting traded to the Blue Jackets. If he can become even half what Motte is, this trade will end up looking way better than it does right now.

Grade: C

Benn’s Bounce Back Season Leads to a Modest Return for the Canucks

Heading up to the trade deadline, the Canucks had several veteran assets that they could potentially move. Jordie Benn ended up being the only one that actually got traded. Travis Hamonic, Alex Edler, Tanner Pearson (who was recently re-signed), Antoine Roussel, and Sutter all stayed put. Of all of them, Hamonic and Benn were probably the only ones that were realistic in this economic landscape, and once Elliotte Friedman put the kibosh on any Hamonic trade, the writing was on the wall for Benn.

Jordie Benn Vancouver Canucks
Jordie Benn, seen here with the Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

When Hamonic was injured for a few weeks in February, Benn did more than just fill in for him on the top pairing with Quinn Hughes, he excelled. He was efficient defensively and provided almost the same calm presence Chris Tanev did last season when he was paired with the uber-sophomore. I’m sure that played into the Jets’ interest when they were looking for veteran defencemen to acquire for a playoff run.

The Return: 2021 Sixth-Round Draft Pick

Considering Benn is going to be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) this offseason, a sixth-round pick is an adequate return for the veteran defenceman. Also, with the Canucks’ recent success with late-round picks, this extra selection might net them yet another solid player for their deep prospect pool.

Grade: A

Canucks Get Younger On Defence With Bowey

After trading Benn to the Jets, the Canucks were short a defenceman. So they turned to the Blackhawks again and found the 25-year-old Bowey. Originally drafted in the second round by the Washington Capitals in 2013, he has bounced around a few teams in his relatively short NHL career. Now joining his fourth team after playing parts of five seasons with the Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Blackhawks, he will look to impress head coach Travis Green enough to earn a regular spot in the lineup.

Madison Bowey Detroit Red Wings
Madison Bowey, seen here with the Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Bowey’s time this season has been mostly spent on the Blackhawks’ Taxi Squad, which is probably where he’s going to start with the Canucks. At least, that’s where he should start. With top prospect Olli Juolevi sitting out since Feb 23, Benn’s departure looked to have freed up a spot for the young Finn, until the trade for Bowey happened. Now the situation has become murky again. For the sake of his development, he should either get into the lineup regularly or go down to the Comets, those should be the only two options.

The cost was reasonable for a defenceman of Bowey’s caliber, and the Canucks also got a fifth-round pick in the deal too. As of right now, they got pretty good value for just the cost of a fourth-round pick.

Grade: B+

Canucks Have a Surprisingly Busy Deadline

After professing to the fan base that he would be quiet at the deadline, Benning was surprisingly busy. He didn’t make any huge trades involving marquee players, but he did move another young forward who seemingly was a part of their immediate future. The Canucks spent six years developing Gaudette, only to see him get traded for an undrafted free agent that has an uncertain future. Granted, he had a somewhat uncertain one too, but he still has way more potential than Highmore does.

On the other hand, on a team that will have a loaded top-six as soon as next season, Highmore’s game might fit the future of the Canucks more. So, I guess time will tell on that one.

Matthew Highmore Chicago Blackhawks
Matthew Highmore, seen here with the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As for the other trades, with Rathbone and Juolevi projected to be full-time NHL defencemen as early as next season, Benn was obviously not in the Canucks’ plans moving forward. As such, it was good to get something for him, even if it was only a sixth-round pick. Bowey could become something, or fade away after next season. Either way, they got a fifth-round pick in the deal and only gave up a fourth. All in all, not too much risk there.

Overall Trade Deadline Grade: B

Apart from trading Gaudette for a low return, Benning’s other deals were very reasonable. It’s going to be interesting to see how Bowey and Highmore fit into the lineup, but all I know is, we better not see Gaudette lighting it up in the playoffs with the Blackhawks next month, or Canucks Nation will be launching vitriol at Benning once again.