In a perfect world, Jim Benning would send Nikita Tryamkin down to Utica to log some major minutes.
In Tryamkin’s perfect world, he would be logging those minutes in a Vancouver Canucks sweater.
So where does this leave the young Russian defender and the Canucks organization?
Tryamkin remains glued to the press box, while he watches other depth defencemen get the nod ahead of him. Troy Stecher just arrived in Vancouver after Chris Tanev went down with injury, and he will make his NHL debut on Tuesday. He’s a logical fit ahead of Tryamkin after Stecher had chemistry with Edler in the preseason, but it surely doesn’t help Tryamkin’s relationship with the Canucks.
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) October 25, 2016
Benning recently said that after signing Tryamkin to a contract last spring, he hoped that the 22-year-old would welcome a move down to Utica after spending some time with the Canucks organization.
That was likely wishful thinking, especially after Benning signed Tryamkin to a contract which has an out-clause allowing him to return to Russia if the Canucks tried to send him Utica. They also tried to convince Tryamkin that he would benefit from a conditioning stint down in Utica, but Tryamkin and his agent denied that request as well.
Benning on @tsn1040 confirms the deal on Tryamkin: "If we wanted to assign him, we'd have to assign him to his KHL team in Russia."
— Jason Brough (@JasonBroughTSN) October 14, 2016
This leaves the Canucks and Tryamkin in an uncomfortable situation, one which can really only end with Tryamkin getting into some game action with the Canucks, or with him leaving behind his NHL dream to return to the KHL.
The Canucks need to get him on the ice sooner rather than later, which is a problem considering he isn’t one of the Canucks’ best six defencemen at the moment.
Tryamkin Didn’t Earn a Spot
Coming into training camp, Tryamkin had a legitimate shot at making this team. Back in September, I wrote about how Tryamkin had a chance to take over Luca Sbisa’s spot on the bottom pairing if he had a strong training camp. Although Canucks’ management has given Sbisa a long leash, they could not have been blind enough to miss countless pizza deliveries from Sbisa over two subpar years in Vancouver.
The key was that Tryamkin needed a strong training camp and preseason, which he didn’t have. He often looked lost and overmatched in the preseason, and reportedly has struggled with conditioning.
#Canucks coach Willie Desjardins says Traymkin could play but is still on a conditioning program & is not quite where they want him to be.
— Matthew Sekeres (@mattsekeres) October 25, 2016
He needed to shine in the preseason in order to steal a spot from Sbisa, which was expecting a lot from a player who has a grand total of 13 games of NHL experience.
Unfortunately for Tryamkin, Sbisa’s spot is still the only one up for grabs unless the Canucks back-end gets decimated by injuries. Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton and Erik Gudbranson are all locks in the top four. Philip Larsen isn’t going anywhere as long as he is a part of the number one power play. The recently recalled Stecher is also a better fit in Tanev’s spot over Tryamkin.
Willie Desjardins’ only option to play Tryamkin would be to give him a couple of games playing in Sbisa’s spot. That decision doesn’t come without risk since Larsen hasn’t proven himself to be very capable in his own end. For all the criticism Sbisa receives, pairing Tryamkin with Larsen is a disaster waiting to happen. Sbisa has also had a strong start to the season, solidifying his roster spot further.
Desjardins on Tryamkin: "He’s better than 3 weeks ago. He has to get himself – a little mentally, too – up to the intensity of every shift.”
— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) October 24, 2016
So who is to blame here? Is it Tryamkin for refusing to make a move that would benefit his career, or Benning and company for signing a contract knowing that this was a possible scenario?
The fault probably lies somewhere in the middle. Tryamkin would better himself by going to the minors, but the Canucks basically guaranteed to him that Utica wasn’t an option. Does Tryamkin also want to take a significant pay cut from his $925,000 NHL salary?
It’s unfortunate that Tryamkin isn’t cooperating with the Canucks wishes, but the Canucks put themselves in this situation. The problem now is that as long as Tryamkin occupies the press box, this isn’t a win for either the organization or the player.