The Vancouver Canucks embark on a six-game road trip that begins Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators, and will also see stops against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues.
The Canucks, with a 23-23-6 record, six sixth in the Pacific Division and are five points back of the Blues for the second Western Conference Wild Card spot. The Canucks have a game in hand on St. Louis, and actually have three games in hand on each of the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets – the teams currently standing between the Canucks and Blues in the Wild Card race.
NHL Insider Bob McKenzie, during a Tuesday appearance on Vancouver’s TSN 1040, reiterated to Canucks fans that he’s sure it’s “overstating the obvious to say this road trip will define whether or not they’re sellers or not.”
“No matter what, I don’t see them being buyers, even if they were to do well on this road trip,” continued McKenzie. “Even if they were right on the cusp of a playoff spot, I don’t think they’re in a position where they’re going to use future assets for a rental to bring in.
“What’s more likely to happen is… barring a surprise run of victories on this difficult road trip – and they’re not a great road team to begin with – then they’re more likely to sell. But again, you have to keep in mind – what are they selling?
“The Sedins – that’s not happening. Edler, Tanev – I don’t believe that’s happening. So then you look at the guys on expiring contracts. That’s Alex Burrows and Ryan Miller, basically. You’ve got lower-end guys like Skille, Megna, and Larsen, but let’s be honest here – the higher-profile guys will be Burrows and Miller. We know Burrows has a full no-trade. We know Miller has a modified no-trade. And we know that in the fall, Jimmy Benning said that he wouldn’t try to trade those guys. But obviously I think the position now – and I think Benning alluded to it a little earlier this week a little bit – was, ‘Well, depending on what calls you get, you would be obliged to take those to those guys to see what they think and see if they’ve got a desire to go elsewhere.’
“So we’ll see how that all plays itself out. But I think otherwise you’re really looking at whether they’re in or they’re out, Benning is looking at some point at moving a defenseman for a forward. They feel like they’ve got a little more depth at the position. Stecher has played very well. They’re starting to see some signs from Tryamkin.
“So as I said, Edler and Tanev aren’t going anywhere in my mind. I think guys like Stecher and Tryamkin are coming. So the logic, as I look at it, would be – and I don’t think they’re shopping him by any stretch, but if you were to be able to parlay a guy like Hutton into an equally talented and equal age forward who can score some goals, well then maybe that’s an option for them.
“But who knows. We’ll see.”
"It's been tough sitting out watching. I'm just excited to get back out there & help the guys get some points on the board." – @bhutt10
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) February 7, 2017
Benning was quite candid last month about potentially using the franchise’s defensive depth to acquire a forward if the right deal were to come along.
“I think that’s the one area where we have some depth now,” Benning mentioned on TSN 1040 January 19. “With Olli Juolevi coming now too, I think we have some players now – I like our defense going forward. Troy Stetcher, for a first-year player, he’s been excellent this year.
“So if we decide we’re going to do something – teams, when they call us, they look at our depth on defense and they ask about our defensemen. So if we are going to make a move to try to improve up front, it would be maybe with one of our defensemen.”
While noting that “we’re always going to look at opportunities to make the team better,” Benning has also identified his unwillingness to mortgage the future at the trade deadline.
“We’ve traded away some draft picks in the past for young players – the Baertschis, we traded for the Granlunds,” Benning noted January 12, also on TSN 1040. “I’m happy with the progress of our young players and where we’re at right now. We’re not trading any more picks going forward. So from that perspective we’re going to stay pat.”
Last week, Benning conveyed his thoughts on the team’s developmental path in an interview with CBC Sports’ Doug Harrison.
“We’ve drafted well the last few years,” Benning said. “We’ve got [2015 first-round pick] Brock Boeser and [2016 first-rounder] Olli Juolevi coming. We drafted some other players from the third to the fifth round that are playing well in [centre Adam] Gaudette and [right-winger] Will Lockwood. I like the depth in our prospect pool.
“I think we’ve overhauled our defence. Alex Edler is now our oldest defenceman at 30 … and Luca Sbisa’s really come into his own this year and he’s 26.”
There was also a particularly interesting note in Harrison’s article toward the end, incidentally, where he interviewed Dave Babych.
Babych would like to see the Canucks unleash players like Jake Virtanen and Alexandre Grenier.
“If you want to rebuild, get the young guys on the ice and be done with it,” Babych. “I’m a true believer of throwing the young guys in there and you teach them how to play.
“They’re worried about scoring goals,” added Babych, referring to Benning and Desjardins. “[Grenier] can play anywhere and make things happen. If he played with guys that could get him the puck, he’d be a 30-goal scorer. I think Jake would be a perennial 30-goal scorer if they just let him fly down the wing.”
You can read the article to check out Benning’s counter to Babych’s notion.
For reference: Covering the Insiders