June 22, 2016
My suspicion is that it is frustrating for most fans of the Vancouver Canucks to hear GM Jim Benning repeat over and over again his mantra of making the team competitive now. Of putting the 2017 playoffs ahead of the franchise’s next decade, or more.
The reason being is that the knowledgeable Canuck fans know that a rebuild is needed in Vancouver, not a retool, as Benning and team president Trevor Linden seem bent on working toward. Fans know you can retool Vancouver with a top free agent winger, Boston’s Loui Eriksson or Kyle Okposo of the New York Islanders for example, but it won’t make the team a contender for the Stanley Cup. Not by a long shot.
Ditto for Andrew Ladd, Troy Brouwer or Milan Lucic. Now Steven Stamkos might get them into the playoffs but he’s not going to help this current team go far once there. There are too many holes to fill on the Canucks and it will take more than this off-season to fill them.
They’ll need the young players on their roster, players like Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, Nikita Tryamkin, Sven Baertschi, Ben Hutton and their pick from the 2016 NHL entry draft (likely Matthew Tkachuk or Pierre-Luc Dubois), all 23 or under, to gain another season, or two, playing together.
Datsyuk to Canucks?
So based upon that (correct!) assessment, it’s my belief that Canuck fans who read a recent piece on a site called The Canuck Way will be angry if the rumor floated there is true.
The writer, Janik Beichler, did not profess to inside information but brought up a tweet from TSNs Darren Dreger about the Detroit Red Wings looking to get a contract off their books. He took Dreger’s tweet — we’ll get to it in a moment — and speculated the Wings offered a deal to the Canucks that would see Vancouver get players and a 2nd round 2016 draft pick.
With Datsyuk retired from the NHL and heading to Russia, it leaves Detroit missing the speedy playmaker from their line-up — but not his salary cap hit. They don’t have to pay him any money but the year remaining on his contract will go against Detroit’s salary cap for the 2016-17 NHL season.
So in a manner of speaking next season the Wings will have $7.5 million less of a cap than everybody else — unless they find a team willing to take Datsyuk’s salary cap hit. According to Dreger, Detroit is willing to package forwards Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen, along with a 2nd rounder, to induce a club to take on Datsyuk’s numbers.
Benning: no trade
It can’t be said if Benning was indeed offered this package, though Dreger claims a deal involving some or all of those pieces was offered. But (some might ‘incredibly’) Benning still insists they will not take on salary in such a manner, regardless of what comes back in return.
Surely the savvy Canuck fan is in pain thinking the team could get Jurco, Pulkkinen and a second-rounder for in essence nothing, and yet aren’t taking it. Yes, that $7.5 million would help grab Eriksson, Okposo or Stamkos (who surely is not looking to sign here) but it likely won’t help grab even a playoff spot.
Further, both Jurco, 23, and Pulkkinen, 24, are promising forwards. Jurco has 15 NHL goals while in his last AHL season, 2014-15, Pulikkinen played 46 games with Grand Rapids and was 34-27-61; he also added 14 goals in 16 AHL playoff games and another 5 goals that season in 31 NHL games (he saw limited action) for the Red Wings.
The Finn’s 61 points in 46 AHL games was an impressive accomplishment; in the top 65 scorers in the league that season, only two others played fewer than 60 games (one played 57, another 59) and both those players were far down the scoring list.
It is conceivable a player like Pulikkinen could rise to the occasion and become a top 6 NHL forward, maybe even the ‘next one’ as far as finding a line-mate for Henrik and Daniel Sedin. And while even a breakout 2016-17 season from Pulkkinen, or Jurco, wouldn’t get the Canucks far in the 2017 playoffs, it will boost their stock for years to come.
By the way, bizarre world in hockey now, no? A trade where you essentially give up nothing (not even actual money) and yet in return you get three players (one retired) and a draft pick. And yet it appears the Canucks GM wants no part of it!
Trades sure have changed in the NHL…though one thing that hasn’t changed is this: fans can get pretty frustrated, even angry, when their team makes a bad trade. Or, in this case, doesn’t make a good one.