The Vancouver Canucks will take the ice tonight on a three-game losing streak and in danger of falling even further behind in the North Division standings. The team has already been on the wrong end of the scoreboard in 15 of their 23 games and is spiraling out of control with a 2-6-2 record in their last ten. With that–not to mention previous reports that Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette were on the block–in mind, it comes as no surprise that GM Jim Benning is calling all around the league for a temperature check well before the midseason trade deadline.
Pierre LeBrun reported as much on the latest Insider Trading for TSN:
[Benning] certainly has been busy. There hasn’t been a result yet but I can tell you from talking to teams around the league that isn’t a single team that hasn’t heard from Jim Benning over the last couple weeks. Really this is more about doing his due dilligence and knowing what’s out there ahead of April 12, still lots of time. But right now, with so many teams in LTIR it’s so difficult to make an ’apples for apples’ trade, but if he can, what he’s looking for is a top-nine forward in that age 25-and-younger group that can fit with his young core.
Virtanen and Gaudette of course both fit that designation at 24, but seemingly don’t work with the group at this time. Whether they could be flipped by players around the same age with the same potential isn’t clear, but Benning is obviously trying his best to improve the squad while also keeping an eye on the future.
It’s that pesky salary cap that will be a tough obstacle for the Canucks or whoever they want to trade with. Vancouver is deep into LTIR already with Micheal Ferland, Travis Hamonic, and Tyler Motte all sidelined. So are 16 other teams in the league, making every deal complicated from a financial standpoint as well as a performance one.
Even though it feels like nothing but doom for the Canucks right now, it’s important to remember that they do still have high-level pieces like Elias Pettersson, Nils Hoglander, and Quinn Hughes to build around. Sure, two of those players are set to become restricted free agents at the end of this season, but just because they’re going to get paid doesn’t mean they will disappear.
If Benning can land another player to develop and grow with them, filling the expectations that many had for Virtanen, it would go along way to helping the Canucks turn things around. If he can’t, well, they’re still ahead of Ottawa (for now).