Aug 20: The team has officially announced the three-year contract extension through the 2022-23 season. Owner Francesco Aquilini released a short statement on his GM:
It’s great that Jim has agreed to continue his work as General Manager. His experience, relationships, and hockey knowledge are invaluable. We’re committed to building a winning team and getting back among the NHL elite for the long term. There are no shortcuts, but we’ve embarked on a path to get there, and I have confidence in Jim’s ability to see it through.
Aug 16: The Vancouver Canucks have signed GM Jim Benning to an extension according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. Benning has been in the position since 2014 and had just one season left on his current deal.
We examined the work that Benning has done to create his roster recently, diving into the Canucks’ salary cap situation and finding them pretty close to the ceiling with Brock Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin left to sign. The biggest cause of concern is Loui Eriksson who still carries three seasons left on his unfortunate free agent deal at a $6MM cap hit, but many have critiqued other recent signings like Tyler Myers and moves to acquire talent like J.T. Miller. While both are useful players, the Canucks don’t seem to be at a level to compete at this moment unless their young core takes a big step forward.
It’s that young core that is probably Benning’s biggest accomplishment. Though he inherited Bo Horvat, Benning has been able to add several other potential star players in the draft including Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson and Boeser. The drafts haven’t been all roses as 2016 fifth overall pick Olli Juolevi has still yet to make his NHL debut and 2014 sixth overall pick Jake Virtanen is still trying to put it all together, but there is at least some hope that the team will compete down the road. The question now is just when will that success happen?
After making the playoffs in his first year as GM, the Canucks have failed to qualify for the postseason tournament in each of the last four seasons and have compiled an overall 175-186-49 record under Benning. Travis Green is the second head coach hired and has shown some promise, but needs to get the team to that next level and really compete for a spot in the Pacific Division.
Much of that will rely on whether or not the team gets Boeser signed before the start of the season, though there doesn’t seem to be any animosity between the two sides. Just like with a dozen other front offices around the league, restricted free agent negotiations have crawled to a snail’s pace this summer. Now that Benning has a little job security under his belt, perhaps things will pick up.