It appears there won’t be a scorched-earth style rebuild in Vancouver, at least not in the near future.
In a campaign which many thought would be a “blow it all up at the deadline” type season for the Canucks, the team appears ready to take the contrarian’s approach to building for the future.
The latest sign that the Canucks management team is trending towards a re-tool rather than a rebuild was a comment offered Tuesday by general manager Jim Benning:
GM Benning confirms he'll try to re-sign Erik Gudbranson rather than trade him.
“As long as a player can play in today’s game, you’re always going to need a defencemen who can play physical, especially in our division. There’s always going to be room for a guy like that.”
— Iain MacIntyre (@imacSportsnet) January 31, 2018
TSN’s Bob McKenzie confirmed during “Insider Trading” that the team’s “No. 1 priority” is to re-sign the pending unrestricted free agent to a multi-year extension rather than attempt to deal him as a rental at this year’s deadline. Benning made this proclamation despite receiving “lots of calls” on the 26-year-old. McKenzie did note that Gudbranson could be made available again if contract talks don’t progress with the two sides between now and the deadline, but it appears that Canucks will do their best to ensure the big blueliner sticks around in Vancouver.
Both Daniel and Henrik Sedin, pending UFAs, have no-trade clauses, and whether or not they will be sticking around with the franchise for the rest of their careers is still unknown. Darren Dreger touched on it in the same segment, saying the situation could easily bleed into the summer and that a “decision won’t be made anytime soon.”
Two of the team’s most moveable assets, defenceman Chris Tanev and aging (but still productive) forward Thomas Vanek, are reportedly not on the block anymore, either. Toronto had some interest in hometown boy Tanev, but the Canucks likely aren’t making him available, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.
Vanek, an impending UFA who’s had a decent campaign (at least offensively) with 14 goals and 35 assists this season, is not a sure bet to be dealt, either. Elliotte Friedman wrote in his 31 Thoughts earlier in the month that some teams around the league think Vancouver might actually keep the 34-year-old and try to re-sign him rather than get any kind of asset back in a rental-type move. Guess we’ll see.
If all, or some, of this holds true, it’s apparent the Canucks think the production they can get from players like Gudbranson, Vanek and Tanev trumps any return they may receive at the deadline this year. It’s clear a full-out rebuild isn’t on tap for Benning and the Canucks, but what’s unclear is whether or not that strategy will work out for a team with a few good building blocks, but a lot more question marks.