This is part two of the series on why Jim Benning is the worst NHL general manager. After going over the biggest moves of Benning’s first off season with the Canucks (which can be found here for those who haven’t yet read it) it’s time to go over some of his other major moves.
At some point Benning decided that Nick Bonino wasn’t good enough at centre (Phil Kessel would disagree) and decided to ship him out of Vancouver along with Adam Clendening and a 2nd round pick, for the statistically inferior Brandon Sutter and a 3rd round pick. To make matters worse Benning promptly went on to extend Sutter to a 5 year contract extension worth just shy of $22 million dollars, making him the highest paid forward in the NHL to have never exceeded 40 points. Benning frequently referred to Sutter as a “foundational piece” despite the fact that the miserable possession team that is the Canucks was only 0.84% better when he was on the ice, and Nick Bonino was controlling well over half of the shot attempts while he was playing. If the players were traded straight up for one another it would have been a bad trade, the pick that the Canucks threw in as well as the contract extension given out before Sutter played a single game as a Canucks makes this move: Grade F
Jacob Markstrom was coming off a tremendous year in the AHL and had earned a spot on an NHL lineup. Which meant either Eddie Lack (26) or Ryan Miller (35) needed to go. In an effort to try and get younger, Benning kept Ryan Miller. Wait, that can’t be right. In addition to keeping the much older and more expensive Ryan Miller, Benning received a very lack lustre return for Swedish net minder Eddie Lack, only taking back a 3rd and a 7th round pick for the goalie who was their de facto number 1 throughout half the year when Miller was hurt. Grade C
Benning, along with everyone else watching, quickly identified the Canucks weakness on the blue line. Benning’s big move to save the defence core was *drumroll* signing Matt Bartkowski to a one year deal worth $1.15 million. Sure, Bartkowski was a serviceable 3rd pairing defensemen, his addition was not enough to address a seriously lacking defence core. Grade C+
Among his other changes to the defence, Benning decided to move out aging and ineffective defensemen and longtime Canucks Kevin Bieksa to the Ducks for a 2nd round pick. This was a rare good move for Benning, simply to get Bieksa’s contract off the books. Grade B+
Troublemaker Zach Kassian was sent to the Canadiens for Brandon Prust. Prust started out well with the Canucks but was never the same after returning from an injury and finished the year in Utica. To be fair things didn’t exactly work out in Montreal and was eventually cleared waivers. Grade C+
Newsflash: Chris Higgins is not wanted in Vancouver. Did you know that? Of course you did. Benning went out and said it when he was trying to trade him. Good way to boost a players value and morale, right? Benning played tried to bluff with his hand showing, and it didn’t work. Higgins ended up clearing waivers and will surely be bought out this offseason: Grade F
At the trade deadline, Benning had two high profile pending free agents to peddle for some picks and prospects. Radim Vrbata was one, though his high cap hit and injury filled season scared off many teams, so keeping him was forgivable. What wasn’t forgivable however was keeping Dan Hamhuis. When Dallas was shopping for a defensemen it was reported that Dan Hamhuis was his first choice, and he even made Benning a firm offer, which he turned down in the hopes of haggling more out of noted trade master Jim Nill. Nill didn’t play dice, instead turning to Calgary and giving them a 2nd round pick, young defensemen Jyrki Jokipakka and prospect Brett Pollock for Kris Russell, a defensemen far inferior to Hamhuis. Even after this trade Nill reportedly went back to Benning in a last ditch effort to grab Hamhuis for a far lesser offer. Benning turned him down once again and now we get the watch Hamhuis walk away for nothing. Grade F
Benning’s most recent trade *may* just be his worst however. Jimmy traded 19 year old rookie Jared McCann AND a 2nd round pick AND a 4th round pick for Erik Gudbranson and a 5th round pick. For those of you unfamiliar with Gudbranson’s work, he is a 6’5″ defender who produces next to nothing offensively, and who’s team is better off when he is not on the ice, both in terms of shot generation and shot prevention. He is somehow expected to replace possession stalwart Hamhuis. Gudbranson is also on a one year deal after which he’ll become RFA, though I’m sure it won’t be long before Benning locks him up a-la Sutter. Grade F-
Darren Dreger also reported that Benning wasn’t done shopping, so we can expect more from every other general managers favourite person.