For the Love of God Benning, Sell!
The Canucks have been circling the drain this season, despite a very strong showing from rookie sensation Brock Boeser. Boeser has been the shining star in an otherwise black hole of a season which appears to be paving the way for the organization to again make all the wrong decisions at the trade deadline. And by wrong decisions I mean doing nothing when the right decision is to expose the majority of their roster to a yard sale. Let me tell you what I think they should do, from smack-in-the-face obvious to slightly less so.
Firstly, Erik Gudbranson has to go. His underlying numbers are so bad at this point that it's clear he's dragging everyone he plays with down. Everyone he's been paired with for a statistically significant amount of time this season is demonstrably better without him on the ice. Management needs to pull the trigger on this, and do it fast before the potential returns diminish beyond what is acceptable. Compounding this is the fact that he's in the final year of a show-me deal and will likely command a hefty pay raise during the off-season, likely to the tune of $4-5 million per. Don Cherry laughably suggested that the Leafs would consider parting with a Mitch Marner-level young star in order to get Gudbranson in return. While patently ludicrous on the surface, right shot D-men traditionally command decent returns, and I would take this trade in a heartbeat. Give me speed and skill over grit/toughness/character/whatever other BS label we're applying to these subjective intangible benefits that Gudbranson apparently brings to the table. All I see is a guy who is slow and positionally challenged, and consistently making his team-mates worse by his presence. The Canucks just flat-out need to make something happen here, with the Leafs being a prime trade target.
Next on the block is Thomas Vanek, much as it pains me to say it. I've actually quite enjoyed watching Vanek this season, he's got a great shot, good hockey sense and has seemed to gel with Boeser, despite not being his regular linemate when everyone is healthy (3B FTW there). He's scored some good goals and showed some grit in a boring game last night against the Jets. I like him as a player but he's the wrong side of 30 and probably due a raise from his $2 million per at the end of this season. Flip him at the deadline to a contender for picks. St Louis? Columbus?
Then there's the Sedins. I love them, they are great ambassadors for the sport. In an ideal world I'd want them to retire in Vancouver and have jerseys 22 and 33 raised to the rafters. Unfortunately this is the real world and things can't always work out like you'd hope. Henrik in particular has lost quite a few steps and I've seen him make some terrible defensive decisions this season, resulting in more than one close game lost. With their contracts expiring I think it's time Linden sat down with them and talked expectations. If management can sign them for a couple million each, for a couple more years, under the condition that they'd be playing a 3rd scoring line role moving forward, I'd absolutely be happy with that outcome. They're true professionals and I think they can have a huge influence on youngsters like Jake Virtanen who seems to have some issues in that department. If that isn't a possibility then for the good of the franchise, they may have to be shipped out (but let's be honest, this is never going to happen).
Next up - Loui Eriksson. I honestly liked this acquisition last year, as I think it had the potential for a good fit. The contract he was given was another matter entirely. The thought of $6 million and 5 years for a guy who's already 30+ should fill any sane GM with dread. Just a flat out bad deal. I thought Willie was deploying him terribly from day one, and that seems to have continued under Travis Green. Paying a 4th line winger first line money is a terrible investment which the team needs to get out from under somehow. Unfortunately he has a no trade clause, which means management will just have to suck it up on this one - at least, until 2021 (ugh!)
There's also an argument to be made for trading Tanev. Now Tanev isn't a superstar but he's the team's only bona fide top 2 defenseman. A stay-at-home guy who does a lot of the little things right he's the perfect future partner for some of the younger more offensive-minded players like Hutton or Pouliot. Personally I think he should be the anchor that the future of the Canucks defense is built around, with Edler looking increasingly slow, frail and overpaid. The return for Tanev would be very solid though. In fact, the ludicrous Marner for Gudbranson trade alluded to above might actually be feasible if the Canucks were giving up Tanev instead (though likely not in Don Cherry's eyes as he's not a good ol' Ontario boy). Something to think about, especially with Olli Juolevi poised to make the jump from Utica.
Anyways, that's just about it in terms of tradeable assets on this roster. There's Biega who's 29 but honestly not far enough above replacement-level to even bother with. There's Edler who is looking increasingly fragile, slow and overpaid, but he's got significant trade protection, as does Sutter. There's Del Zotto, but who cares. Everyone else is young and either a). underdeveloped, b). a cornerstone to build around or c). utter garbage.
At a minimum Benning needs to trade Gudbranson and Vanek and sort out the Sedin situation. If that's done and they can recoup a decent bunch of picks or prospects the rebuild can be accelerated significantly.