Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Recapping the Canucks' first day of 2015 free agency

I'm not going to lie, I wasn't planning on spending my Canada Day inside watching TSN's 47 different panels break down the Phil Kessel trade and pay lip service to everything else. Not only are we no longer with the Vancouver Sun, the Canucks weren't expected to be particularly active in free agency, preferring to look for bargains, which are generally found later in the summer.

But then my boys came down with a contagious virus, scuttling any plans to go out to Canada Day celebrations. So I was stuck inside for the day, flipped on TSN, signed in to Twitter, and got swept up in the wackiness of free agent frenzy.

Now, what was once a liveblog is now a recap. Follow along with me as I experience the ups and downs of Jim Benning's second go-around at free agency.

8:10 am - Amazingly, things have already happened. Instead of waiting hours for the first action of the day, but the Nashville Predators have already resigned Mike Ribeiro, the Flames' have re-signed Karri Ramo, Mike Giordano has signed an extension with the Flames, Kevin Bieksa (sob) has signed an extension with the Ducks, and the Stars have signed Patrick Eaves.

Stuff! Happening!

8:21 am - Most upsetting thing about Free Agent Frenzy so far? The Q-Ray commercials. Like, people know that's a scam, right? "Ionized" bracelets don't work.

All I'm hoping for from the Canucks today is that they re-sign Yannick Weber. Otherwise, not giving him a qualifying offer is going to look awfully silly.

8:30 am - Jason Botchford is TSN's man in Vancouver for Free Agent Frenzy and he went bold with a purplish-pink shirt and a bright purple, blue, and pink tie. It's a great look, but it clashes badly with the Canucks' green and blue behind him on the wall. You have to colour-coordinate with your surroundings, Botch. You don't have to match, you just have to go.

8:57 am - Nevermind, the most upsetting thing about Free Agent Frenzy is the Conservative attack ads on Justin Trudeau. Not for any political reason, really, but because they're just so bad. Trudeau wants to get rid of income splitting for families, a policy that only affects, like, the top 5% of income earners? He must want to get rid of pension splitting for seniors too!

That's just bad logic, not to mention flatly contradicting the facts. Man, I don't even like Trudeau, but these attack ads make me want to like him.

Anywho, enough politics; back to the FRENZY!!!

Okay, so nothing's happened since all the re-signings and extensions this morning.

9:03 am - Yesssssssss

9:06 am - Seriously, that's an amazing deal for Weber, who's likely to be a top-four defenceman for the Canucks next season and be a trigger-man on the point of the first-unit power play. $1.5 million for one year is cheap as anything.

Of course, it makes sense for Weber as well, as with Bieksa gone, he has a great chance to establish himself on Dan Hamhuis's right side at even-strength, rack up some points with the Sedins on the power play, and cash in as an unrestricted free agent next year.

9:11 am - Oh no...oh no...

TSN just reported that the Canucks signed Mike Weber to a one year, $1.5 million deal. That's...embarrassing. They look utterly confused. Ray Ferraro just had to scramble for something to say about Mike Weber and had nothing.

9:16 am - Five minutes later, they correct it to Yannick Weber and immediately Ray Ferraro has things to say. You could tell he was thrown for a loop when James Duthie said "Mike" Weber and he was much more in his element when it was corrected.

Mike Weber, meanwhile, is still under contract with the Buffalo Sabres.

9:28 am - TSN apparently doesn't have enough cameras or something, because they keep swooping in on the panels with a steadicam rig, giving TSN's coverage a bit of a P.T. Anderson feel.

9:45 am - There have been a bunch of signings, with some good defencemen taken off the market. Matt Hunwick to the Leafs, Andrej Sekera to the Oilers, and Francois Beauchemin to the Avalanche.

The Hunwick signing is a great one for the Leafs, I like the Sekera deal for the Oilers, and the Beauchemin signing makes sense for the Avalanche, even though it's probably a year too long. I'm confused, teams are making reasonable deals. Where's all the stupid money?

9:52 am - Looks like the Canucks are losing Brad Richardson. Hard to be too broken up about it with the Canucks wanting to make room for youth, but I liked Richardson. I always thought he was underrated offensively (and a little overrated defensively).

There's just no way the Canucks could afford to pay Richardson over $2 million for three years.

9:59 am - Hey, the Canucks did a thing! Another thing! They've done two things!

10:01 am - Completely overshadowing the Bartkowski signing, the Penguins have acquired Phil Kessel from the Leafs. There were rumblings of this during the draft, but I honestly didn't think it would happen.

There are going to be a lot more pieces to this trade, but Crosby just got himself a sniper. The Penguins should be an exciting team next year.
10:04 am - The Matt Bartkowski is an interesting one. He's 27 and has played just 131 NHL games. He doesn't have any offensive upside -- he has yet to score a regular season goal in his career, though he does have one in the playoffs -- but he's reasonably effective defensively.

Here's a visualization of his impact over the last three seasons. You can see that he's a borderline top-four defenceman and legitimately a very good bottom pairing defenceman.

Here's the thing: Bartkowski is a left-side defenceman. Does he slot in ahead of Luca Sbisa on the depth chart or will he be the seventh defenceman? With Corrado and Clendening both waiver eligible and Weber re-signed, will the Canucks carry 8 defencemen on the roster?

10:15 am - The Bartkowski signing is a pretty inexpensive, one-year deal. You can see now why Jim Benning didn't give Ryan Stanton a qualifying offer. With this in the works, they simply didn't need him anymore. It's too bad, really, because I don't think Stanton is really as bad as he performed last season.

10:20 am - The Leafs get Nick Spaling, Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, a 1st round pick, and another unknown pick for Phil Kessel and a couple minor league players. The Leafs are retaining $1.25 million of his contract as well.

Have to like that trade for the Penguins. The retained salary eases their cap somewhat and they desperately needed a goalscoring winger. They got an elite one.

The Leafs, though, get a nice prospect in Kapanen and a first round pick to get another. There's some potential for the future. They also lose Kessel, which was apparently important to them. Culture change, I guess.

Man, the Penguins are going to be fun to watch.

10:32 am - The Flames continue to build on their excellent draft weekend, signing Michael Frolik for $4.3 million for five years. Pretty nice signing to boost their top-six. Flames could be good next season, folks.

I don't think the Canucks are in as much trouble in the Pacific Division as others think, but they're still going to be a bubble team.

10:39 am - According to TSN, the Bartkowski deal is not a one-year, $1.75 million deal. It's actually a two-year, $1.2 million deal. But, according to the Canucks' press release, it is a one-year deal. Is it for $1.2 or $1.75 million? Who knows?

Frankly, after the Mike Weber blunder earlier today, I'm leaning towards TSN getting this one wrong. They're scrambling to get all the details on the Phil Kessel deal and likely don't have time to get the Bartkowski deal right. They're dropping the ball on their Canucks coverage today. Haven't even seen Jason Botchford since they introduced him and his pink shirt this morning.

10:51 am - More Canucks news, more or less.

Richard Bachman should head to Utica to split starts with Joe Cannata. With Joacim Ericsson heading to Europe, the Comets needed another goaltender and Bachman has been pretty good in the AHL, but not so good that Cannata won't get any playing time. He was lights out against the Comets in the playoffs, though, so that might have played a role.

Bachman also has a bit of NHL experience, with mixed results, but he could get some time with the Canucks next season if injuries strike. Willie Desjardins is somewhat familiar with Bachman from his time as the head coach of the Texas Stars, so might have put in a good word.

11:01 am - Joe Haggerty is reporting that Zack Kassian is getting traded to the Canadiens. I'm prepared to be very upset, but I'll wait until someone else reports it.

11:03 am - ARGH!!!!!!

11:06 am - I'm going to miss Zack Kassian a lot. He was a bit of unpredictable chaos on what was often a very predictable team last season. He's also still just 24. This could really look bad for the Canucks in a couple years. Heck, one year.

On the other hand, maybe Kassian never puts it all together. Maybe all the concerns about his character aren't overblown. Maybe the return from the Canadiens makes it all worth it?

But no matter what, the Canucks are going to be a more boring team next season without Kassian.

11:20 am - You have got to be effing kidding me.

11:25 am - There's no spinning this one. This is a terrible trade. Jim Benning traded Zack Kassian, who is a 24-year-old power forward brimming with potential, for Brandon Prust, a fourth-liner who is a pending UFA. To make it even worse, the Canucks threw in a fifth round pick.

Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh.

11:31 am - Seriously, I can't emphasize this enough: Prust is a pending UFA. The Canucks traded Kassian and a pick for a pending UFA.

*flips the pool*

11:34 am - Hey look, a distraction from my Kassian rage!

Taylor Fedun has been very good in the AHL after battling back from a badly broken leg in 2011. He has 11 NHL games under his belt and acquitted himself fairly well in them with 2 goals and 6 points. He's a good depth acquisition for the Canucks that will help the Comets a lot.

He's yet another right-handed defenceman in the system, which will make it tough for him to get a call up this season unless the Canucks face some serious injury troubles on the right side.

11:43 am - James Duthie just asked the reporter in Montreal, "What do you see as the reasoning behind Montreal's end of the move?"


Who knows why Montreal would be interested in acquiring a 24-year-old former first round pick with top-six upside who is an RFA at the end of his current, cheap deal? Why in the world would they want to acquire that player (and a pick) for a fourth-liner who fights and kills penalties and is a UFA at the end of his current, $2.5 million deal?


11:54 am - If you really want to trade Zack Kassian, fine. But if all you can get in a Kassian trade is Brandon Prust, it's simple: don't trade him during the off-season. Keep him, stick him with the Sedins, hope for the best, then trade him during the season.

I'm going to be upset about this for a while, in case you can't tell.

12:02 pm - How much money should be allocated to a team's fourth line? How much of a team's cap space can be spent on the fourth line before you hurt the rest of the team?

The Canucks will have Brandon Prust ($2.5 million) and Derek Dorsett ($2.65 million) on the fourth line next season. That's $5.15 million on the fourth line with just two players. That's already too much to spend on the fourth line and you still need to add a third player.

Fortunately, the Canucks have some cheap, young centres to potentially play between them: Linden Vey ($1 million), Brendan Gaunce ($863,333), Cole Cassels ($589,166), Alex Friesen ($575,000), or Joseph LaBate ($925,000). Lot of questions with any of those players -- Vey is sketchy on faceoffs and seems to be better on the wing and the others are all untested prospects -- but at least they'll have a cheap centre to balance out the expensive fourth line wingers.

12:11 pm - You know what makes me feel better? My three-year-old walking into the living room wearing a blanket as a cape and a pink toque on his head, excitedly shouting about how he "found a helmet."

You sure did, buddy. You sure did.

12:48 pm - I appear to still be upset:

1:10 pm - The quotes coming out of Jim Benning's press conference are just making me more upset and I've got two boys to get down for nap time. They tend to notice when I'm tense and absorb it, making it tough to get them to sleep.

*deep breaths*

1:19 pm - Jim Benning's press conference is now on TSN. It's just as frustrating hearing the quotes as reading them on Twitter.

1:25 pm - Jim Benning makes a baffling mix of great moves and mind-bendingly frustrating moves.

I love the Yannick Weber contract. It's a great "show-me" deal that gives him the opportunity to earn more money in the future, but keeps him cheap for one more season. I'm satisfied with the Matt Bartkowski signing, as he's a useful bottom pairing defenceman on a reasonable deal. Taylor Fedun and Richard Bachman are good AHL signings, providing some depth for the Canucks and support for the Comets.

Then there's the Zack Kassian trade.

The contract signings at the end of the season? Chris Tanev's extension was superb. Luca Sbisa's was horrendous.

Free agent signings last year? Radim Vrbata was a great signing. Ryan Miller was completely unnecessary and led directly to having to trade Eddie Lack at this year's draft.

It's so frustrating to see the same man make decisions that I love and fully support and decisions that I just outright hate.


  1. I hope the Canucks go after mid-level D man such as John Moore or Matt Irwin. Thanks for the blog today.

  2. Will you guys still be doing the every goal scored series again this year?

    1. I think so. Probably won't be until August, though. We'll see.

  3. While we wait:

    TSN panel is so much better than the SN panel, however, the TSN FA on-line tracker is stuck on yesterday whereas the SN tracker is up-to-the-minute.

  4. Isn't Beauchemin in his 80s at this point? I'm pretty sure he was playing hockey after he crossed in the May Flower, good for him for getting that term.

  5. I am on board with playing the kids next year. I don't know if Corrado and Clendening are full time, 82 game NHLers, but I'm ready to find out as both have shown enough to get a real crack at it. I could handle a depth chart of
    Traffic cone
    My grandmother
    2 by 4 with a scary face painted on it
    Luca Sbisa

    That wouldn't be an elite top 6, but the top pairing is solid, the second reasonably good and the third an opportunity for 2 motivated youngsters to step up.

    1. I would be pleased as punch if Corrado slotted in above Sbisa on the depth chart, but I just don't see it happening.

      That said, it was interesting to see him playing on the left side in Utica during the playoffs. It made him a little less effective, but he was able to handle it, so he might get a shot on the left side in case of injury.

  6. If nothing else, I'm impressed with how quickly Bartkowski updated his Twitter bio. And he can't be worse than Sbisa, right?

  7. Zack Kassian gone now too? Boo, boo! - short sighted trade. Just don't understand why Zack didn't get a fair chance in Vanc. Must be more to his time here than what the abused, paying schmuck fans know.

    1. OMG. Brandon Prust and a 5th round. Could that trade be any worse?! (Uh, "no" is the obvious response). Maybe - maybe - Benning knows how to draft. But he sure as hell doesn't know how to get value in trades. I'm glad I haven't night season tickets for next year. It's going to be horrible to watch.

  8. At this rate, I half expect the Sedins to somehow get dealt for a chair and a 6-pack of Coors...

    1. At this rate, I half WANT the Sedins to be traded... they deserve better than this.
      Plus, if they get traded I won't feel compelled to watch the Canucks again for a long time.

  9. Kassian's downsides sometimes made me a crazy person, but I have absolutely no idea what Benning is doing anymore -- unless this entire offseason has been about getting rid of Kassian at all costs?

    This has been a frustrating couple of weeks. Which seems like it might be a prelude to an entire season of frustration.

  10. A thunderstorm started outside my Starbucks as the Kassian trade was confirmed. That’s a good sign, right gang?


    *sobs openly*

  11. So which is worse - the Miller signing or the Zack trade? Both are terrible.!!! Is Benning familiar with something called a Salary cap - you don't pay 4th liners 2.5 M!!!!

  12. I just... I can't... ugh.

    I just can't understand how someone could possibly be this bad at a GM job.

    Gillis wasn't perfect, but you could at least understand how his mistakes were allowed to happen... sometimes his calculated risks didn't work out, other times he let things snowball out of control. You don't have to like that the mistakes happened, but at least you understand them.

    With Benning, I just don't get how someone gets this job and makes such gobsmackingly stupid moves!

  13. Shoot, I don't even like Kassian that much but that's an absolutely godawful, unfathomably stupid trade. Daniel, your toddler could do a better job of building this team.

  14. RE: 12:11pm...

    Benning walked into the board room excitedly shouting about how he "found a winger for the Sedins". You sure did, buddy. You sure did. (He might have been wearing a toque, too)

  15. Seems like Benning and Linden talked about character a lot when they were hired then went and traded any Canucks with likeable character for peanuts.

  16. Maybe just maybe, no body wanted Kassian. Bad back, bad attitude, bad physical conditioning and very little enthusiasm. I won't even get into his mental attributes. I'm glad they finally unloaded him really, we know what to expect from Prust for a year. One year contracts all day, not a bad day. Its Canada Day I'm optimistic.

  17. "He arrived to the rink every day with lumps the size of tennis-balls on his back," - Burrows on Kassian, does this make you guys any less angry about the trade?

    1. Looks like his back injury might've been more significant than we'd thought.

  18. We need to remember that this is not 2012. Zack is not a great prospect brimming with potential. He has proven to have bad habits on a variety of fronts. A professional sports team cannot afford to have players who lack consistency , effort and professionalism. Linden Benning are creating the Canuck " way" throughout the organization . They obviously know how to draft and now that top six prospect spot that Zack was occupying is now open for competition. The Canucks are a stronger organization and a better team today than they were before the draft. Prust will be a fan favorite for his year here and Zack and his still untapped potential is now the Hab's issue. Obviously the rest of the league also agreed that Kassian was not worth a first rounder or similar prospect as he was in 2012 . Zack was another example of Gillis holding on to players too long or who were trending down. Zack should have been traded at the 2013 summer draft when it was obvious that he had issues. As to Miller, who knows if they overpaid. If you were a good veteran goalie would you want to play in Vancouver? Having Miller at the top allowed both Lack and Markstrom to develop free of the pressure of roles they were clearly not ready for. You really wanted the Eddie Lack that finished the Torts era ? The assumption that the Lack we saw the last two months of the season would have been the Lack thrust into a number 1 spot at the outset is clearly unwarranted. The assumption that the confident Markstrom we now have as a backup and prospect to an experienced number 1 would have developed as Lacks backup is also clearly unwarranted. When Markstrom arrived from Florida he was a complete mess. Having Miller allowed both of these younger goalies to develop properly and we would not have made the playoffs without Miller. Willy D choked when he played Miller in the last game as clearly Eddie should have played. Regardless, the Miller signing was worth the money and made necessary by the Laforgorella hubrus of running Luongo out of town. It is always good to end a post with a sober look back at the Tort's "home alone 3 " train wreck and bless our lucky stars for the grownups now managing the Canucks.

  19. Even taking all of the above into account, I still don't like the Kassian trade. Benning clearly felt he had to trade him, which is fine and understandable. But he chose to trade him at the lowest point of his value.

    I would have been fine with a trade if the return had included some element of building for the future. Even if it was a lower-tier prospect or pick, they could have explained that was all they could get in return. Whatever else people think of Kassian, he's an NHL forward, capable of playing in the bottom six and occasional duty in the top six. There's no way, even with all his issues, that Benning couldn't get a pick or a prospect for him.


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