New GM making positive moves for the future
By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor
Jim Benning is off to about the best start one could hope for as the new GM of the Vancouver Canucks. He’s successfully navigated his first NHL Draft, dealt away two expensive pieces unnecessary for the rebuild, and even grabbed a physical addition via trade. He’s the anti-Gillis.
Ryan Kesler, one of the organization’s finest ever draft picks, is finally gone. The increasingly injured star was shipped to Anaheim on draft day along with Vancouver’s 2015 third-rounder in exchange for centre Nick Bonino, defenceman Luca Sbisa, and the 24th and 85th picks. For a player with a remarkably short list of teams he was willing to be traded to, Canucks fans have to be happy with the haul. In Bonino the Canucks get a 49-point player with the potential to fill that no.2 centre spot while also getting younger (Bonino’s 26 years to Kesler’s 30 in August). Meanwhile, Sbisa will push to be a top-four defenceman. Not bad. Gillis likely would have managed to keep Kesler and trade away Bo Horvat.
Continuing with the trades, Benning sent Jason Garrison packing to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a second-round pick in an obvious salary-dump move. The blue-liner didn’t have a Keith-Ballard-like season but didn’t exactly set the rink on fire either. Getting his $4.6 million off the books will be a huge relief to the club that could spend the money elsewhere.
Benning’s final trade saw the Canucks pick up grinder Derek Dorsett from the New York Rangers for the third-rounder he acquired earlier in the day from the Ducks.
As for the draft, the all-important first round yielded a pair of top prospects. At sixth overall, the Canucks snagged promising power forward Jake Virtanen and then took centre Jared McCannwhen he fell into their lap at 24th overall. With the addition of Virtanen and McCann, Vancouver is steadily developing a pool of talented prospects that has long been lacking in the organization. Neither is expected to be with the club next year, but don’t be surprised to see them starring down the road.
Finishing on a final note about Kesler, all the fans rambling on about his lack of commitment to the organization and desire to go somewhere where he can win a Cup need to tone it down. Kesler has earned the right to play for a winner. He’s well-aware that his body is breaking down and wants to have a legitimate shot while he still can. No one can knock his efforts over his 655 games with Vancouver; he’s blocked shots, played injured, and come up clutch when nobody else seemed capable of it. The 2003 first-rounder probably only has few years left in him and the Canucks are going nowhere fast. And even if he didn’t leave in the finest fashion, he’ll always be one of the best the city’s ever had.