As predicted, theCanucks made major changes at the 2014 NHL Draft, including shipping starcenter Ryan Kesler to their Pacific Division rival, the Anaheim Ducks. CanucksGM Jim Benning wasn’t just done there, as he shipped local talent JasonGarrison to Tampa Bay and also acquired Derek Dorsett from the Rangers beforethe draft even started. Benning did his homework, coming home with one of thebest draft lists of the entire league.
It was a busy day for Canucks membersand fans alike, and a day that will shape the future of the organization.
Easily Benning’sbiggest move of the day was sending a bitter Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducksfor Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, along with the 24th and 85thoverall picks in the 2014 draft. Given the situation Benning had to deal with,he made the best move possible. Kesler tied Benning’s hands when he only gavethe Canucks GM a grand total of two teams to ship him to, and RK17 wasn’t tookind to the organization that drafted him and made him one of the best two-waycenters in hockey. The Canucks may have not gotten the best value for Kesler,but given the horrible situation that Kesler put the Canucks management in,it’s a great move for Vancouver. Benning made the best of a bad situation,nothing like having your first day on the job and getting a phone call fromarguably your best player telling he wants out immediately and only gives youtwo destinations to work with.
Benning didn’tstop there, as just hours later he traded White Rock product Jason Garrison tothe Tampa Bay Lightning along with rights to a minor leaguer and a 7thround pick for a 2nd round pick in the 2014 draft.Although this might not be the blockbustertrade of the day, this trade is extremely interesting in the fact that it feelslike it’s a piece to a bigger puzzle. Sure, the Canucks got next to nothing fora borderline Top-4/Top-6 defenceman, but this opens the flood gates forpossibilities come July 1st, both in roster space and cap space. TheCanucks now have the room and money to bring in a large asset to either their 2ndline, defence or goaltending depending on what management feels needsimprovement. This wasn’t Benning’s best move of the day, but it opens plenty ofdoors for the organization moving forward.
The Canucks’third trade of the day was probably the least important of the three, as theyacquired Derek Dorsett from Alain Vigneault’s New York Rangers for the thirdround pick that the Canucks got from the Kesler deal. In hindsight, this addssome more grit to the Canucks strong bottom six forward corps. Just thinking ofa fourth line that features Tom Sestito, Shawn Matthias and Derek Dorsett ispretty intimidating. The Canucks now have an abundance of bottom six forwardsthat they can either puzzle together or ship away a few assets to try and get atop-6 forward instead thanks to the Garrison deal just an hour or so before theDorsett deal. This wasn’t as significant as the previous trades, but it addssome depth and grit to the roster and will make an immediate impact on the teamfor next season.
The Canucksfourth and final trade of a hectic day was sending the 50th overallpick to the Los Angeles Kings for young center Linden Vey. Vey wasn’t going toget a shot at center on a team like the Kings with the talents of Kopitar,Richards and Carter as their top-three centermen, and Vey needed somewherewhere he could get a shot at an NHL spot. Vey has great vision and playmakingabilities along with great hockey IQ. Vey’s size could be an issue and he doesn’thave a great shot, but if he can play to his strengths, he could be a valuableasset to the team that doesn’t feature a whole lot of vision and hockey IQ pastthe first line.
After all thewheeling and dealing that Benning did before the draft was the headline of thedraft itself, and the Canucks nearly made a splash for the 1stoverall pick, but Panthers GM Dale Tallon felt he didn’t get enough value inreturn and the Cats went on to use the #1 pick to take Aaron Ekblad. TheCanucks drafted Abbotsford native Jake Virtanen with the sixth overall pick inthe draft, a power forward who has a tremendous scoring touch and isn’t afraidto bang bodies. Virtanen will free up space for his linemates, and will alsotake advantage of the defence if they don’t stay on him. Virtanen could improvehis vision and hockey IQ in the offseason while his shoulder recovers to becomea smarter player on the ice. The Canucks then took Jared McCann at #24, whodropped from his ranking of around #15. At first, it seemed McCann didn’treally want to be a Canuck. When a player says “it is what it is” right afterhe’s selected, it’ll ring some alarms. However, McCann would backtrack laterthat night and state that he misunderstood the question and that he’s happy tobe a Canuck. It’s a little ironic that the pick that the Canucks got in the Keslerdeal ended up being a player that looks up to Kesler as a role model.
The Canucks alsoscooped up the highest ranked goalie in the draft at #36, drafting ThatcherDemko early in the second round. Demko could be the steal of the draft, as hehas lots of potential and size and could be a future #1 goalie in the NHL. TheCanucks finished off the rest of the draft strong, picking up a toweringRussian defenceman and a couple big bodies up front and a small, skilleddefenceman in Gustav Forsling. All in all, the Canucks had a very successfulday at the draft table, arguably one of the best around the league.
What could’vebeen a disastrous day for the entire Canucks organization turned out to be aprosperous one. Although the Canucks were forced to deal one of their bestplayers, there was no point of keeping a player who wasn’t willing to put inthe effort and didn’t want to be in Vancouver. The Canucks freed up a lot ofcap space to work with and will make July 1st an interesting day forCanucks fans. The Garrison deal might not make a whole lot of sense at themoment, but if the Canucks can reel in a big name in free agency, the Garrisondeal will be a key contributor for the signing. When Jim Benning stepped intothe job, the organization was a mess, and he’s fixed many of the problems themanagement faced heading into the offseason. Jim Benning and Trevor Lindendeserve a round of applause for the amount of hard work they’ve done over thepast 72 hours, the Kesler ordeal and the draft could’ve been a complete mess,but Benning pulled the trigger right away (something we didn’t see from Gilliswhatsoever) and got the job done.Now wewait until July 1st, another extremely important date for theCanucks organization and fanbase alike.