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SportsBenning: Canucks looking for help on defence heading into draft, free agency

21:51  06 june  2019
21:51  06 june  2019 Source:   msn.com

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Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has a lot of balls in the air these days. There's the upcoming NHL draft — which his team just happens to be hosting — plenty of meetings, and preparations for the opening of free agency July 1. With young stars like Elias Pettersson and Brock

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning , right, and head coach Travis Green Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has a lot of balls in the air these days. Drafted seventh over all last June, Quinn Hughes impressed in a late-season audition, while Olli Juolevi – selected fifth in

Benning: Canucks looking for help on defence heading into draft, free agency© Provided by Canadian Press Enterprises Inc

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has a lot of balls in the air these days.

There's the upcoming NHL draft — which his team just happens to be hosting — plenty of meetings, and preparations for the opening of free agency July 1.

With young stars like Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, and presumed captain-in-waiting Bo Horvat up front, Benning feels pretty good about Vancouver's forward group.

That's why his focus heading into the big month ahead revolves around shoring up a defence with some nice pieces, and just as many question marks.

Christopher Tanev, Troy Stecher and Alex Biega are the only Canucks blue-liners with any NHL experience of substance under contract for next season. Contract talks continue with veteran Alexander Edler before he's scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency, but the clock is ticking.

Free agent focus: Vancouver Canucks

Free agent focus: Vancouver Canucks Free agency is now a little less than a month away from opening, and quite a few prominent players are set to hit the open market while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign. Vancouver has one of the better forwards in the RFA class and one of the better defenders among the unrestricted free agents. Here’s a closer look at the Canucks' free agent situation. Key Restricted Free Agents: F Brock Boeser – The 22-year-old had a nearly identical sophomore season compared to his rookie year.  While some stagnation can be cause for concern, that’s not the case with Boeser.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has a lot of balls in the air these days. There's the upcoming NHL draft — which his team just happens to be hosting — plenty of meetings, and preparations for the opening of free agency July 1

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The team has made it clear it would like Luke Schenn back, while Ben Hutton, who is set to become a restricted free agent, also needs a new deal.

Drafted seventh overall last June, Quinn Hughes impressed in a late-season audition, while Olli Juolevi — selected fifth in 2016 — continues to recover from knee surgery and has yet to play an NHL game.

Hughes should be with the Canucks next season, but it's hard to know how much Vancouver will be able to lean on a blue-liner that doesn't turn 20 until October.

It all adds up to some murky waters for Benning when it comes to his team's defence.

"We'd like to upgrade," he said at the recent NHL scouting combine in Buffalo, N.Y. "I'd like to continue to do that, whether it's through a trade or free agency.

Canucks will not move 10th pick of this year's draft

Canucks will not move 10th pick of this year's draft If Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning was looking for some final answers on his draft board at the NHL Scouting Combine, he found them. Benning tells The Province’s Ben Kuzma that he will stand pat with his first-round pick as the NHL Entry Draft approaches, neither trading the pick away nor moving up or down the draft order: Coming out of the combine, I felt even better and excited about the player we’re going to get at No. 10. The kids were excellent in the interviews because they can get into a room with adults and sell themselves on what they can do and what they can get better at. I’m super excited about the pick.

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But heading into his fifth talent lottery with the Canucks , and Benning ’s 26th as an NHL scout or manager, he has plenty of work still to do. “So we need help with skill and scoring up front, same as we do on defence . I think we just take the best player. And if it’s a defenceman, great.

"Those are the best avenues to improve our depth and our back end."

Free agency seems like the most likely option at this point, but the GM has a spotty record when it comes to his signings, with forwards Loui Eriksson, Sam Gagner, Jay Beagle and Tim Schaller just a few examples

This summer's UFA defence class looks set to include Erik Karlsson — head and shoulders above the rest of the field — followed by the likes of Jake Gardiner, Tyler Myers, Anton Stralman and others.

The Canucks need to work out what will no doubt be a lucrative contract extension with Boeser, a pending RFA, but should have plenty of salary cap space to make a move or two, if they so choose.

The question is, when does a GM know it's the right time?

"We'll look at each case on its own merit," Benning said. "If we feel like it's a fit with what we're trying to do then we'll try to figure it out and sign a player.

"I feel like we're on the right course."

Benning confirms Eriksson trade a possibility for Canucks

Benning confirms Eriksson trade a possibility for Canucks Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning might trade forward Loui Eriksson after the 33-year-old said he and Canucks coach Travis Green "don't really get on 100 percent." "I am going to talk to Loui this week and get his thoughts on everything and why he made the comment he did, but (a trade) could be something that's real," Benning said, according to Kevin Woodley of NHL.com. Eriksson, who has three years left on a six-year, $36-million contract, made the comments to Swedish website HockeySverige.se while playing for Sweden at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.

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Would Jim Benning trade a defenseman to get a goal-scorer? The Canucks ’ general manager certainly didn’t shoot it down when presented Both Hutton and Gudbranson are pending restricted free agents , and that could play into all this. If the Canucks can’t unload Sbisa, who’s signed through

But the fact remains the Canucks own the NHL's second-worst combined record over the last four seasons — just a point better than the Buffalo Sabres — and probably need more than a player or two in free agency to get over the hump and back into the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

"We took a step last year, and we're going to have more young players this year," Benning said. "We're rebuilding the team, but if we can sign some guys to help out with the process, we'll look to do that."

First up, however, is the draft, where the Canucks are slated to pick 10th.

Jack Hughes — Quinn's younger brother — and Kaapo Kakko are the consensus top-2 selections, followed by a second-tier group, but the first-round draft board could go in a number of directions after that.

"Those top few guys, we all know who they're going to be," Benning said. "Once you get to No. 6 or No. 7, whether it's teams picking the best player or for need, it can go in a bunch of different ways.

"I feel confident at No. 10 we're going to get a player we really like."

Benning said he isn't feeling any added pressure to make a splash in front of Canucks fans, but also isn't ruling anything out on June 21 at Rogers Arena.

"If there's some way to move up (in the draft), we're going to explore our options," he said. "It's usually really hard to move up. We know the first round well. There's going to be some players after we pick that we really like, so maybe we'll move down.

"We're going to see how it falls."

___

Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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