Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports
The fine has been levied as a result of comments Canucks general manager Jim Benning made this past Thursday in Buffalo, in which he expressed his interest – during an appearance with Matt Sekeres and Blake Price on TSN 1040 – in Tampa Bay Lightning centre Steven Stamkos, a pending unrestricted free agent, and Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.
The amount is double what then-Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson was fined for tampering back in 2009, when he made significantly more suggestive and pointed comments indicating that his club was interested in pursuing the Sedin twins. You’d think that perhaps the league just doubled the Wilson fine because Benning mentioned two players, but then, that doesn’t make sense, because Henrik and Daniel Sedin are two distinct individuals also, even if we often group them together for obvious reasons…
In a release, the NHL’s Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly explained the rationale behind the fine.
“Canucks General Manager Jim Benning violated the provisions of NHL By-Law 15 relating to inappropriate public comments by speaking generally to his Club’s potential interest in players under contract to other NHL Clubs,” Daly said.
“I spoke with Jim and accept his representation that he intended no harm with his comments and that he will handle similar questions from the media differently in the future.”
That the Canucks have been levied a fine isn’t a surprise at all, but the amount is to some extent. It’s certainly more substantial than I expected.
While everyone – from Trevor Linden to Marc Bergevin – indicated at the draft that, in their opinion, Benning’s comments crossed the line, I think it’s pretty clear that the actual substance of the comments was relatively neutral in comparison with what Wilson said a few years back. Daly’s acceptance that “Benning intended no harm,” would imply that the league agreed to some extent, though clearly the relative dollar figure attached to the fine indicates the opposite – and forcefully.
Obviously Subban wasn’t actually dealt at the draft and though the Canucks are expected to pursue Stamkos, it’s widely believed that a scoring winger like Milan Lucic is their top priority.
Benning has commented on the fine:
Canucks GM Jim Benning: “I was trying to be candid with our fans and media… but said too much about players on other teams.”
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) June 28, 2016
As someone who has dealt extensively with Benning, his candidness and accessibility are remarkable and to his credit. We’ll have to hope that going forward Benning continues to be at least nearly as forthcoming as he’s always been during his time as Canucks general manager, because I genuinely do believe that having a top executive who speaks his mind openly is a good thing for the team, the league and fans in general.
Even if that admirable impulse got Benning into some hot water in this instance.