Are the Canucks Changing Their Trade Deadline Tune?

Updated: February 8, 2017 at 11:00 am by J.D. Burke

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Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel – USA TODAY Sports

This deadline was shaping up to be one of the least compelling in recent memory for the Vancouver Canucks. That was the original game plan, anyways. 

Going as far back as December, Canucks General Manager Jim Benning indicated to The Province’s Jason Botchford that he wanted the market aware he has no desire to ask players to waive their no-trade clauses to facilitate trades for the March 1st deadline. Taking Benning at his word (which we generally can), that indicated the Canucks would forego selling assets at this year’s deadline.

The Canucks also made public their desire to not part with picks at this year’s deadline, assuaging the concerns of a fan base biting their nails amidst the possibility of a mortgaged future for two home playoff games. If they’re not trading draft picks, they haven’t much else in their quiver to bring in secondary scoring for the home stretch.

So if they’re not parting with veterans to acquire picks and they’re not willing to trade picks to acquire veterans, that doesn’t leave much in the way of alternatives. The deadline isn’t exactly the time for hockey trades.

If the Canucks kept to this company line, I’d have encouraged everyone to go to work or school on deadline day. Nothing to see here, and so on.

We’re less than a month removed from the deadline though and the Canucks are already changing their tune. As the club moves further down the standings (they sit 27th in the league as I write this) the possibility of the Canucks selling becomes increasingly likely. It’s not idle speculation driving this, either.

Speaking with The Province’s Ben Kuzma, Benning opened the door for the possibility of moving veterans at the deadline. Here are the three paragraphs that most caught my eye when I in Kuzma’s piece.

Showing loyalty and not asking marketable veterans like Burrows and Jannik Hansen to waive their no-trade clauses is admirable, but it would be a strange strategy if the Canucks return from this trip eight to 10 points shy of the final wild-card spot with three or four teams to leapfrog.

“We’re going to see where we’re at,” said Canucks general manager Jim Benning, who’s on a European scouting trip. “I’ll have individual conversations with those players and their agents, but we’re hoping we can stay in the (playoff) fight. But it’s a tough trip.”

Burrows and Hansen would command serious trade-deadline attention from Stanley Cup contenders. Burrows has a flair for the dramatic with 19 career playoff goals in 70 games. Hansen can play a variety of roles and both wingers are well-schooled defensively, which is crucial for post-season effectiveness.

Alexandre Burrows, who’s in the final year of his contract with a cap charge of $4.5-million (though it only costs $2.5-million in actual cash), has a full no-trade clause in his contract. Jannik Hansen has one year remaining past this one at a cap hit of $2.5-million has a modified no-trade, wherein the team can ask him to submit a list of eight destinations the Canucks can trade him to. In Hansen’s case, the team has 45 days to complete a trade upon receiving his list.

Either player would be a welcomed addition for contending clubs down the stretch run and into the playoffs. Burrows’ low salary could make him an appealing add for internal budget teams, especially given there’s no commitment beyond this season. Hansen’s versatility and affordability beyond this season could draw interest from any team in the chase.

That’s not necessarily news, though. We knew that going into this season, and nothing’s changed since to make either player less of a commodity for this year’s deadline. The only question was whether the Canucks would bite the bullet and act as a rebuilding franchise this time around and part with these players for futures.

It sounds like that might be the case. I don’t take Benning’s conversation with Kuzma as proof positive of the club’s desire to sell. It’s a start, though. The possibility never even crossed many’s minds as recently as a week or two ago. Now, there’s hope.