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Benning Says Canucks Priorities Remain Future, Edler Expansion



VANCOUVER – Trade Toronto Maple Leafs for Jake Muzzin can set the market for defenders ahead of the National Hockey League’s deadline for trading, but that’s not going to change anything. Vancouver and Canucks threaten unlimited free agent Alex Edler.

Canucks CEO Jim Benning, in an interview with Sportsnet, confirmed that negotiation of contract renewal for Edler remains a priority and that there is sufficient confidence in the relationship between the team and the player that the deal should not be completed before the February 25 deadline for bidding.

Benning also said that he would not exchange any of the draft 2019 ahead of time, and that if the amazing Canakies remain in the Western Conference playoff race, then the current players must continue the fight.

Veteran winger Antoine Roussel said last week that he hoped that the Canucks would play well enough to be “buyers” on time, perhaps adding a depth defender or another striker who could score to support the team's playoff team.

“Antoine is an emotional player and a competitive guy,” said Benning on Wednesday. “He kind of like Alexander Burrows was for us. He is our emotional leader. He wants the team and our organization to be successful. Having said that, I will do a hockey deal. If there is a deal, the players are for the players, and we can improve the team, I will look at something like that.

“But we have a plan, and I'm not going to choose from this year’s project to make the team better. It will be about the guys in this room who get together and run well. And it will determine whether we are a playoff team or not. ”

Canucks have not been in the playoffs since 2015 and have not won the playoffs after losing the 2011 Stanley Cup final.

Benning said he would meet with Edler and agent Mark Stowe this week to begin a renewal discussion for a 32-year-old defender who spent his 13-year career in the NHL in Vancouver, and unequivocally expressed his desire to stay. The expiring six-year contract of the Swede, concluded for 30 million US dollars, contains a complete disclaimer prohibiting trade, therefore the Canucks will require Edler’s consent to exchange it.

Benning agreed that the acquisition of Maple Leaves from Kings of Los Angeles on Monday in exchange for a first round pre-selection and a couple of second-level prospects, one of which without a signature, creates a market for veteran defenders who can be traded 3 and a half weeks.

But he said that Muzzin, a 29-year-old who has a contractual year, the Stanley Cup ring, and he was good enough to join Canada’s national football team in 2016, could be at the top of the market. And even in this case, Benning noted, there are no guarantees that at the end of the first round the draft move will turn into an NHL player.

“The numbers speak for themselves if you look at the history of the project,” he said. “If you look at the top five players, they are more likely to become influential players over time. But if you look at the bottom five peaks in the first round, some of these guys don't even play.

“But I think that the teams, even the best teams that are trying to win the Stanley Cup, are now more reluctant to refuse their choices, perhaps than two years ago. But it is still early (by the deadline for trading this year), and perhaps I am mistaken. ”

Since Edler is not on the market, Vancouver quarterback Chris Tanev is still a year away from the potential unlimited free agency and upcoming UFA Anders Nilsson and Michael Del Zotto, who have already traded (to Ottawa and Anaheim) for late elections, 2019 may be a different deadline for trading Benning than the last couple of years .

GM has probably never been more popular on the West Coast than at the 2017 deadline, when it used aging Canadians Yannick Hansen (San Jose) and Burrows (to Ottawa) for prospects Nikolai Goldobin and Jonathan Dalen And he has never been more feigned than last year, when his inability to get a draft for striker Thomas Vanek outraged many fans and some in the media.

Winger Tyler Mott, someone from Chicago Blackhawk, where Benning stopped, was the fourth regular Canadian trainer for Travis Green all season.

"Our team is now healthy, and the break (schedule) has come for us at an opportune moment," said Benning. “Talking to some of our players, our group is tired. But now we had this break, and we have almost four weeks to the deadline, and we will see where we are. We will make decisions based on our long-term plan. ”

The Canaks are returning to training on Thursday afternoon, and Saturday in Denver will end with a nine-day layoff. Eight teams separated by six points fight for three places in the playoffs at the Western Conference: third place in the Central Division and two positions with wildcards.

The whole race is a little misleading, because the .500 hockey game takes you to the pit, but, of course, it does not get into the playoffs when the race for the Stanley Cup accelerates in the last two months of the regular season.

But at 23-22-6 and the worst of their schedule – and they hope that the injuries are – behind them, the Canucks are doing better this season than anyone expected, led by the attack of the remarkable recruit. Elias Pettersson.

This competitiveness and the culture that Green is trying to build around Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Bozer, and so Benning cannot afford to take his team back on time, exchanging pieces from his list for futures.

“That was our goal when we talked in the summer. … have a team that plays significant games in February, ”said Benning. “Thanks to the way Petey came here, the way he played inspired everyone with confidence and cheered up that we have, you know, a player who can play a decisive role for us along with Brock and Bo.” The main parts begin to fall into place. ”

What does it mean?

"I think this suggests that we are on the right track."


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