(photo: Vancouver Canucks)
It’s been a busy couple days for the Vancouver Canucks. Ahead of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the club set to work Friday trading two players who boasted former top spots on the roster despite a perceived under-performance in previous seasons. The moves mark the first major transactions under the club’s new management trio – President Trevor Linden, GM Jim Benning and newly-appointed Head Coach Willie Desjardins.
First, Ryan Kesler. Trade rumours started around trade deadline in March of this year and the question was not if but when. The club decided to make the trade happen, free up cap space and trade Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for the 24th and 85th picks in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft plus a third-round pick in 2015. The Canucks also acquired centre Nick Bonino and defenceman Luca Sbisa in the deal.
“This trade reinforces our goal to add youth, support our core players and develop draft picks who will contribute to the future success of our team,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning in a statement issued by the team following the transaction. “Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa are talented players who immediately bring youth and skill to our roster. An additional first and third round pick gives us the opportunity to add two strong players to our system.”
Next up was Jason Garrison, who the team traded to Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for 50th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the rights to Jeff Costello and the seventh round pick in 2015. The two moves positioned the team for success in the draft, providing the Canucks with a total of nine selections – the 6th, 24th, 36th, 50th, 66th, 85th, 126th, 156th and 186th picks.
Asked about the two major trades, Benning answered, “Well, you know, with Ryan, when I took the job, he came to me and asked to be moved. He’s been a great player for our organization for the last 10 years. I said that I’d try to honor his wishes. He gave me a couple teams that he would agree to be moved to, so I worked with those general managers and worked with Bob a lot the last couple weeks and was finally able to get the deal done this morning. The Sbisa deal and getting Bonino, I think getting Bonino was an important piece. Ryan scored 25 goals for us last year. Getting Bonino is good on the power play. He scored 22 goals last year. So being able to replace his goal production for our team next year, and he can play the power play and he’s a play making center iceman, I thought that was important.”
The much-anticipated 6th draft pick, the highest pick the Canucks have obtained in recent years, secured left wing Jake Virtanen of the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. Virtanen, 17, is a local guy hailing from Abbotsford, BC just outside of Vancouver. He spent three seasons with the Hitmen in neighbouring Alberta, racking up 71 points in the 2013-14 season and finishing fifth in the league for goals scored. He also won gold for Canada at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup and claimed bronze at the 2014 Under-18 World Championship in Finland, tying for the team lead with six points in seven games.
The moves represent an crucial milestone in the rebuild of the Canucks franchise. The team, amidst reported struggling season ticket sales for 2014-15, have donned the slogan ‘Change Is Coming,’ arguably a nod to fans’ frustration at the outcome of the team’s past three seasons. The slide started after the infamous Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011, where the team fell 4-0 to the Boston Bruins.
Change is coming. The fans sure hope so.