The first building block in the Trevor Linden era has been placed, as the Vancouver Canucks will announce that Jim Benning has been named as the 11th general manager in franchise history. TSN reports it will happen Friday.
Benning spent the last eight years as the assistant general manager of the Boston Bruins, a position he earned after a 10-year stint with the Buffalo Sabres where he held roles as a scout and the director of amateur scouting. His career in hockey operations began shortly after the completion of a 10-year playing career, which began as the No. 6 overall selection in the 1981 NHL Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs and, coincidentally, concluded after a four season stint in Vancouver with the Canucks.
A rising star in the executive prospect pool, Benning has been mentioned as a top candidate for many of the managerial openings over the past few seasons. He will be replacing Mike Gillis, who spent six years at the helm of the Canucks, which included five consecutive division championships, two President's Trophies and a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2011. However, a dramatically convoluted situation began to bubble after the Canucks' Stanley Cup loss, one which centered around goaltender Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. The extent of the situation became so exasperated that in its aftermath, none of Gillis, Luongo or Schneider are employed in Vancouver.
Benning is adopting a team in transition, one which is lacking NHL-ready forward prospects and, notably, a head coach. The club has long-term investments in Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who begin twin four-year contracts next season that carry $7 million hits against the salary cap (both contracts contain full no-movement clauses, according to CapGeek). Alexandre Burrows has three-years remaining on a contract that carries a $4.5 million cap-hit, while Alexander Edler (five-years, $5 million), Dan Hamhuis (two-years, $4.5 million), Jason Garrison (four-years, $4.6 million) and Kevin Bieksa (two-years, $4.6 million) all account for a healthy chunk of cap space while claiming ownership to some type of no-trade provision in their contract.
Speculation has developed around whether Vancouver would seek to move any of these players and/or if any of these players would seek to be moved. One player that appears open to a change of scenery is forward Ryan Kesler, who reportedly requested a trade during the Olympics. While Kesler denied the reports, it's believed that Gillis was negotiating trade proposals up until the morning of the NHL's trade deadline. The Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins were keenly interested in Kesler's services and might be even more so after early exits in the postseason this spring.
Kesler would fetch Benning a collection of assets, which could go a long way in reviving the Canucks. The player has two-years remaining on a contract with a $5 million cap hit and a full no-trade clause.
With Benning now in place, the Canucks will look to fill their head coaching vacancy, which was left open after John Tortorella was fired after one season.