It might not be the news every Canucks fan wants to hear right now, but the team has signed GM Jim Benning to a multi-year contract extension.
He was heading into his final year under contract as the Vancouver General Manager, a year that has been labelled as a year to wait and see if this core can truly get this franchise back into the playoffs after four consecutive misses.
Having this upcoming season as one of the most high-pressure situations for a team — and especially its GM — the Canucks felt that they didn’t want a “lame duck” GM with just one year left on their deal.
With the off-season moves he made — trading prime future assets for J.T. Miller, signing Myers and Ferland — Benning clearly sees this as the time to improve and know what players will be in Vancouver when this team is back into the post-season. It’s been a while, but throughout the organization the sense is that they believe in this young core that they have.
In the immediate aftermath of his report that the #Canucks have given Jim Benning a multi-year contract extension, @FriedgeHNIC joined @ScottRintoul on #TheProgram to explain why the club extended their GM before the season. pic.twitter.com/QIfx3sn790
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) August 17, 2019
According to Eliotte Friedman from his appearance on Sportsnet 650 Friday afternoon, that sense directly led to his eventual extension. Benning has been here when this core was put together and ownership believes in his ability to continue adding players that will eventually reach a higher plane of success.
Throughout the entire franchise, there is a clear understanding that they trust what Benning has built and believe that the young players on the roster will be the core to bring them some more wins and potential future accolades.
There’s no reason not to be excited looking at the names of Pettersson, Boeser, Horvat, Hughes — as well as dreaming on high-ceiling prospects like Podkolzin and Hoglander. With all the recent losing this team has been doing, to come out with one of the better prospect pools in the league should be as close to an assumption as you can get.
With time still on their side and hope in the prospects picked in the later rounds, the way Benning has come out of the draft in recent years has been promising and the team recognizes that with this extension as well.
The simple message that has been drawn out from this contract, is simply the Canucks having trust in Benning beyond just this one season. Trust to keep growing and evolving into a team that wants to improve while this group of young players overflowing with potential are here and have time on their side.
Whether or not Benning is going to remain as GM for his entire extension is not necessarily the point. Right now, all there is to gather from this, is that they don’t want any added desperation coming from Benning and some basic insurance in case the Canucks do perform above expectations this coming season.
It’s been a common theme throughout NHL history, an executive that knows they are on the hot seat making moves that will impact the team long after they’ve departed. If Benning had a modicum of that feeling, then the Canucks made sure that he felt comfortable enough in his position to not go out and make any win-now moves that could backfire.
Elliotte Friedman: The Canucks didn’t want to go into the season with a lame duck GM, they didn’t want that to be story this coming season.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) August 16, 2019
Especially if the team felt that as a possibility heading into this season. If they didn’t want it to become a story, then with this extension they essentially muted any discussion about potential desperation or what the future holds for Benning.
This doesn’t change the fact that this upcoming season is a high-pressure situation. If they are again a team that loses more than they win, a change could still be made in the front office and the Canucks are no stranger to making those types of changes.
The team fired coach John Tortorella with years still left on his contract — at least they know when to make a change and won’t have a contract preventing any necessary move. So if things really go sour in the next several months, the team has shown that they can make that decision to move on.
No matter what, this extension should be seen as a simple safeguard against controversy in Vancouver. Just keeping with the status quo until the most obvious scenario where a management change is needed.
But they have demonstrated trust in Benning to stay with the organization where players he drafted are now the stars and future of this franchise.
Anything can still happen, but this extension essentially secures Benning in his own position and kicks the can down the road for when the team has to make a decision to keep this current management team in tact.
It’s a short-term decision, nothing else.