On the last episode of The Jim Benning Five-Year Rewind, we took a good look at Benning’s first major move as GM of the Vancouver Canucks—trading Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks. In our final assessment, we found the deal to be not that bad with all things considered—but far from a home run.
This time around, we’re here to examine a trio of trades that Benning made in the 24 hours following the Kesler deal, just a little over five years ago. Each of these acquisitions involved picks being exchanged for players, and we’ll discuss them in chronological order—though it’s tough not to think of them as one big multi-team transaction.
On the same day that the paperwork was filed on the Kesler deal, the Canucks made the following move:
To Tampa Bay:
2015 7th Round Draft Pick (Jack Sadek, MIN)
2014 2nd Round Draft Pick (Roland McKeown, LAK)
First and foremost, we can remove Costello and the 7th round pick from any serious consideration. Costello was merely included in the deal as a contract slot, and he would go on to play just two games at the AHL level and 28 more at the ECHL level in 2014/15 before retiring. The 7th, meanwhile, was flipped to the Minnesota Wild—who used it on a player who just cracked the ECHL for two games last season.
The main pieces, then, are Garrison and the 2nd round pick—and that’s what we’ll be examining below.
Jason Garrison Since Leaving Vancouver
Though there was some chagrin at the time about how unceremoniously Garrison was dumped by his hometown team, in hindsight it appears to have been a timely decision. With Garrison entering the third year of a seven-year contract that paid him an average of $4.6 million—and coming off a season in which he tied his career high with 33 points—he may have seemed like a player the Canucks were committed to long term, but new GM Jim Benning obviously felt differently.
He was probably right to do so.
Garrison had a good 2014/15 season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but his play fell off a cliff thereafter. In his two seasons with the Canucks, Garrison put up a total of 49 points in 128 games—whereas he’s put up just 52 in his 237 games after.
Tampa Bay chose to expose Garrison to the Expansion Draft in 2017, and the Vegas Golden Knights ended up selecting him—but they plunked him into the AHL for much of the 2017/18 season. He managed to make it back for 17 games with the Edmonton Oilers in 2018/19, but has since decided to continue his career in Europe.
On the whole, it looks like trading Garrison was a case of addition by subtraction—within a season of leaving Vancouver, his contract had become an anchor.
If Jim Benning was prescient enough to see Garrison as a defenseman leaving his prime and about to deteriorate, he deserves credit for wisely moving on. If he was just looking to cut cap by dealing Garrison, it can still be considered at the very least a case of good timing.
Of course, the Canucks didn’t walk away from the transaction empty-handed, either.
Roland McKeown As A Prospect
The 2nd round pick acquired from Tampa Bay in exchange for Jason Garrison didn’t stay with the Canucks long—more on that in a moment—and it was eventually used by the Los Angeles Kings to draft Roland McKeown, who now plies his trade for the Carolina Hurricanes organization.
As a 2nd rounder, McKeown may seem like a bit of a disappointment—especially considering that Brandon Montour went just a few spots later. However, in taking a look at the 2014 2nd round in its entirety, the fact that McKeown remains a legitimate prospect at age 23 actually qualifies him as an above-average selection.
It remains to be seen whether or not McKeown will ever crack the NHL full-time—but for the time being, he remains an asset with value.
Getting rid of a contract that was about to become onerous is a win all on its own, and the fact that Benning was able to recoup a valuable asset from the deal qualifies this trade as an outright victory.
What Benning did with that asset, however, is another story—one that we’ll get to in a few paragraphs.
Later that same day, the Canucks completed another deal:
To New York Rangers:
2014 3rd Round Draft Pick (Keegan Iverson, NYR)
Derek Dorsett As A Canuck
Coming off perhaps the worst season of his NHL career in 2013/14, the Dorsett acquisition was met with some skepticism among the Canucks’ faithful. However, he began to win fans over almost immediately.
In 2014/15, Dorsett put up career numbers with 25 points—and he injected a level of tenacity and pugnaciousness into the Vancouver lineup that was sorely lacking. He wasn’t quite as productive the following season, which made his brand new contract all the more controversial, but he was just as pugilistic; unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse after that.
A severe neck injury ended Dorsett’s 2016/17 season just 14 games in—and although he would return for 20 more games in 2018/19, the injury would ultimately result in the end of his career. That Dorsett’s presence in the lineup was so missed during his lengthy absences is a testament to his impact on the roster across parts of four seasons with the Canucks—as is the fact that the Canucks didn’t replace that presence until signing Antoine Roussel in 2018.
In the end, Dorsett’s career was over before it could be determined whether he would return fair value for all four years of his $10.6 million deal. It’s safe to say, however, that he produced at a reasonable rate given his salary for the portions of his contract he was healthy for, and his presence on LTIR certainly didn’t hurt the team thereafter.
Keegan Iverson As A Prospect
Even for a 3rd round pick, Iverson is looking like a bust. At the age of 23, he appears to be done with professional hockey—last lacing them up for the Manchester Monarchs of the ECHL in 2017/18.
That being said, the rest of the 2014 3rd round draft class is far from impressive—and so its unlikely that the Canucks would have ended up with a much better prospect even if they kept the pick and made the selection themselves.
Aside from Brayden Point, who went six spots ahead of Iverson, the bottom-half of the 2014 3rd round is filled with no-names—and that’s a pretty clear indication of how much value the asset held when it was flipped for Dorsett. At best the Canucks might have ended up with a Nathan Walker or a Ville Husso—but the odds weren’t in favour of this particular pick yielding a useful asset.
On the surface, a Dorsett-for-Iverson swap is an absolute win for Jim Benning and the Canucks. Even taking into consideration the pure value of the 3rd round pick—and ignoring how poorly this particular selection turned out—it’s hard not to like the trade.
Dorsett added a lot to the Canucks lineup over four seasons, and he was still playing an important role when his career reached its sudden conclusion. Again, the benefit of five years of hindsight qualifies this acquisition as another victory.
The following day, however, Benning finished off his trio of trades with easily the worst transaction of the set:
To Los Angeles:
2014 2nd Round Draft Pick (Roland McKeown, LAK)
Linden Vey As A Canuck
We’ve included Vey’s entire NHL statline above, for illustrative purposes. Namely, the numbers indicate that Vey only really received a big league opportunity during his two seasons with the Canucks—and that probably indicates that he was never really all that deserving of an NHL roster spot.
Everyone who watched the Canucks from 2014 to 2016 knows that coach Willie Desjardins had his favourites, and that Vey was undoubtedly his most favourite. Vey’s stats don’t look all that awful with the Canucks, but that’s almost certainly a result of the inordinate offensive opportunities he received from his coach—opportunities that really should have gone to some more talented and defensively-responsible teammates.
Vey proved to be a frustrating player for the fanbase, and his presence on the team was ultimately more of a negative than a positive.
More On Roland McKeown
Since we’ve already taken a look at McKeown as a prospect, we’ll briefly touch on his future as an NHL player.
As it stands, McKeown is stuck behind an extremely stacked Carolina defense corps—particularly on the right side, where McKeown plays best. Unless trades are made, he currently needs to beat Brett Pesce, Dougie Hamilton, Justin Faulk, and Trevor van Riemsdyk out for a spot.
In other words, it’s entirely like that McKeown never holds down a full-time NHL job—and if he does, it will probably be with a different organization.
It’s tempting to call this trade a wash since McKeown remains a questionable prospect, but that’s not accurate. Vey proved to be a negative asset, and McKeown retains leaguewide value to this day—and so this trade is an unmitigated loss.
In essence, the Linden Vey trade wipes out any positives that came from cutting Jason Garrison loose at the right time by trading the very draft pick he returned for a negative asset. The positive benefits that Derek Dorsett delivered—particularly when it came to team culture—are the only things preventing this trio of trades from being an outright wash.
On the whole, we’ll have to call this an unsteady—but not disastrous—start to Jim Benning’s tenure with the team.