VANCOUVER – The Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Jake Muzzin can set the market for the defenders before the National Hockey League commercial deadline, but that does not change anything for the Vancouver Canucks and impending unrestricted free agent Alex Edler.
Canucks general manager Jim Benning reiterated in an interview with Sportsnet that the priority remains to negotiate a contract extension for Edler and that there is sufficient confidence in the team-player relationship that a transaction does not have to be completed before the deadline February 25th.
Benning also said he would not negotiate any draft picks for 2019 before the deadline and that if the surprising Canucks continue in the Western Conference playoff race, it is up to current players to continue the fight.
Veteran wing Antoine Roussel said last week that he hoped Canucks would play well enough to be a "buyer" on time, perhaps adding a depth defender or another striker who could score to strengthen the team's lead.
"Antoine is an emotional and competitive player," Benning said on Wednesday. "He is like Alexandre Burrows was for us.He is our emotional leader.He wants the team and our organization to be successful.And having said that, I will do hockey business.If there is a trade to be made, players to players, and we can improve the team, we'll see something like that.
"But we have a plan in place and I'm not changing the draft picks this year to improve the team now. It'll be about the guys in that room getting together and having a good run.
The Canucks have not made the playoffs since 2015 and have not won a playoff round since defeat in the 2011 Stanley Cup final.
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Benning said he will meet this week with Edler and agent Mark Stowe to start discussions about an extension to the 32-year-old defender who spent his 13-year NHL career in Vancouver and unequivocally stated his desire to stay. Swede's $ 30 million contract, which won for six years, contains a complete non-trade clause, so the Canucks would need Edler's consent to trade it.
Benning agreed that Muzzin's acquisition of the Los Angeles Kings on Monday in exchange for a first-round pick and a pair of unsigned second-line prospects establishes a market for veterans that could be traded. in the next 3 ½ weeks.
But he said that Muzzin, a 29-year-old under contract, a Stanley Cup ring, and who was good enough to make the Canada Team World Cup roster in 2016, could be on "the top Marketplace". And even so, Benning noted, there is no guarantee that a draft near the end of the first round will become an NHL player.
"The numbers speak for themselves if you go over the history of the project," he said. "If you're looking at the top five choices, they're more likely than ever to become impact players over time, but if you look at the first five choices in the first round, some of those guys will not even play.
"But I think the teams, even the top teams trying to win the Stanley Cup, are more reluctant now to give up their choices than they were two years ago. But it's still early (for this year's trading deadline) and maybe I'm wrong. "
With Edler not on the market, the Vancouver defender Chris Tanev still a year away from the possible unrestricted free agency and UFAs Anders Nilsson and Michael Del Zotto already marketed (to Ottawa and Anaheim) for the final choices, 2019 could be a different commercial deadline for Benning than the last two years.
The GM has probably never been more popular on the West Coast than in the run up to 2017, when it harnessed the aging Canucks Jannik Hansen (San Jose) and Burrows (to Ottawa) to the prospects Nikolay Goldobin and Jonathan Dahlen. And he was never more defamed than last year, when his failure to purchase a proposed purchase for striker Thomas Vanek offended many fans and some in the media.
Winger Tyler Motte, the Chicago Blackhawk prospect in which Benning has established himself, has been Canuck's fourth-seeded coach Travis Green for the entire season.
"Our team is healthy now and the (schedule) break came in good time for us," Benning said. "Talking to some of our players, our group was tired. But now we've had that break and we have almost four weeks until the deadline and we'll see where we are. We will make decisions based on our long-term plan. "
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The Canucks return to training on Thursday afternoon and Saturday in Denver will end a nine-day stint. There are eight teams separated by six points fighting for a total of three playoff points in the Western Conference: the third place in the Central Division and two wildcard positions.
The whole race is a little misleading because .500 hockey takes you to the mosh pit, but it certainly will not get you into the playoffs as the race for the Stanley Cup tournament speeds up in the last two months of the regular season.
But with 23-22-6 and the worst of their schedule – and bruises, they hope – behind them, the Canucks are doing better this season than anyone expected, taken offensively by the remarkable rookie. Elias Pettersson.
This competitiveness and the culture that Green is trying to build around Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser, this is also why Benning can not afford to take his team back on time, swapping parts of his list for futures.
"This was our goal when we talked in the summer. … to have a team that is playing meaningful games in February, "Benning said." With the way Petey got in here, the way he played gave everyone the confidence and momentum we have, you know, a player who can be a difference maker for us along with Brock and Bo. The centerpieces are starting to fit in.
What does that mean?
"I think it says we're on the right track."