Botchford: It’s time for the Canucks to spend some money

 

Ryan Miller is already in Vancouver and he’s expected to meet with the team Monday

 
 
 
 
The Canucks are looking to land a good goalie on the free agent market. Ryan Miller is already in Vancouver and he’s expected to meet with the team Monday.
 
 

The Canucks are looking to land a good goalie on the free agent market. Ryan Miller is already in Vancouver and he’s expected to meet with the team Monday.

Photograph by: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

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PHILADELPHIA — The Canucks always seem to find a way to make it about the goalie.

That’s expected to be the case yet again when the NHL’s marquee event in squandering millions begins Tuesday.

The Canucks roster is riddled with gaping holes, having traded three elite players, Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider and Ryan Kesler in one year for Bo Horvat, Shawn Matthias, Jacob Markstrom, Nick Bonino, Jared McCann, and Luca Sbisa.

Let that marinate for a while.

But the Canucks also gained cap space, and have $18 million to dole out as free agency begins. This, however, is only valuable if they spend it shrewdly.

After going supervillain on that once-preciouse core, tearing out a chunk of the Canucks roster with the Kesler and Jason Garrison deals, Trader Jim Benning proclaimed he has no intentions to be “careful” as he turns toward finding the tools the Canucks are going to need to actually score some goals next year.

As it stands now, they have only two locks as top-six forwards, Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

“Some of the things we’ve done (in Philadelphia) is supply depth to our organization. Now, we want to sign guys who can make an impact,” Benning said. “We’ve cleared out money and we can be active. That’s what we wanted — so that in free agency, if we see something we want to do, we can now do it.”

“We are going to go after pieces that we think can make the team better.

Could one of those pieces be a starting goalie, say Ryan Miller?

“It could be,” Benning said. “He could be the guy.

“We want to make the playoffs next year. Our goal is to make the playoffs every year and develop young players in a winning environment.

“That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Ryan Miller is already in Vancouver and he’s expected to meet with the team Monday.

One of Benning’s top priorities will be signing a goalie to play with Eddie Lack and he goes way back with Miller, whom the Sabres drafted 138th overall out of tier 2 hockey based on Benning’s scouting.

“He used to play too far out of the paint, but he was athletic and aggressive,” Benning said.

“He’s a hard-working guy who wants to win and those traits I like about him the most. In practice, he wants to save every puck.

“I remember Dominik Hasek, and he was the same. Didn’t want to let one puck get by him in practice.

“Goaltending is the most important position in an organization because those guys play 60 minutes. They have the most impact on your team. Everywhere I’ve worked, we’ve had good goalies.

“To be a top contending team in the league, you need top goaltending. You can never have enough.”

As for his forwards, Benning said he expects Bonino to be “a second-line centre for us.”

That will be quite a jump for Bonino who averaged only 11:40 in even-strength minutes last year for Anaheim. He did it in sheltered minutes, playing against third and fourth liners. That’s not going to the case in Vancouver, where, as it stands now, he will be asked to take down top-six forwards.

Yes, Bonino did put up 49 points, but 20 came on a power play with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

The issue for the Canucks is that Bonino is a left-handed shot, which either makes him unlikely to play with the Sedins or unlikely to have success with the Sedins on Vancouver’s first power-play unit.

With Benning at least pencilling in Bonino on his second line, the GM will be in the market for goal-scoring wingers.

Two possibilities are Matt Moulson and Mike Cammalleri. But both players are left-handed shots, which should explain the Canucks’ interest in exploring some righties, including Jarome Iginla.

The team has a traffic jam coming on the third line where Matthias, Jannik Hansen, Chris Higgins, Brad Richadson, Linden Vey, and Derek Dorsett will all be competing for playing time.

Benning said he doesn’t now have plans to trade any of them.

“We’ve been able to increase our internal competition,” Benning said. “We’ll go to camp and the guys that earn the spots will be on the team, and we’ll figure out what happens to the guys who don’t.

“I think it’s healthy.”

One thing Benning proved at the draft is he’s not afraid to make mistakes.

“I’m going to do what I think is right for the team and the organization,” Benning said.

jbotchford@theprovince.com

twitter.com/botchford

 
 
 
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The Canucks are looking to land a good goalie on the free agent market. Ryan Miller is already in Vancouver and he’s expected to meet with the team Monday.
 

The Canucks are looking to land a good goalie on the free agent market. Ryan Miller is already in Vancouver and he’s expected to meet with the team Monday.

Photograph by: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

 
The Canucks are looking to land a good goalie on the free agent market. Ryan Miller is already in Vancouver and he’s expected to meet with the team Monday.
Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning talks during NHL Draft in Philadelphia Friday. His next job is improving the team through free agency. ‘Goaltending is the most important position in an organization because those guys play 60 minutes,’ he said.  — Getty Images files
Calgary Flames forward Mike Cammalleri is a possible free-agent acquisition for Vancouver but he’s a left-handed shot and the Canucks are more interested in righties.  — Getty Images files
Jarome Iginla turns 37 on Tuesday but the forward who scored 30 goals and 61 points with the Boston Bruins last season will attract a lot of interest in the free-agent market. — Getty Images files
 
 
 
 
 
 
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