Canucks can't afford to lose Hamhuis and Vrbata for nothing

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Canucks GM Jim Benning will not attempt to re-sign Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata this summer, according to a report from Jim Jamieson of the Province.

Few players are as important to the on-ice success of the Canucks as Dan Hamhuis. He has been the team’s best defencemen for most of his five seasons in Vancouver. Hamhuis had an off-year last season, but was still very dependable defensively, and could bounce-back. The 33-year-old blueliner is entering the final year of a contract that carries a reasonable $4.5 million cap hit.

Vrbata, 34, is also entering the final year of his contract, which carries a $5 million cap hit. He was named the team’s MVP last season after scoring a team-high 31 goals. He is also the only pure goal scorer the Canucks have.

Instead of trying to sign these two important players to new contracts, Benning is going to employ the wait-and-see approach. And that’s a risky proposition.

If not re-signing either player is in the cards, they should do it this summer because so much can go wrong.

If things go poorly next season and the Canucks are out of a playoff spot, they could attempt to trade Hamhuis and/or Vrbata to a contender at the trade deadline. If they’re playing well, they could get a nice return. Of course if they’re not having particularly good seasons, or are injured, their stock could plummet.

The worst-case scenario would be if the Canucks are a middling team next year, capable of squeaking into the playoffs, but not interested in re-signing Hamhuis/Vrbata. The pair could be more likely to block a deal at that point, given their no-trade and modified no-trade clauses. But even if both players welcome a trade, would Jim Benning be willing to pull the trigger? The team wasn’t willing to part with Shawn Matthias at this year’s trade deadline, a player they had no interest in re-signing, and I don’t expect that philosophy to change.

But unlikely Matthias, the Canucks simply can’t afford to lose Hamhuis or Vrbata for nothing.

Whether the Canucks want to admit it or not, they are in a rebuild situation. They’re not willing to blow it up, at least not yet, but the focus for the organization has to be two years down the road.

In two years, Ryan Miller’s contract will be off the books and the team’s best prospects will be 21 to 23 years old, and hopefully capable of making an impact. The Sedins will be 37 in two years and in the last year of their contracts, but could be still capable of performing at a high level if their bodies hold up.

Nobody knows how Hamhuis and Vrbata will age, and the decision on their future will be somewhat of a gamble for Benning. If they age gracefully, they could be of value when the team is ready to contend again. But if they don’t, he may regret not trading them in for future assets this summer.

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Rob Williams Sports Editor at Vancity Buzz covering all sports in Vancouver.
@robthehockeyguy

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