Benning signs three-year extension with Canucks
VANCOUER — Despite five seasons of mediocre on-ice results, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning believes his new contract shows that the team trusts his plan for the future.
The organization announced Tuesday that Benning has signed a three-year extension, keeping him with the Canucks through the 2022-23 season.
“The ownership, I think, is happy with the direction of the team,” the GM told reporters after the announcement. “We want to continue going in the right direction, taking that next step and being a competitive team.”
Benning, 56, has held the post since 2014 and was entering the final year of his deal. He was given a multi-year contract extension in February 2018 and months later, his portfolio grew to include hockey operations after the club split with team president Trevor Linden.
Vancouver has made the playoffs just once in his five seasons at the helm and the team has consistently lingered near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, finishing last season with a 35-36-11 record.
Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini said in a statement that Benning’s experience, relationships and hockey knowledge are “invaluable.”
“We’re committed to building a winning team and getting back among the NHL elite for the long term,” Aquilini said. “There are no shortcuts, but we’ve embarked on a path to get there, and I have confidence in Jim’s ability to see it through.”
The extension comes during a busy off season for Benning.
At the NHL draft in June, Vancouver acquired forward J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a future first-round pick. The following week, the Canucks added some big names in free agency, including defencemen Tyler Myers and Jordie Benn, and forward Micheal Ferland.
The contract extension was in the works long before those deals were sealed, Benning said.
“Those moves were made so our team can take the next step and be more competitive next year,” he said.
“I think last year, the first 60 games we were competitive and the last 20 games we kind of fell off. We didn’t have the depth and we got injuries and stuff and we ended up not making the playoffs. And I think we’ve addressed some of those needs by signing what we think are two top-six forwards to help out.”
Before joining the Canucks, Benning served as an assistant GM with the Boston Bruins for seven seasons, earning a Stanley Cup with the team in 2011.
The Edmonton native also spent 12 years with the Buffalo Sabres, working as their director of amateur scouting, and put in 12 seasons on the blue line for the Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Benning has been credited with drafting some of Vancouver’s up-and-coming stars, including centre Elias Pettersson, who was named the NHL’s rookie of the year last season.
“We’ve got some good players now who I think are going to be cornerstones, core players for our group for the next 10 years, whether it’s with Petey, with (Brock Boeser), with Quinn Hughes, with (Thatcher) Demko,” Benning said Tuesday.