Ignoring optics, Benning continues creating space to improve Canucks

VANCOUVER – After discarding goalie Braden Holtby in the morning, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning on Tuesday evening returned defenceman Nate Schmidt for a full refund.

Holtby and Schmidt were the team’s marquee acquisitions last October, the prime-time players who were supposed to soften the damage caused by the free-agent exodus of goalie Jacob Markstrom, winger Tyler Toffoli and defencemen Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher.

Benning’s decision to buy out Holtby and move Schmidt on to the Winnipeg Jets for a third-round draft pick next year, the same discounted price Benning paid to acquire the defenceman from the Vegas Golden Knights last October, were sound salary-cap decisions.

The two moves created $9.75 million of breathing room for the Canucks, who appeared only a week ago to be close to suffocating. But it was also an admission by Benning about the organization’s failure last season, when both Holtby and Schmidt struggled and the Canucks plummeted to a last-place finish in the North Division.

On a poorer team, Schmidt was unable to play in Vancouver as well as he had in Las Vegas, although Canucks coach Travis Green also gave him slightly less opportunity. Still, it looked like Vancouver might be stuck a while longer with Schmidt’s $5.95-million cap hit until the 30-year-old took Winnipeg off his no-trade list and agreed to go to the Jets, an indication of how eager the Minnesotan was for another new team.

The optics of…

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