By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
PHILADELPHIA – The Canucks say they are happy picking sixth in the NHL draft as it stands now but that hasn’t stopped new GM Jim Benning from making calls.
“We think at six we’re going to get a real good player that we like, but up until (Friday) when the draft starts we’ll keep inquiring and seeing what it takes to move up and if we’ve got the assets to make it happen,” Benning said Thursday on the eve of the draft.
Benning has a major asset to dangle in the form of centre Ryan Kesler.
“We’re talking to teams, but at the end of the day we’re going to do what makes sense to us and to try to help Ryan out,” Benning said.
“If we don’t think we can get a fair deal for him, then we’re going to keep him and he’s a Vancouver Canuck. And we’re happy to have him back because he’s a great player.”
Kesler has reportedly given the Canucks a list of potential teams he would join, with some suggesting that list is growing shorter.
Benning says dealing with a smaller pool of potential trade partners is more difficult but “that is what it is.”
“We’re talking to the agent on a daily basis and we’re talking to teams and we’re hoping to figure something out that’s he’s happy with and we’re happy with.”
Kesler had 25 goals and 18 assists in 77 games last season.
“If we’re going to go down that path, we want to try to get NHL-calibre players back to help with that,” Benning said of losing Kesler’s offence.
Asked about looking for a veteran goalie, Benning said: “We’re going to look at all of our options on that.”
“We’ve said before we’re happy with the progress that Eddie (Lack) made last year. But as free agency comes up, we’re going to look at options and then if it makes sense for us, we’ll do that.”
The Canucks also have Jacob Markstrom in goal.
Benning said he is not hung up about trades within his own conference.
“I don’t think that has any bearing on what we’re trying to do in Vancouver,” he said. “We want to try to get some younger players here this next few years going forward. We have (forward) Bo Horvat who we drafted last year and we’re going to have the sixth pick this year. So we’re getting some building blocks.”
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