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Trade Coverage

Canucks don't trade Hamhuis, Vrbata

GM Benning: 'It wasn't from a lack of trying'

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks made news by not making any trades Monday.

Poised to sell at the NHL Trade Deadline for the first time in more than a decade, the Canucks were unable to get anything they liked in return for defenseman Dan Hamhuis or right wing Radim Vrbata, who each can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Fourth-line center Adam Cracknell, who the Edmonton Oilers claimed off waivers, was the only of Vancouver's six pending free agents to move.

"It wasn't from a lack of trying," general manager Jim Benning said. "We really didn't get a lot of offers. If we got a concrete offer where we could recoup assets and draft picks, or young players, we would have done it."

Hamhuis was the Canucks' most valuable trade asset, a top-four defenseman playing more than 20 minutes per game and two years removed from winning a gold medal with Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Hamhuis expected to be traded, despite insisting all along his first choice was to stay and even after using the no-trade clause in his contract to narrow the list of potential partners to the Dallas Stars or Chicago Blackhawks.

"I kind of expected something might happen with those teams because they reached out and it wasn't that I suggested them," Hamhuis said. "Since those two days, we've felt like we were just kind of waiting and seeing if something would happen and it came right into this morning and ended at noon."

Instead, the Stars acquired defenseman Kris Russell from the Calgary Flames on Monday for defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka, forward prospect Brett Pollock, and a conditional second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

"We were talking to them about a similar type deal," Benning said, "But at the end of the day, they chose the Calgary player over our player. That's the deal they chose."

Benning said the Stars "circled back" on Hamhuis again after they acquired Russell.

"But it was a deal that really didn't make sense to us," he said.

Hamhuis, 33, who is in the final season of a six-year, $27 million contract, has six assists in 37 games this season, is averaging 20:14 of ice time, and is a top penalty-killer, trailing only defenseman Christopher Tanev in shorthanded playing time on Vancouver.

Hamhuis said he was willing to consider other teams in the Western Conference besides the Blackhawks and Stars, but the Canucks didn't ask him about any. Benning said there was interest from a couple Eastern Conference teams, but Hamhuis wasn't willing to go there.

"That was something we had talked about and it was going to be difficult to do geographically and for family reasons," said Hamhuis, who grew up a Canucks fan in Smithers, British Columbia.

When Hamhuis signed with Vancouver as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2010, the $4.5 million salary-cap charge was considered a hometown discount. Getting a no-trade clause in return was part of that agreement.

"The no-movement clause is something we earned and paid for and negotiated," said Hamhuis, who has 52 goals and 244 assists in 851 NHL games with the Canucks and Nashville Predators. "I didn't want to completely handcuff the Canucks and I was able to be open to a couple teams. Whether you consider it fortunate or unfortunate, a deal wasn't done and this is where we are. My hope going forward is that I can be of value to this team."

That could still include re-signing before he becomes a free agent on July 1.

"If it went one way, I'd have a contract extension at this point, but it's certainly not off the table from the conversations we've had," Hamhuis said. "They haven't said, 'No, you are not part of the future going forward.' Everyone knows that I would like to be back, but if it's not in their plans and doesn't work out, then I suppose I'll be moving on July 1."

The Canucks have no plans to bring back Vrbata, but Benning said he was unable to work out a trade for the veteran forward.

Vrbata, who has 258 goals and 293 assists in 928 NHL games, has a limited no-trade clause that required him to identify eight teams to which he would accept a trade.

"He could have given us teams we had no chance to trade him to, but he gave us a fair list," Benning said. "We talked to all the teams on the list. For whatever reason, a couple of teams went in a different direction; the other teams weren't buying at the deadline."

Vrbata, 34, signed a two-year, $10 million free agent contract with the Canucks on July 2, 2014, citing a desire to play with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin. His 31 goals led the Canucks last season, when he primarily played with the Sedins, but he has 12 goals, 12 assists and a minus-32 rating in 57 games this season after being moved off the top line.

Although Hamhuis and Vrbata will remain with Vancouver for the rest of the season, Benning said the Canucks, who are eight points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, will continue their season-long effort to get younger and faster by giving more ice time to prospects and young players, including more call-ups from the American Hockey League.

"That's the only way we're going to get better here: Draft well, develop our young players, and give them an opportunity to be successful," Benning said.

Most expected the Canucks to have more draft picks and young players to work with after the trade deadline Monday. That included Benning.

"Maybe frustration," he said when asked to summarize an uneventful day. "From an organizational standpoint, it would have been nice to recover some picks."

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