VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks were left out in the cold at the NHL trade deadline.
General manager Jim Benning entered Monday hoping to unload his two most talented pending unrestricted free agents — defenceman Dan Hamhuis and forward Radim Vrbata — but instead came up empty as the 3 p.m. ET cutoff came and went without a deal for either player.
“It wasn’t from a lack of trying,” Benning told the media at Rogers Arena. “There weren’t a lot of buyers in the marketplace. The teams that were buying weren’t really paying a lot to get those players. We tried hard.
“At the end of the day teams went in a different direction.”
That’s unlikely to sit well with many fans of a club that’s destined to miss the playoffs and was looking to get some value for the veterans rather than lose them for nothing in the summer to free agency.
“We tried hard to give our players an opportunity to go to a winning team,” said Benning. “From an organizational standpoint it would have been nice to recover some picks for them.”
Hamhuis has a full no-trade clause, but said he was willing to join the Chicago Blackhawks or Dallas Stars if Benning could consummate a trade. He added he didn’t have any interest in going to a team in the Eastern Conference, mainly for family reasons.
“The no-movement clause was something we earned and paid for and negotiated into this deal,” said Hamhuis. “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.”
Asked if getting something for either Hamhuis or Vrbata was better than nothing, Benning said draft picks weren’t on the table.
“I value picks and that’s how we’re going to rebuild this thing,” he said. “If we could have recouped draft picks we would have done that.”
Benning said it was a “fair comment” that Dallas chose to trade for former Calgary defenceman Kris Russell instead of Hamhuis. The Flames got defenceman Jyrki Jokipakka, forward Brett Pollock and a conditional 2016 second-round draft pick that could become a first rounder for Russell.
“We were talking to (the Stars) about a similar-type deal, but at the end of the day they chose the Calgary player,” said Benning. “They circled back with us in the end, but it was a deal that really didn’t make sense.”
Hamhuis — who signed a six-year, US$27-million deal with the Canucks in 2010 — suffered a devastating injury in December after taking a slapshot to the mouth in a game. The 33-year-old had his jaw wired shut until early January after surgery to repair multiple fractures, but returned to action on Feb. 6.
The Smithers, B.C., native wants to get a new contract in Vancouver and hopes fans don’t blame him for how things played out in the lead up to the deadline.
“I’ve put my heart and soul into this organization and I want to continue to be able to that,” said Hamhuis who has six assists in 37 games this season. “It’s a team I love playing for and obviously really want to be a part of. I would hope that fans aren’t holding that against me.
“It’s not a case where I’m asking to be moved out of here, it’s the opposite.”
Vrbata, meanwhile, gave the Canucks a list of eight teams he would agree to be traded to, but Benning said there were no offers for the 34-year-old winger who has 12 goals and 12 assists in 57 games this season.
“He gave us a fair list,” said Benning. “If we could have done something, we would have done it.”
Notes: The Canucks lost forward Adam Cracknell, another pending unrestricted free agent, to the Edmonton Oilers on the waiver wire. … Defencemen Matt Bartkowski and Yannick Weber, as well as Brandon Prust, a forward currently playing in the AHL, are Vancouver’s other pending unrestricted free agents.