VANCOUVER — It is not "news" that Daniel and Henrik Sedin are inclined to play another season for the Vancouver Canucks considering how this one is going for the 37-year-olds. What has changed is the timing of their intent — or at least the request for it..
Until Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada that there’s a belief the Sedins want to return for their 18th seasons in the National Hockey League, the default position from both players and club was that they’d make a decision on next season after this one ends. And that may yet be the case.
But the Canucks approached the Sedins’ agent, J.P. Barry, last week and asked if the Swedish forwards might provide a hint at their intentions ahead of the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 26, so that GM Jim Benning’s management team would better know how to deal with the balls being juggled.
As Barry told Vancouver News 1130 radio sports reporter Rick Dhaliwal: "Initially we were going to talk at the end of the year, but I’m sure some discussions will take place before the trading deadline."
On Monday, Barry told Sportsnet he understands the Canucks need to know, but he hasn’t yet even discussed with the Sedins what they’d like to do next season.
"The twins have played really well the last couple of months," Barry said. "But we still need to meet, we still need to have a discussion. There hasn’t been any decision made about next season."
Barry confirmed he spoke with Benning last week and has no issue with the Canucks wanting to know before Feb. 26 if the Sedins are leaning one way or another about playing another year.
"We’re not going to hold them to anything now," Benning told Sportsnet. "But for planning purposes, what they might want to do could affect decisions we make at the deadline."
Benning declined to elaborate, but the ramifications of the Sedins returning or not are fairly obvious.
If Henrik and Daniel, tied for second and fourth in Canucks scoring with 32 and 30 points respectively, are leaning towards retirement, Benning should have more interest in re-signing 33-year-old winger Thomas Vanek instead of trading him.
And if the Canucks trade their most valuable expendable asset, defenceman Erik Gudbranson, who like Vanek and the Sedins is eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1, what they seek in return could be affected by having big holes at forward near the top of the roster.
One thing that isn’t happening at the deadline, regardless of what the Sedins plan to do, is a trade of the only two scorers in Canucks history to surpass 1,000 points.
The Sedins’ decision to return will be about their role, how coach Travis Green views them and the direction the team is going. Mostly, it will be about whether the Sedins still feel they can contribute and whether the Canucks, with a pile of talented offensive players in the pipeline, have nine forwards better than they are next October. The answers to these two questions: yes and no.
Their ice time drastically reduced by Green from last year when the season began, the Sedins struggled through October. The twins combined for just eight points in the Canucks’ first 13 games, culminating with a shockingly-low 8:52 of ice time for Henrik and 8:38 for Daniel in a Nov. 4 home win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and had just 15 points between them through 20 games.
But after injuries to top centres Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter contributed to the Sedins’ increase in ice time, Henrik had 25 points (all assists) and Daniel 23 points in their next 25 games.
The Canucks have operated this season in the belief that the Sedins will want to play another year if they are productive in this one. This is an impression created by the twins themselves.
In their first press conference last fall, before training camp began, Henrik responded to a question about a "farewell tour" this season: "We’re only 36. We’re not 42. This is not a farewell tour."
They’ve always indicated they’d like to keep playing if they can. But they so badly wanted their future not to become a distraction for the club and everyday fodder for the media that they penned a pre-season love letter to the Canucks and Vancouver in the Players’ Tribune, reiterating their intention to finish their careers with the organization that drafted them second- and third-overall in 1999.
That literary initiative extinguished any flickers about the Sedins playing elsewhere, but didn’t address the issue of when they’d stop playing for the Canucks.
"We had 50 points last year and I feel better this year than I did last year," Henrik Sedin told us in early November. "We both know that we can still play. We feel great on the ice. We’re going to have to sit down after the year and see what we want to do, but as long as you’re part of this… We have a great group of guys and it’s fun to come to the rink every day."
During a road trip later that month, Daniel said: "It’s going to be more about what they see (as our roles) and how our bodies feel and if we still feel like we can play. We could play another two years. (But) there are too many things to think about right now, so that’s why we’re going to go through this after the season."
The Sedins had hoped not to have to talk about it until then. But they’ll get plenty of questions Tuesday – only because Monday was a day off for the Canucks.
The Los Angeles Kings visit Rogers Arena Tuesday night.