VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks won’t know until after this season whether the greatest scorers in franchise history will play again next year.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin met Wednesday with Canucks general manager Jim Benning but were unable to provide the NHL team any indication about what they’ll do when their contracts expire July 1.
Benning wants the productive 37-year-olds to return for their 18th season in Vancouver and had hoped the Sedins might know before the Feb. 26 trade deadline whether they intended to play next fall.
"But they’re still undecided about what the future holds for them," Benning told Sportsnet. "We’ve all agreed let’s just play out these final games and we’ll see where we’re at. At the end of the year, we’ll sit down again and see what they’re thinking. We’ll tell them what we’re thinking and we’ll figure it out from there."
But that means Benning and his staff will be operating semi-blind through the final third of this season, not knowing whether the Canucks will have huge holes to fill on the forward lines next season.
"I’m not disappointed," Benning said. "I just was trying to figure out where they’re at. They want to play out the rest of this year, see how they feel at the end of the year, see where the team’s at, and then we’ll make a decision. I’m fine with that.
"They’ve been used in a bit of a different role this year, but they’re OK with that. They’re excited about the direction of the team and young players and their development. They’re still important guys for us because they’re the fabric of what it means to be a Vancouver Canuck. They lead by example. When we’re transitioning to these younger players, it’s important to have that leadership around our young guys."
Not knowing the Sedins’ future is at least a little unsettling for the Canucks because it has long been believed that Daniel and Henrik would keep playing as long as they’re productive and the hockey team needs them, which it does.
"I think it’s a lot of little things," Henrik Sedin said late Thursday, after the Canucks beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2. "Family is No. 1. It’s how we feel when we step on the ice, if we feel we can help this team take the next step, a lot of little things.
"If we sit down after the season and we feel this team needs the young guys to take another step and that only happens when we step away, then that’s part of (the discussion) too. But I don’t think that’s the case."
By agreeing with management to decide on next season after this one, Sedin said the twins are merely doing what they said they would.
"This was our plan all along," he said. "There was no secret; we came out and said we were going to play this year and after that we’d make a decision."
The Sedins are far from the players they were when they were winning NHL scoring titles at the end of the last decade. But Henrik and Daniel are still third and fourth this season in Canucks scoring with 34 and 32 points, respectively.
They’re key to a Vancouver power play that has been outstanding the last 2 ½ months, climbing to sixth in the NHL, and the Canucks still outshoot the opposition most when the Sedins are on the ice. Daniel leads the team with a shots-for percentage of 53.64, and Henrik is second at 53.13.
And, clearly, they have not hindered the development of new first-liners Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser, dispelling the notion that the Sedins’ presence is somehow delaying the rebuild undertaken by Benning.
At some point, possibly in two years, the Canucks will have nine forwards better than the Sedins but the organization, despite an unprecedented pool of offensive prospects in its system, is not there yet.
"I understand the theory of that," Benning said of a Sedin succession, "but we don’t have enough other players who are ready to take their spots. They’re going to score 100 points between the two of them, and we want to be competitive when we transition these young players into our lineup. The (Sedins) help the team be competitive.
"We could have 10, 12, maybe 14 guys in Utica (in the American Hockey League) next year developing so that they can play in the NHL at some point. And maybe one or two of them step in right away like Brock did this year. Training camp will decide that. But we have to develop those players properly."
The Canucks have to wait for Elias Pettersson and Adam Gaudette, Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich, Jonathan Dahlen and others.
In the meantime, Benning has another trade deadline to navigate.
Not knowing what the Sedins will do complicates Canucks winger Thomas Vanek’s situation. Second on the team with 36 points in 51 games, Vanek, 34, becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and is the most rentable player Benning can leverage before Feb. 26 to acquire another prospect or draft pick. But if the Sedins weren’t returning, the Canucks would likely try to re-sign Vanek rather than trade him.
Benning will just have to do what he thinks is best – months before the Sedins do the same.