“We’d like to add a proven scorer who brings some grit to take the pressure off Sven, so he can keep developing at his own pace,”said Benning to the Vancouver Sun. “He took a big step last year and wants to prove to people that he has more to give. But I don’t know where he’s going to end up (next season). At some point, that (second line) is where he’s going to be, but maybe he plays on the third line with the capability of playing on the power play and potentially scoring 15 to 20 goals for us.”
Daniel Sedin is inked in on the first line left wing, but after him, the left side is riddled with question marks. Newly signed Anton Rodin – the Swedish Hockey League’s MVP this past season – needs to play in the top nine to utilize his speed and scoring prowess. Maybe he slots in on the right wing on a dynamic, young third line, featuring Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi? This would be a dream scenario for Benning. But for this to happen, it likely requires the Canucks acquiring another scoring winger to man the left side.
Potential Trade Targets For The Vancouver Canucks
- Gustav Nyquist/Tomas Tatar
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has acknowledged the logjam at forward in Detroit. And while Holland would surely rather move younger, unproven wingers like Tomas Jurco or Teemu Pulkkinen, it’s not out of the question that he could part ways with either Nyquist or Tatar in a trade.
Nyquist, 26, is a dynamic, puck-dominant winger who has proven he can score goals. Coming off of a down season which saw him score just 17 goals, he’s almost a sure bet to surpass the 20-goal mark this season. Tatar, 25, similarly to Nyquist, is very much a pure goal scorer; he’s dead even with 74 goals and 74 assists in his young career. While neither bring the “grit” Benning is looking for, both wingers would excel in a second line role alongside Brandon Sutter and Jannik Hansen, both of whom are very defensively responsible.
Any deal would almost certainly have to include Alexander Edler, but could the Red Wings afford to bring in even more salary to an already expensive, yet suspect defensive corps? Is it even worth it for the Canucks to part ways with their most reliable defender, anyways? Probably not. Edler should be considered almost an untouchable for the Canucks, who could really use him to pass the time before Olli Juolevi is ready. This is a deal that probably doesn’t make too much sense for either side.
Proven scorer? Check. Grit? Check. Would the New York Rangers be willing to part ways with their ageing power forward? Check.
Nash checks all the boxes and would be an ideal fit for the Canucks – that is if he wasn’t 32-years old. Coming off of the worst season of his career, there is little doubt he still has a couple of good years left in him. Unfortunately for the Canucks, the end of his prime will likely coincide with the rise of their young team. Trading for Nash – which wouldn’t be cheap – is exactly the type of deal the Canucks must avoid. Now is not the time to mortgage the future.
Vancouver native Kane also checks all the boxes on the ice. He’s a gifted goal scorer that brings ideal power and aggression that Benning is looking for. However, Kane can’t seem to control that aggression off the ice; he’s had two serious legal issues in the past six months. No matter how tempting it might be for Benning to chase Kane, especially if the Buffalo Sabres are willing to sell low to rid themselves of Kane’s continuous off-ice troubles, the Canucks must steer clear; Kane is damaged goods. Two teams have tried to maximise his tantalising abilities, both to no avail. Bringing in a me-first headcase is the worst thing the Canucks could do on a team trying to develop their own young, impressionable players.
Hartnell, 34, is likely the most realistic trade target for the Canucks; Hartnell’s name has been thrown around in the rumour mill all off-season. The nine-time 20-goal scorer is one of the grittiest players in the league, and could definitely help the Canucks in the short-term. Obviously the age is a concern, as well as his $4.75 million cap hit.
With that being said, it seems as though the Columbus Blue Jackets are willing to retain a little bit of salary:
Blue Jackets have told teams they’re willing to retain salary in order to dump guys. Desperate to shed money. Hartnell, Tyutin, Boll etc.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) June 29, 2016
In that case, acquiring Hartnell might make a little bit of sense. He could play second line minutes this year, and his style of play would allow him to move into a bottom six role in the future, if any of their younger players like Baertschi step up.
If the price is simply a draft pick or a B-level prospect, it’s something the Canucks would be wise to consider.
Bonus: Brandon Pirri
Pirri, 25, is currently an unrestricted free agent, which is a little bit surprising given his goal scoring prowess. Throughout his career, Pirri has scored at a 24-goal per season rate. He also ranked in the top 20% in even strength goals per 60 minutes; he ranked 13th in the NHL in the 2014-15 season.
Make no mistake, Pirri is not a complete winger by any stretch; that same season he had just two assists. But Vancouver is desperate for scoring help after finishing second-to-last in goals per game (2.27), so maybe the Canucks take a flyer on him.
Personally, I wouldn’t bother; the Canucks already have young, shoot-first wingers in Emerson Etem and Baertschi.
Stay The Course
All in all, I think the Canucks would be wise to steer clear of adding a veteran; let the young guns get their ice time. And if they falter to start the season, then maybe entertain the idea of adding a guy like Hartnell. Until then, it’s best if Benning stays the course.
Main Photo: PHILADELPHIA, PA – JUNE 27: Jim Benning, General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks is seen prior to the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)