The Vancouver Canucks trade deadline isn’t what’s written on the calendar. April 12th is the official deadline, of course. But for teams in the Scotia North Division, quarantine pushes that date forward considerably. Assuming, that is, that the Canadian teams want to use whoever is returned to them for as much of the stretch run as possible. On a positive note, though, it means an injured player can use that time to heal up. Out two weeks? Happy coincidence!
Let’s take a look at who Vancouver might move.
Canucks Trades Possibilities
Instead of just going through the usual set of names – you know which ones – we’re going to mix it up. What deals would make a minor, medium, or major impact on the team? We’re not going to bother moving out draft picks as those aren’t what they should be selling. These potential moves are ones that will change the makeup of the team. Using draft picks as a return, however, is a convenient way to gauge value. It could be a player/prospect going back.
Loui Eriksson and Tanner Pearson are honourable mentions. Eriksson’s contract is still likely bad enough to require a sweetener, and Pearson’s injury is keeping him out for a month. The odds of anyone picking him up at the Canucks trade deadline for him to miss 20 games is unlikely. A drag for the Canucks, as he was one of their better trade chips this year. Still, there are options:
The Little Deals
The return isn’t going to be much – a mid-range draft pick, maybe a ‘B’ prospect. These are all NHL players, so there is some value there, but their value is going to be determined by the team that wants them. Anyone here could be moved at the Canucks trade deadline or later – no one’s going to be relying on these players to come in immediately.
The player you talk about when you want to surprise the person you’re talking to. Yes, Sven Baertschi is still in North America, playing with the Utica Comets. Repeated injuries, including concussions, limited his ice time in the NHL. Later, cheaper players have kept him out of Vancouver despite his scoring touch. His 58 goals and 110 points in 225 Canucks games are hardly dragging him down, but his inability to stay in the lineup is. The $3.367 million cap hit isn’t helping there, but in real money, he’s only owed $2.4 million. A team looking for a little extra scoring punch could do worse. The Canucks have repeatedly shopped him, so the value is obviously low.
Jordie Benn had a rocky start in Vancouver, losing his third-pair role to Oscar Fantenberg. This season, however, he’s played a more reliable game, especially beside Quinn Hughes. He’s been bumped down the lineup with the return of Travis Hamonic, but still done well there. He plays on either side of the ice, probably better on the right side despite being left-handed. A good physical presence, he has some offence, too, but that’s more a bonus than why you trade for him.
A team bringing in Antoine Roussel is going to have to trust he’ll be back on his game. When he’s on, Roussel is an absolute handful, irritating to play against and a fast, spirited agitator. An ideal fourth-line player who can occasionally move up. He’s signed on for another season, which is a double-edged sword. Is any bottom-six player, however well-suited to it, worth $3 million in a flat-cap world? The paradox of Vancouver’s expensive free-agent signings – they can play, but that price makes them hard to move. The team that wants him will be easing the Canucks’ cap burden, making any return minimal. It could be a case of taking someone else’s minors contract.
Used to be a surprisingly fast – for a big man – centre with a good shot who could play short-handed. Now he’s a bit slower. Maybe a dozen goals, maybe 30 points over a full season. He can handle lots of penalty-kill work. Expensive for what he provides, but this is his last season on his ill-advised contract. He’ll fill his role then go away!
The Middle Deals
This is more serious territory. If the Canucks trade deadline includes one of these players, they’re getting something back. It’s hard to call these players “the future” but they are younger than the usual trade prospects. One trick is replacing them – something that likely hasn’t been done by general manager Jim Benning‘s waiver pickups, whatever Toronto Maple Leaf fans think. The other is riding out fan outrage that these moves will cause.
Adam Gaudette was ready to get a solid deal after a season of 12 goals and 33 points in 59 games. He provided good secondary scoring in limited minutes – just what the Canucks needed. Then came the pause. Then the playoffs. And then Hockey Gaud was looking at zeroes across the board in ten games at the most important time of the year. It’s been harder to find the net this season, but at 24 years old and carrying a sub-$1 million deal, there’s plenty of reason to think his scoring will return. That he’s still an RFA at year’s end is tempting, too.
The Canucks might not get a high second-round pick, but a 50-75 selection isn’t out of the question. If Gaudette’s made available even teams who aren’t gearing up for a playoff run would be interested. Could be ideal as a sweetener to unload the more cumbersome salaries.
Ah, Ol’ Shotgun Jake Virtanen. Actually just 24, it feels like he’s been with the Canucks forever. Never quite living up to his potential, Virtanen’s nickname should probably be “Lightning Rod” instead. There are all sorts of pieces – great speed, wicked shot, loves to lay on the body – but it never quite coheres into the star he should be. Still and RFA at the end of next season, if a team thinks he just needs a change of scenery, he could blossom. Or not.
High risk, high reward, high cost? The talent is there to demand a second-round pick, but more likely an exchange of “Not-Quites” or “Maybe your coach can get the best outta him” guys.
An excellent fourth-line player at a reasonable cost, locked in for another year. He is a straight-up high-pursuit vehicle, prone to sudden breakaways while short-handed. What’s not to like about Tyler Motte? Like many high-revving vehicles, he’s also prone to breakdowns.
Still, the team should be reluctant to deal him, fetching a good price for his services. Added bonus for the acquiring team is he can be left unprotected at the expansion draft as a qualified veteran if needed. A good player or possible Kraken-bait, both are worth having.
The Big Deals
Okay, enough playing it safe. Let’s make the Canucks trade deadline interesting, shall we? Moving either of these players will have major repercussions, on the ice and off. It’s not just a great return to consider, but the shape of the team in the near future as well.
If you want the ultimate definition of selling high, moving J.T. Miller now would be it. The highly emotional winger has been an absolute revelation since coming over from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Yes, everyone expected his numbers to increase a bit with his ice time, but everything he was known for came with it. In his first year, he meshed perfectly with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, complimenting them with skilled aggression. He has two years remaining on his $5.25 million per contract and would be a boost to any team. He also doesn’t have any trade protection, maximizing any return.
Why would the Canucks sell him? Because if Benning has a target two years away in mind, Miller will be 30 years old and an unrestricted free agent. He’ll still be valuable, but likely – hopefully – passed by other, younger talent coming up. Yes, partially it’s about negotiating a contract with a player who will start yielding diminishing returns in two years. But it’s also about getting a king’s ransom for him now. The league sees what he can provide – now how much will they pay for it? The Canucks paid a first, a third, and an unused goaltender. In return, they got a point-per-game winger who maintained that pace in 17 playoff games. Their asking price will be higher.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have Braden Holtby. When Benning knew Jacob Markstrom wasn’t going to sign in Vancouver, he already had his choice of replacements lined up. Holtby does have a Stanley Cup ring he was responsible for, but his numbers since then haven’t been strong. Still, bringing in a veteran goalie to pair with Thatcher Demko was a solid move: Demko had not yet been the starter during a regular season, and without Markstrom, there was no hiding him. Unfortunately, the move hasn’t quite worked out, and Holtby’s numbers more closely resemble last season’s than two years back. He has a year left on his $4.3 million deal, so moving him would help ease some cap space next season. A very modest return would be fine. But then what?
With the upcoming expansion draft, it was implicit that Holtby would be the exposed qualifying goalie. Even if Michael Dipietro comes in as Demko’s backup, he wouldn’t qualify. So someone else needs to come back and play. For that matter, if the team doesn’t think DiPietro is NHL-ready, they need someone back for right now. The team is, after all, within striking distance of a playoff spot. Would Holtby be a sale or part of a purchase? While this move wouldn’t change the Canucks’ core, it would be a big admission of a missed bet by management. Thing is, the fans might like to hear that confession.
The Vancouver Canucks trade deadline is inching ever-nearer. There is reason for even the most vociferous critics of the current management to hope, though. Benning’s recent waiver wire pickups of Travis Boyd and Jimmy Vesey show that he acknowledges the team’s biggest difficulties have been on depth. Should players get moved out – and they should – there are NHL-ready ones to step into their place.
Embed from Getty Images