We are now just a few days away from the NHL Trade Deadline and talks are heating up. Where does each team stand and what moves should they be looking to make? We continue our look around the league with the Vancouver Canucks.
The Vancouver Canucks’ season was over well before this ongoing team-wide battle with the Coronavirus. Their current extended stoppage is just the final nail in the coffin of a disappointing campaign. At least the team can move some expiring contracts, add some futures, and get ready for next year, right? Well, there are a few different factors working against the Cancuks making much of an impact as a seller at the trade deadline.
The first is that they lack any of the top available rentals and the seconds is that their best trade assets are not really available. The Canucks opted to re-sign Tanner Pearson rather than trade him, removing arguably their top rental from the market. Additionally, veteran defensemen Alexander Edler and Travis Hamonic have No-Movement Clauses and have expressed no inclination to waive them. If Vancouver had any chance of landing a substantial return at the deadline, it would have been by dealing these three players.
Beyond that, the COVID status of nearly the entire roster also does not help. While there is no rule against trading a player on the NHL’s COVID Protocol list, it isn’t exactly an attractive attribute for buyers. While there has been recent progress in Vancouver that suggests the team could be healthy, perhaps even by the deadline, their current status is not encouraging.
So what is there to expect from the Canucks in the coming days? The team still has a few pieces that they may be able to move for moderate returns, but don’t be surprised if it is a relatively quiet deadline in Vancouver.
16-18-3, .473, 5th in North Division
Deadline Cap Space
$0 in full-season space ($5.13MM in LTIR space), 0/3 retention slots used, 48/50 contracts used per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
2021: VAN 1st, VAN 2nd, VAN 3rd, VAN 4th, VAN 5th, VAN 6th, VAN 7th
2022: VAN 1st, VAN 2nd, VAN 4th, VAN 5th, VAN 6th, VAN 7th
With Pearson, Edler, and Hamonic off the table, veteran two-way center Brandon Sutter is the Canucks’ top trade chip. The impending UFA is a shadow of his former self, but is still a valuable depth piece due to his experience, versatility, and defensive ability. An ideal fit for a contender as a bottom-six forward, face-off asset, and penalty kill specialist, Sutter is the type of player who ends up being an invaluable acquisition to a team that makes a Cup run. His value isn’t what it used to be, but Sutter could still net a nice return, especially if he has a clean bill of health. The Canucks could boost his value by retaining part of his $4.375MM cap hit as well.
Another intriguing rental will be defensemen Jordie Benn. The veteran has plenty of experience, plays a sound defensive game, and is quietly enjoying the best per-game scoring season of his NHL career despite playing career-low minutes. Benn, who is also one of the few Canucks not currently sidelined by COVID, should be healthy and fresh and ready for a new challenge with a contender. An affordable addition at just $2MM, many buyers could do far worse than adding Benn as blue line depth.
While waiver claims are not usually considered trade assets, the Canucks were pretty high in the waiver order when they snagged forward Jimmy Vesey and Travis Boyd recently and they could shop their pair around to see if they can turn a claim into a draft pick. Could the buried Sven Baertschi also draw interest as a depth piece?
While there are not expected to be many term players dealt at the deadline, the Brett Connolly trade has already shattered the perception that they won’t happen at all. The Canucks stand out as a team that could trade away some players under contract next season and beyond. They have already been shopping forward Jake Virtanen for much of the season and there is no reason to believe that they will not still field offers, if any interest exists. A more interesting move would be if Vancouver decided to make underrated forward Tyler Motte available. Motte has been steadily improving over the past few years, but truly broke out in the playoffs last season and continued to perform at a high level this season, though he has missed time due to injury. At a minimal cap hit through next season, Motte is solid, two-way forward who could provide bottom-six value to a contender beyond just this year. Motte could be this season’s Barclay Goodrow if the Canucks make him available.
One major trade that wouldn’t be much of a surprise if it wasn’t for the fact that his name has not even been whispered on the rumor mill: the Canucks moving Braden Holtby. The veteran goaltender has one season remaining on his contract, but his future is not in Vancouver given the strong play and subsequent long-term extension of Thatcher Demko. Holtby has not performed this season, but was a top goalie in the NHL not long ago and could still draw interest, especially with numerous teams seeking help in net this season and beyond. Holtby might be an attractive pick for the Seattle Kraken in the Expansion Draft, but if Vancouver can instead get something in exchange for the capable keeper, they should do so. As long as they can figure out the expansion ramifications of the move, a Holtby trade would make sense for the Canucks if interest exists.
1) Picks and Prospects – The Canucks are not your typical seller. The team made a playoff run just last year, have a number of talented young pieces, and are looking to reset for next year rather than rebuild for the future. With that said, Vancouver is not exactly boasting an elite pipeline either. They have some truly great young players on the NHL rosters and several players in the AHL and overseas who will be pushing for NHL roles as early as next year. However, their lack of first- and second-round picks last season and no mid- or late-round surprises in recent years have thinned the pipeline among younger prospects. Especially at center, the Canucks have a major need for some future talent. Adding picks or targeting young prospects is the best way for Vancouver to maximize their rentals.
2) Term Defenseman – The Canucks are looking to reload for next year though and with a whopping seven defensemen in the organization headed for unrestricted free agency this summer, it wouldn’t hurt to look for a blue liner with term on his contract. The addition would also solve an Expansion Draft exposure issue that the team currently has no obvious solution for.