The Vancouver Canucks didn’t have the type of season they were hoping for. The team finished in last place in the North Division, even behind the rebuilding Ottawa Senators — a far cry from their strong playoff performance a season ago. While the team lost several free agents in goaltender Jacob Markstrom, winger Tyler Toffoli and defenseman Chris Tanev, the hope was that others could step up in their place, including Thatcher Demko, Nils Hoglander and trade acquisition Nate Schmidt, who they picked up from Vegas for a 2022 third-round pick.
Of course, things didn’t work out for Schmidt, who just didn’t seem to be a good fit with Vancouver this year. The 29-year-old played in all but two games for the Canucks, but couldn’t get it going offensively with just 15 points in 54 games, quite a difference from the 31 points he posted in 59 games with Vegas in 2019-20. That’s not exactly what Vancouver envisioned when it took on Schmidt’s contract, which suddenly doesn’t look so good on their payroll as Schmidt still has four more years at $5.95MM.
The Province’s Patrick Johnston writes that the Canucks will likely have to do a major shakeup of their blueline this offseason with only a few players considered key pieces to their puzzle. The belief is the team would prefer to move Schmidt and his contract to free up some cap space, although that could prove challenging, according to The Athletic’s Thomas Drance and Harman Dayal (subscription required). While the contract is somewhat front-loaded, the base salary for this next year is still $6MM and only drops slightly over the next three years.
What that type of cap hit in a flat cap world, only a handful of teams are likely willing to take on four more years of Schmidt and the Canucks could be forced to send a sweetener if they hope to move the blueliner. All three scribes suggest that Schmidt is a likely trade candidate, but also admit that Schmidt may be difficult to unload and therefore might just have to be an expensive second-pair defenseman, who the team hopes can rebound and have a big season.