Thomas Drance and Harman Dayal wrote an article for The Athletic today outlining the best third line center options for the Vancouver Canucks to look at when free agency opens on July 1st. Vancouver has an excellent 1-2 punch down the middle of the ice with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller currently occupying the top two spots. Drance and Dayal begin their article by highlighting the fact that Vancouver not only needs a third line center, but they also need the right fit for the third line, preferably one with more of a defensive skill set.
While this year’s free agent class leaves a lot to be desired, there are some good top-9 center options for the Canucks to consider. Drance and Dayal produce an exhaustive list that includes bargain bin shopping as well as some players that will likely fall outside of Vancouver’s price range given their salary cap constraints. The most realistic targets, and the ones on the top of the list are Pius Suter and David Kampf.
What a change two years can make. In the case of Pius Suter, it’s the difference between being non-tendered (as he was in 2021 by the Chicago Blackhawks) and being a sought after unrestricted free agent (after two good seasons with the Detroit Red Wings). Suter is a bit undersized but could offer the Canucks a solid top-9 option at a reasonable price. Over two seasons in Detroit Suter put up 29 goals and 31 assists in 161 games. While those numbers won’t blow anyone away, the 27-year-old did this while hardly benefiting from any powerplay time as he saw just six minutes of ice time this season with the man advantage.
Kampf offers much stronger defensive metrics than Suter and is a bigger body, however he is more limited offensively as he had just 18 goals and 35 assists in 164 games over the past two seasons. He also saw very little powerplay time but struggles to drive play at even strength as he has a negative offensive impact even at 5v5. Drance and Dayal do wonder if having a better defensive player such as Kampf in the third line center role might make more sense for Vancouver as it could free up the top two line for more offensive deployment.
Other snapshots from around the league:
- The Score is reporting that J.P. Barry, the agent for Vancouver Canucks superstar Elias Pettersson expects talks between his client and the club to begin this summer as they look to hammer out a long-term deal for the 24-year-old. Pettersson is just a year from being a restricted free agent and two years away from unrestricted free agency. He is due $10.25MM this upcoming season and would require an $8.82MM qualifying offer next summer for Vancouver to retain his rights. Given that he is coming off a 102-point season it would make sense for the young Swede to try and sign a long-term deal to obtain some security and peace of mind heading into next season. For the Canucks it would also give the club some cap certainty as they try to re-tool after missing the playoffs this past season.
- Mike Morreale of NHL.com tweeted today that no Russian prospects who played overseas this season will be attending the NHL combine. The combine will run from June 4-10 in Buffalo and will give all 32 clubs the chance to get a look at the top prospects in this year’s entry draft. It’s an interesting development, but not a surprising one. Projected top-3 pick Matvei Michkov stated in Russian media back in May that he likely wouldn’t be at the combine but would be at the draft.