With the All-Star break in the rearview, the trade deadline looms large and is now less than two weeks away. 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 have been the surprise of the season, battling for first in the league all year long on the back of fantastic performances from Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, and Brock Boeser. Everything is clicking for the Canucks and they’re leaning into it, already making two major trades – both with the Calgary Flames. Vancouver acquired Nikita Zadorov for a pair of draft picks in late November and then sent Andrei Kuzmenko, Hunter Brzustewicz, a first-round pick, and more to the Flames for Elias Lindholm on January 31st. And their front office isn’t slowing down one bit, signing Elias Pettersson to a jaw-dropping, eight-year extension and emerging as candidates for some of the trade market’s biggest names. Vancouver will continue their exciting season at the Trade Deadline, entering with the wind behind their sails, success in the standings, and an eagerness for trades.
38-17-7, 1st in the Pacific Division
Deadline Cap Space
$2.6MM of cap space on deadline day, 0/3 retention slots used, 46/50 contracts used, per CapFriendly.
Upcoming Draft Picks
2024: VAN 3rd, VAN 4th, VAN 6th, SJS 6th, VAN 7th
2025: VAN 1st, VAN 2nd, VAN 4th, VAN 5th, VAN 6th, VAN 7th
Conor Garland once again headlines Vancouver’s assets, with the team granting him permission to find a trade in October – though ESPN’s Kevin Weekes reported at the time that Vancouver would likely need to retain some of Garland’s $4.95MM cap hit in a deal. But Garland still had a trade market, with the Washington Capitals interested in acquiring him if they ever found a trade Anthony Mantha. The two are, in fact, quite comparable, with Mantha offering slightly more goal-scoring than Garland, but also sitting two years older and carrying a slightly pricier $5.7MM cap hit. Both players provide reasonable depth scoring, though their consistency can come into question. The Canucks will hope Garland can fetch Mantha’s level of return, or that they can reignite Washington’s interest, though Garland’s hefty salary through the 2025-26 season could prove to be tough to move out.
They could also add to the long list of highly-touted, but unproven, 22-year-olds with Vasily Podkolzin, who hasn’t played in the NHL this season but has managed 28 points in 44 AHL games. Podkolzin would likely come at a cheaper price than his trade-market peers – including Philip Broberg, Arthur Kaliyev, and Kaapo Kakko – but he was previously highly regarded, getting selected 10th-overall in the 2019 NHL Draft and scoring a modest 14 goals and 26 points in 79 games as a rookie in 2021-22. But he hasn’t found much of a groove since then, spending most of the last two seasons in the AHL. He’s still young, and may be victim to a mismatch with Vancouver’s system. Those facts, as well as his previous draft selection, could be enough to earn him high regard. At least, that’s what the Canucks will be hoping for, though it seems unlikely that Podkolzin serves as much more than an additional piece to a bigger offer.
Ultimately, there aren’t many areas of excess in the Canucks lineup – with their wealth of depth forwards being an important safety measure for the playoffs and their defensive depth being tested by injuries all season long. That makes it difficult for any lineup pieces to be moved out and, because of that, draft capital will have to be what Vancouver leans on. They managed to acquire Lindholm without sending away too many picks, still boasting their first and second round picks in the 2025 and 2026 drafts. A first-round pick has been the focus of much of the market this season, and Vancouver will need to be ready to sacrifice future capital if they want to get involved in more big-name acquisitions.
1) Add Depth On Defense – Injuries have plagued the Vancouver Canucks defense all season long, with both Tyler Myers and Carson Soucy currently out week-to-week. And they haven’t had a great answer for it, leaning on options like Noah Juulsen or Mark Friedman to slot into top-four roles. While it’s worked well enough through the season, Vancouver will certainly want more security in the postseason. Luckily, the Philadelphia Flyers are selling off maybe their best defensive pairing this season – Nick Seeler and Sean Walker. Walker signed with the Philadelphia Flyers this summer, moving to a new organization for the first time in his career after six seasons in Los Angeles. And he’s come into his own quickly, offering strong value in all three zones and recording 22 points in 62 games, just two shy of the career-high he set in 2019-20. He’s played over 600 minutes with Seeler this season, and the pair carry a combined $3.425MM cap hit. Better yet, they’re both set to become free agents this summer, giving Vancouver plenty of flexibility. Walker would provide a serious boost to the Canucks’ everyday lineup, while Seeler would be a great injury fill-in – and they offer the unique chance to buy already-established chemistry. A deal likely wouldn’t be cheap, with the Flyers reportedly hoping for a first-round pick for Walker, but reeling in one or both Flyers defenders could go a long way towards solidifying the Canucks lineup.
2) Take A Chance On Top-Line Wingers – Things are working plenty well for the Canucks offense, which boasts both the top-end scoring and bottom-end depth needed to win a lot of games. But enough is never enough, and if the Canucks can bring in top market names like Jake Guentzel or Pavel Buchnevich, they absolutely should. Both players will come at a hefty price – likely requiring multiple first-round picks or top prospects – but they each bring point-per-game scoring potential on the wing. The Canucks still have room for competition in their top-six, with Ilya Mikheyev and Nils Hoglander each falling a bit short of their linemates. Both Guentzel and Buchnevich would offer a major upgrade, likely bringing even more of a boost to Pettersson, Lindholm, and Miller – while giving Vancouver more options for their bottom-six. While the Canucks have been red-hot this season, it’s still not clear if they have enough to overcome titans like the Vegas Golden Knights or Boston Bruins. This could be the Trade Deadline, and the trade targets, to fix that – if Vancouver can stomach the inevitably high-costs.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.