In general, it’s a bad idea for rebuilding teams to trade away promising young talent. While the Vancouver Canucks have defied the logic of a rebuild on several occasions, that rule applies to them as well. However, Jason Botchford of The Province makes a convincing case for one exception: Sven Baertschi.
Baertschi, 25, is a highly-skilled winger for the Canucks who has always carried a ton of potential since being selected 13th overall by the Calgary Flames in 2011. When on the ice, Baertschi shows flashes of brilliance that reminds fans of why he was selected so high. Yet, as Botchford points out, Baertschi has struggled to stay on the ice in his young career. In Calgary, it was inconsistency that kept him out of the lineup, but in Vancouver, it has instead been injury, which is even more concerning. Baertschi played in just 53 games this season and was shut down in early March with a separated shoulder. It was the third straight season in which Baerschi missed significant time and has still yet to crack 70 games in a campaign. Availability is one of the most important abilities a player can have and thus far Baertschi has failed in this department.
That alone is not enough to trade away a young player either, though. If Baertschi had played in 82 games in each of the past two seasons, he would have likely exceeded 20 goals and 45 points in both. If sold for pennies on the dollar, the often goal-hungry Canucks could live to regret a deal if Baertschi was to stay healthy and be a consistent 40-50 point player. However, Botchford also recognizes that Vancouver has ample depth in young player that they can afford to trade Baertschi if the right offer comes along. In particular, Botchford notes that Nikolay Goldobin has the makings of a very similar player to Baertschi and, beginning next season, is no long waiver-exempt and will require a full-time role. With players such as veterans Loui Eriksson, Sam Gagner, and Markus Granlund, Calder candidate Brock Boeser, young projects like Goldobin, Jake Virtanen, and Brendan Leipsic, and incoming prospects Elias Pettersson and Jonah Gadjovich, there is plenty of competition for spots on the wing, even without Baertschi. This doesn’t even count additions in free agency or with one of the Canucks early draft picks, either. There’s a safety blanket to moving Baertschi in the Canucks’ depth of options.
Will a deal actually happen? Baertschi is a restricted free agent and Botchford points to comments from GM Jim Benning stating that the team is only interested in re-signing him to a one-year deal. That doesn’t invoke feeling of confidence in their long-term plans for him. Then, even if he does have a full, consistent season, he would be an unrestricted free agent capable of pricing himself out of Vancouver for now return. It certainly appears that the time is now for the Canucks to capitalize on Baertschi’s remaining upside and intrigue to acquire further (re)building blocks. There’s always risk associated with trading away young talent, but for a player who has been better in theory than in reality thus far in his pro career, Benning and company would be smart to the pull the trigger this summer if the right opportunity presents itself.