Through the current rough period for the Canucks, one thing has become clear, the need for more depth in both the forward and defensive lines. With the injury to Ryan Kesler, the Canucks have only 3 true centerman in star Swede Henrik Sedin, big-bodied Maxim Lapierre and unproven rookie Jordan Schroeder.
The Canucks lack of right handed defensemen is also concerning with only Chris Tanev currently filling that spot due to the injury to Kevin Bieksa. Vancouver also lacks veteran presence on the blueline, something that may prove important, if not vital for a long and extended playoff run.
With the Islanders sitting on the edge of a playoff spot in the East, rumors are swirling that they may be willing to make some personnel changes to try and get them that push needed to crack the top 8 and make the post season for the first time since 2006/7.
If the Islanders fail in their playoff bid, the rebuilding stage would continue for the team especially with the impending move into the Brooklyn fan-base for 2015/16. Either way, the Canucks all the way over in the West may be seen as ideal trading partners for the New York team.
Islanders players the Canucks may have a realistic interest in:
With the Islanders captain rumored to be available for transfer, possibly as early as the April 3 trade deadline, the Canucks would see Streit as an ideal top 6 blueliner. Streit has registered over 47 points in each of his last 4 seasons played, with scoring being something the Canucks currently lack on the blueline following the recent departures of both Christian Ehrhoff and Sami Salo. Despite being known as somewhat injury prone, Streit has played over 74 games a season since 2006/7, though he did miss the entire 2010/11 campaign with a shoulder injury.
Streit would come to Vancouver with a smaller cap hit than Keith Ballard ($4.1 million) and a lot more scoring power, 261 points in 443 regular season games compared to Ballard’s 163 points in 509 games. At 35 years old, the 6 foot blue-liner would add a veteran presence to the Vancouver defensive corp, giving back some of what the Canucks lost through not re-signing Sami Salo in the off-season.
Similar to Streit, the 36 year-old Visnovsky would bring a veteran presence to the Canucks blueline, joining Vancouver with just under 800 games of NHL experience. If signed, Visnovsky would be the oldest Canucks d-man by over 5 years with the current oldest defenseman being Kevin Bieksa at the age of 31.
Despite starting the shortened season in the KHL, Visnovsky has now settled in well to the Islanders line-up, registering a goal and 6 assists in 13 games so far this season. The Slovak player also scored a career high 68 points only two years ago in Anaheim. The downside of Visnovsky, also in his last year of his contract, would be his current cap hit of $5.6 million, requiring the Canucks to move more than just Ballard to sign him.
A target of trade talk after the lockout ended, Nino has since continued to dominate in the AHL with Bridgeport, despite not being invited to the Islanders training camp. He leads the Sound Tigers in scoring with 24 goals and 18 assists through 56 games played this season.
The 5th overall draft pick in 2010 has only been given limited opportunities in the NHL so far, playing 64 games for only 3 points, though there is no doubt El Nino will increase his points tally if given greater opportunities in the big league. The Swiss winger could easily be slotted in into the Vancouver top 9 and may be seen as an upgrade over current players Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen.
While it is no secret that Okposo has struggled in New York as of late, the 24 year old winger has definite talent and a change of scenery might do wonders for the 7th overall draft pick of 2006. It is also worth noting the natural winger has played in the center position before in the past.
While 45 points in 79 points last campaign is not a terrible stat by any means, Okposo may benefit from being on a line with a player such as Ryan Kesler and let’s face it, Mike Gillis loves his rebuilding projects (see Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins) so the 6’1, 200 pound forward would fit that category perfectly. Okposo’s fairly cheap $2.8 million cap hit until 2015/16 would also be important for the Canucks who generally sit right at the cap ceiling.
With the lack of experience through the center of the ice in Vancouver, Josh Bailey’s name has been mentioned in trade talk recently. Another member of the Islanders contract-expiring-this-season group, Bailey would slot perfectly into the Canucks 3rd line center position, not to mention being another top 10 draft pick from 2008.
Bailey has been posting good numbers for New York since joining the big club from the Windsor Spitfires in 2008/9, averaging close to 30 points a season in the NHL and dominating in second tier hockey in Germany during the lockout with 11 points in 6 games for SC Bietigheim-Bissingen.
Travis Hamonic- Hamonic would be the perfect young, right-handed, point producing defenceman for Vancouver but it would likely take a big return for the Canucks a lot to pry him out of Long Island.
Michael Grabner- That boat has probably sailed.
Frans Nielsen- Nielsen would also be seen as a great addition in center especially after having only just signed a 4 year contract extension but would likely demand a decent return from the Canucks. Nielsen would make for a great DDD Danish line of Nicklas Jensen – Frans Nielsen – Jannik Hansen on the Vancouver 3rd line.
Matt Moulson- Not much of a chance unfortunately, unless the Isles are looking to upgrade in goaltending anytime soon.
With Mark Streit, Lubomir Visnovsky and Josh Bailey all in the final years of their Islander contracts, Nino Niederreiter seeming disgruntled at having to stay in the minors and Okposo not living up to fans expectations, one or more of these players may be able to be acquired by the Canucks at either the April 3 trade deadline or in the summer.
While little comes free in Hockey, the Canucks still have some players they may be willing to move in a trade that would benefit the club, including Alain Vigneault’s favorite player Keith Ballard, the under-performing David Booth as well as one of the Schneider/Luongo goaltending tandem. If only the Islanders could change their name to the Panthers, a big trade in April would be almost guaranteed!