Chris Higgins wasn’t the only notable player to find himself on waivers today.
Former Canucks draft pick Kevin Connauton was placed on waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets this morning. Before Connauton hit the waiver wire, the Blue Jackets had nine defencemen on the roster. Ryan Murray, Seth Jones, David Savard, Jack Johnson and Fedor Tyutin are all staples on defence, with the remaining four defencemen all between the ages of 25-27.
With the acquisition of Seth Jones, it was apparent that one of Connauton, Cody Coloubef, Dalton Prout or Justin Falk was going to be a roster casualty. Connauton, who was scratched for the fourth straight game on Saturday versus Carolina, ended up being the odd man out.
The decision is peculiar, because Connauton had points in four straight games before head coach John Tortorella decided to make him a healthy scratch. That included his first goal of the season against Dallas on December 29, giving him eight points in 27 games on the season. He registered a point in his last four games despite averaging less than 12 minutes of ice time per game.
With the Canucks defence depleted by injuries, it is time to give Connauton the chance he never had in Vancouver.
Bring Connauton Back
After being drafted in 89th overall in 2009 by the Vancouver Canucks, Connauton was traded to the Dallas Stars along with a second-round pick for forward Derek Roy during the 2013 trade deadline. The Roy trade never worked out for Vancouver, and the move started to haunt the Canucks after Connauton excelled early on in his NHL career.
In an eerily similar situation, he became a roster casualty due to the number of young defencemen Dallas had, so he hit the waiver wire in November, 2014, where Columbus picked him up. There, he registered nine goals and 19 points in 54 games, and led all regular Columbus defencemen with 0.97 points/60.
The Canucks already have an underwhelming defence, even with a full complement of healthy bodies. They are not the biggest defence in the league, their possession metrics are one of the worst in the NHL, and offensively they don’t contribute much.
Enter Kevin Connauton. His 0.99 points/60 and 50% Corsi this season are both better than any Canucks defenceman, according to war-on-ice.com. His offensive contributions would also be welcome, considering that Yannick Weber looks nothing like the player who scored 11 goals from the back end last year.
Say the Canucks were to claim Connauton off of waivers and everyone was healthy. The Canucks would have 25 players in their line up, two more than the allowable 23-man roster. That would include 14 forwards, nine defencemen and two goaltenders.
Any roster shuffling would occur on defence. This would give Vancouver the chance to rid themselves of two underwhelming defenders, Matt Bartkowski and Yannick Weber.
Bartkowski has an uncanny ability to turn a routine play into a very dangerous one. #Canucks
— Clay Imoo (@CanuckClay) January 12, 2016
Both defenders are logging top-four minutes even though they would not be worthy of a top-six spot on a good defence. Bartkowski is second to only Alex Edler on the Canucks in giveaways. He often tries to wheel the puck up the ice on his own, which tends to lead to turnovers.
Even on Florida’s first goal last night, Bartowski drifts from his assignment after Alex Biega chases the puck to the boards, and it leads to Jussi Jokinen shooting it by Markstrom while he stands all alone in front of the net.
Weber is a shell of himself from last season, where he scored 11 goals in 65 games, leading the Canucks defence. This season he hasn’t even registered a point at even-strength despite playing 34 games. His defensive play is also questionable, at best.
That was such a dumb high risk low reward pass by Weber. Boo. Boo I say.
— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) January 12, 2016
Alex Biega would be the other option for the Canucks if they were to trade/waive a defenceman, but Biega has looked solid in the 18 games he’s played with the Canucks so far. He reads the play well, limits the turnovers, and has a good first pass coming out of his own zone. The Canucks do not want to risk losing him on waivers. You can’t make the same argument for Bartkowski and Weber.
Neither one of these players should be in the Canucks long-term plans, so why not give Connauton a shot there? He’s proved himself capable with both Columbus and Dallas and deserves a look in the Canucks line up.
Another possibility for Connauton could be the Edmonton Oilers, which is Connauton’s hometown. The Oilers have seven healthy defencemen right now but three of them, Mark Fayne, Brad Hunt and Darnell Nurse, have already spent time in the AHL this season.
The first time Connauton hit waivers he did not make it through, and it seems unlikely he will make clear waivers this time either.