The 2018 NHL trade deadline is officially under a month away and things are heating up as it draws near — the Vancouver Canucks have some players on the market and are labeled as sellers, but there are also a few things the team needs for the future.
Last season, Jim Benning pleasantly surprised everyone with a very solid outing at the deadline — he brought in Jonathan Dahlen, Nikolay Goldobin and a conditional pick, shifting the team into a much-needed rebuild mode.
This season, Benning and the Canucks are hoping to do more of the same and trade veteran players and expiring contracts for prospects and picks. On top of that, they also have some additional voids to fill in the lineup.
Canucks on the Market
There are two Vancouver Canucks that have been centerpieces of trade deadline talks around the league – Thomas Vanek and Erik Gudbranson. Both players have expiring contracts and are valuable assets that would be welcomed by many squads around the league.
According to Bob McKenzie, the Canucks are looking to extend Gudbranson’s contract, and if they are unable to do that, will they be looking to move the big defender. Vanek, on the other hand, is open season and in a very familiar spot — he’s been dealt at two of the last four deadlines.
Vanek is a mercenary that teams gearing up for a playoff run will be looking for — with 35 points in 50 games and a fair amount of playoff experience, he’s decently valuable. A reasonable prospect and/or another pick is likely to come back across the table for the 34-year-old and would be very welcomed.
Gudbranson is injury-prone and isn’t having the greatest of seasons, with three points and other dismal statistics in 32 games, so he’d probably only bring in a pick or two of average values.
Canucks Deadline Shopping
First and foremost, the Canucks are looking for prospects and picks — lottery tickets are all-too-valuable for the Canucks, even if the Edmonton Oilers rig the lottery — I’m joking. Sort of.
Secondly, the Canucks really need another top-line winger to play with Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat. Sven Baertschi is a good first line guy, but he’s a great second line addition.
Thirdly, the Canucks should try and acquire a solid offensive defenceman who can quarterback a powerplay and put points on the board — Alex Edler cannot be that guy anymore because, well, I’ll lose my marbles if I have to watch any more of it.
There’s a fairly healthy crop of wingers on the market for the deadline, but the three headliners are Evander Kane, Max Pacioretty and Mike Hoffman.
Evander Kane is a possibility and the Canucks have what the Buffalo Sabres are looking for, but his price tag and checkered history peg him as a very big question mark. The general consensus is, he’s a big reward accompanied by, perhaps, a greater risk. Beyond his offensive gifts, Kane is also physical and the Canucks, as always, need more physicality.
Max Pacioretty is the Montreal Canadiens’ captain and a generally consistent 30-goal guy for the Habs. This season, though, he’s been in a huge slump and reduced his value slightly. However, he has one of the best contracts in the league with only a $4.5 million per year hit and he’s only 29. Don’t get your hopes up, though — the chances of Pacioretty coming to the Canucks is very slim because of what Canadiens’ GM, Marc Bergevin is asking for — essentially a younger Max Pacioretty, according to Nick Kypreos.
Mike Hoffman is probably the most suitable candidate, but again, meeting the Ottawa Senators needs might be slightly difficult. A handful of teams have expressed interest in the sniper and they have more to work with in terms of making reasonable returns for Hoffman.
For me, this is the biggest need for the Canucks’ future. Their power play has been very one-dimensional since the days of Sami Salo unloading bombs from the point. The power play has improved with the addition of Boeser, but an offensive-minded blueliner with a good shot and eye for the net would take it to the next level.
The market is fairly rich when it comes to suitable defenders — Mike Green, Jack Johnson and Tyson Barrie, who are all premier offensive defencemen, headline this category.
Mike Green is the top dawg in terms of d-men on the market and is quite pricey — the 32-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent and currently holds a cap hit of $6 million. He’s likely to go to a team looking to add some firepower on the back end for a playoff run. It is unlikely that Green will be Vancouver bound.
Jack Johnson is a very talented D-man that is in need of a change of scenery. His current cup-contending team, the Colombus Blue Jackets, isn’t giving him the ice time he desires — this has resulted in a plummet of his point production and motivation. The Blue Jackets could also use the talents of Vanek in the playoffs so, who knows, maybe that’s a possibility.
Tyson Barrie is essentially exactly what the Canucks need — a 26-year-old D-man that contributes a consistent 35-55 points per season. With two years left on his $5.5 million per year contract, Barrie would not come cheap, but it’s doable.
The Colorado Avalanche are likely to be looking for a young and talented winger. Vanek and Goldobin are two players who could entice the red-hot Avalanche. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Avalanche are a playoff team and Vanek could be an asset moving forward.
What to Expect
Moving Vanek is pretty much the only move that should be fully expected at the deadline, but the Canucks have the tools to make a few more additional moves. But, I do think it’ll be a fairly conservative approach by Benning at the deadline.
I’m hoping for the Canucks to bring in Kane and Barrie — if they can make that happen, then the Canucks will be a powerhouse in the near future. There’s a fair amount of moving pieces when it comes to Kane and Barrie — prices and risks are high, but the reward could be incredible.
I think the Canucks have enough prospects in the system for the near future, maybe even too many, so moving some assets for some genuine talent is something the Canucks should consider, if not at the deadline, then in the offseason.
It’s also important to remember that more players will make their way into trade deadline talks as it gets closer, so more possibilities will surface for Benning and the Canucks.
Matt is a longtime fan, player and student of the game of hockey. Broadcast and Online Journalism student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.