With the expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken set for July 21, teams are beginning to prepare their exemption lists in anticipation of losing a player, and will look to replace them and add to their roster once the free agency period opens up July 28. In regards to the Vancouver Canucks, this will be an opportunity to add some secondary scoring, and there will be plenty of viable options in which they can go about it.
With restricted free agents (RFA’s) Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson working out deals, Vancouver will be left with filling out the rest of the roster, one that Canucks general manager Jim Benning hopes will have a larger impact than the group this past season. There are a couple of ways they could go about it: whether it’s signing one or two impact forwards at a higher dollar amount, or spreading the wealth between three or four players on cheaper contracts, the team could see a pretty good shakeup entering the 2021-22 season.
Add an Impactful Top-Six Forward
Such as we saw over the course of the 2020-21 season, the Canucks’ lacked secondary scoring behind their big guns, especially after Pettersson went down with a wrist injury that forced him to miss the final 30 games of the season. It’s not unfamiliar territory after all, as they saw a great deal of success after adding said impactful forward in Tyler Toffoli, who they acquired from the Los Angeles Kings at last year’s trade deadline. It also might be exactly what this team needs to back to the level they were playing at when they took the Vegas Golden Knights to seven games in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs less than a year ago.
There are several names that fit the bill here for Vancouver. Now, I should mention, these players aren’t necessarily linked to the Canucks, but would be great additions and fit this role perfectly. The one that sticks out most is Taylor Hall. Yes, Hall had a brutal start to the year with the Buffalo Sabres, scoring a measly two goals in 37 games, but as a member of the Boston Bruins, Hall looked more like the guy we expected to start the year, finishing with eight goals and six assists in 14 games. He’d be in a similar situation that he had in Boston, where he’d be playing on the second line, and like David Krejci, Bo Horvat is a perfect complement that would allow Hall to (hopefully) have similar production he had in his tenure with the Bruins. From there, the Canucks would have the duos of Pettersson and Brock Boeser on the first line, with Hall and Horvat on the second line, balancing out and solidifying the top six.
Another name that sticks out is Brandon Saad, a player all too familiar to Vancouver fans from his days as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. In the regular season, Saad wasn’t spectacular, finishing with 24 points across 44 games. However, it was in the postseason where he made his mark. In 10 games, Saad scored seven goals and added an assist with the Colorado Avalanche. Talk about impact. This would be exactly what the Canucks need to fill in their top-six to not only provide the club with secondary scoring, but make a difference when it matters most.
Add Multiple Depth Forwards on Cheaper Deals
One thing that the Canucks have going for them is that (pending an RFA signing) they’ll have their top two centers now and for the foreseeable future in Pettersson and Horvat. That gives Benning some flexibility to play around with and have the possibility to bring in depth forwards on cheaper contracts, and there are a plethora of players that fit the bill.
If the Canucks are thinking about going with the speed and energy route, Eric Haula could be a great addition. Haula made $1.75 million this past season, and while his numbers (21 points in 51 games) don’t jump off the page, he’s a reliable center, winning 55.1% of his faceoffs last season, and would be replacing Brandon Sutter essentially, who made $4.375 million against the cap and had a tough year production-wise, with just 12 points in 43 games (nine of them goals). Not only would Vancouver be saving money against the cap, but they’d also be upgrading their third-line center position with a player who can play on the power play if need be and has 54 games of playoff experience.
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Then there’s the pair of forwards from the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning that everybody wants a piece of: Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. Coleman, who should see a substantial pay raise from his $1.8 million cap hit, was a significant piece in the Lightning’s second consecutive Cup run. During the regular season, he produced 31 points across 53 games while contributing 11 points in the playoffs, not to mention he had a Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 55.1%. Even with the pay raise, he’d be a significant upgrade at center on the third line and can contribute from all over the ice.
Goodrow, while maybe not getting the same increase in salary as Coleman, only made $925,000 against the cap and is an analytical darling who’s exactly the type of player Vancouver needs. He’s more of a fourth-line option, but still chipped in 20 points during the regular season with a 55.3 CF% and is an excellent bottom-six winger with a winning pedigree that any team would love to have. Hey, if Vancouver could sign both those guys to a reasonable cap hit, why not?
We won’t know what the Canucks will do, at least until after the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, but there are a few different avenues Vancouver can take to bring in the secondary scoring this team so desperately needed last year. All we can do now is count down the days, and wait and see.
I’m a London, Ontario based broadcaster and sports writer for the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve done work in the past reporting on the NHL, NBA and MLB. I’ve also covered the OHL including the Owen Sound Attack and am currently involved with the London Knights.