With the trade deadline less than two months away and the Vancouver Canucks four points out of a wildcard spot and seven points out of third in the Pacific Division, it’s not yet clear if they will be buyers or sellers come Mar. 21. If new general manager Patrik Allvin decides to go the selling route, he will have a lot of trade partners especially if he puts the likes of J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser on the trading block. Even if he doesn’t put his big horses up for auction, secondary players like Tanner Pearson and Tyler Motte will still hold value for playoff-bound teams. With that said, here are seven that could end up being moved.
The rumours continue to swirl regarding Miller’s future with the Canucks. Next to Thatcher Demko, he has been their MVP all season long, so it’s kind of hard to imagine a world where they would trade him away. Except, with Rutherford and Allvin reiterating the need to add more players with skill and create more of a cap cushion, players like him might have to be moved.
Related: Canucks Shouldn’t Trade J.T. Miller
Leading the team in scoring with 15 goals and 44 points in 41 games, Miller just continues to show why he’s an elite player in the NHL. Big, skilled, versatile, a threat on special teams, great on faceoffs, a presence in the dressing room – there’s not much he can’t do. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that Rutherford is asking for a king’s ransom ala Jakob Chychrun territory to pry him away from his hands. Teams will likely have to offer at least a first-round pick, a couple of blue-chip prospects and maybe even a top-six forward or top-four defenceman in order to keep Allvin on the phone.
If the Canucks do ultimately trade Miller, it better be for a package close to that. They can ill afford to screw this trade up. The last time a trade like this was done involving a star player of his caliber was back in 2006 when Dave Nonis dealt Todd Bertuzzi to the Florida Panthers for Roberto Luongo. We all know how that trade went for the Canucks. If not for Brad Marchand and the Boston Bruins, he would have led them to a Stanley Cup. This trade has to be at least that impactful, if not more. As much as I don’t think the Canucks should trade Miller, sometimes you have to sell high especially if the return ends up injecting your prospect pool with some much-needed blue-chip talent.
Boeser should garner a huge return if he’s traded. He’s not only young but has become a proven scorer in the NHL. Any team looking for scoring would love to have someone like him on their team. That’s why the Canucks won’t be giving him away for anything less than a package that includes a first-round pick, blue-chip prospect and a young roster player.
Since entering the NHL at the end of the 2016-17 season at the young age of 19, he has 109 goals and 232 points in 291 games. He already has three 20-goal seasons and has developed into a solid two-way player as well. He will never be a 100-point player, but with an elite playmaker, he could conceivably score 50 goals. Now, tell me that’s not worth a substantial package in return.
Whenever Boeser’s name has come up in the rumour mill, the Minnesota Wild have always been mentioned as an interested party. With how well they are playing right now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them try to bolster their lineup with a hometown boy like him. The Pittsburgh Penguins have also come up in speculation articles as well, which would make sense since Rutherford, Allvin and Derek Clancey are very familiar with their assets.
With Boeser in the last year of a bridge contract and holding arbitration rights, the Canucks might be forced to trade the 24-year-old. He will command a big raise as a restricted free agent (RFA) in the offseason and he could make life miserable for Allvin if he goes to arbitration. That might make it enticing to trade him for a more budget-friendly contract or fill a need elsewhere in the organization.
Having said that, management has to be careful with what message they are sending by trading players like Miller and Boeser. If they are traded for prospects and draft picks, players like Horvat and Pettersson may think they are entering a rebuild, which would not be good for the morale in the dressing room.
A surprising addition to the rumour mill is recently-acquired forward Conor Garland. It’s rare to see players that have just been traded for and signed to an extension placed on the trade block, but that’s exactly what NHL insider Elliotte Friedman reported recently on Saturday Headlines.
The fact that Allvin and Rutherford didn’t trade for him or offer him a contract extension is probably why they are open to the idea of moving him, but that still doesn’t negate the fact that it’s bad optics to move someone so soon after acquiring them. If the Canucks want to foster a culture that players want to be a part of, practices like this cannot become commonplace. If they sign long-term, players have to feel safe to put down some roots in the city and not have the rug pulled out from under them soon after doing so.
It’s obvious Garland wants to be part of the Canucks’ future. He signed a five-year contract worth $4.95 million in average annual value (AAV) shortly after being acquired, and he’s quickly become a key part of the core led by Horvat, Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. His passion, tenacity and shifty style have made him a fan favourite as well. He is just entering his prime at 25 years old and if they hope to be contenders in the next few years, they need players like him in the lineup.
If the Canucks do in fact place Garland on the trade block, there will be no shortage of suitors. For the reasons I just mentioned, he would add a lot to both playoff teams and rebuilding teams. From the Montreal Canadiens to the Tampa Bay Lightning, they would probably have all 31 teams giving them a call to find out the cost of acquiring him. If I was Allvin, I would be asking for packages containing a combination of first-round picks, blue-chip prospects and young roster players. Trading someone with a budget-friendly term should garner a big package in return, especially when it’s for a player that is just entering his prime.
Pearson is exactly what playoff-bound teams are looking for at the trade deadline – a veteran who has performed in the playoffs and has a Stanley Cup on his resume. He is also the kind of player who rises to the occasion when the going gets tough. He plays the game with his heart on his sleeve and can provide the type of leadership you need when the game is on the line in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
With the Canucks seemingly a few years away from Stanley Cup contention, Pearson might not be the guy for them. So, he could be trade bait instead. Rutherford has traded him once before when he sent the veteran to the Canucks for Erik Gudbranson. Hopefully, he doesn’t get the raw end of the deal this time.
If the Canucks make the difficult decision of giving up on the playoffs this season, Pearson might fetch a decent return. Since Boudreau took over the team in December, he has three goals and seven points in 16 games and he seems to be more noticeable offensively than he was under Travis Green. Maybe it’s because he’s not playing a matchup role with Horvat anymore? In any case, he’s increased his value in the trade market with his play. If Allvin can convince him to waive his seven-team no-trade clause (NTC), he might be able to get a second-round pick or mid-range prospect for him.
As much as I don’t want the Canucks to trade Motte, he might hold the most value if they decide to sell some assets at the deadline. He is on the last year of a $1.225 million contract and will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in the offseason. He probably won’t command too much on the open market, but he could conceivably sign with another team, thus leaving the Canucks with nothing.
Motte is the type of player teams want in the playoffs. Tough, hard to play against, can kill penalties and isn’t a liability defensively. He can also chip in with some offence here and there, as evidenced by his four goals in the 2020 Playoffs. Lately, he’s been one of the Canucks’ best players leading the way on a line with fellow grinders Juho Lammikko and Matthew Highmore. So, that could increase his value even more. Whether they get a mid-range prospect or even a second-round pick for him, they should at least entertain the thought of moving him if the playoffs are a pipe dream by the deadline.
Jaroslav Halak was probably the first asset to be mentioned in trade rumours this season. The veteran goaltender, who is on a one-year deal with a no-movement clause (NMC) and owed a $1.5 million bonus if he plays 10 games, could be enticing for a team in need of goaltending depth. Say, the Edmonton Oilers or Colorado Avalanche?
Unfortunately, Halak controls his destiny by way of his NMC which was given to him by the old regime of Jim Benning and John Weisbrod. If Allvin can convince him to waive it for a Stanley Cup contender, they could potentially grab something like a mid-range prospect or second-round pick for someone that likely won’t be around next season. With the emergence of Spencer Martin, the Canucks should feel comfortable trading Halak and making him the backup. Even if they are still in the race, they need to find a way to move him. Teams are always looking to round out their goaltending before the playoffs and they should take advantage of that desperation.
Finally, we have veteran power play specialist Alex Chiasson. I say power play specialist because that’s where he’s scored all of his goals this season so far. He can’t seem to be a threat 5-on-5 and that makes him a one-dimensional player. Fortunately, there are playoff-bound teams that could use a man of his particular set of skills.
Like Halak, Chiasson probably won’t be with the Canucks next season. So, they need to find a way to get something for him. I don’t expect more than a third or fourth-round pick, but that’s better than letting him walk away for nothing at the end of the season. Even if they can manage to get a prospect for him, I would consider it a win.
Expect the Canucks To Listen to All Offers Before the Trade Deadline
Considering the Canucks have a brand new front office with no ties to the current roster and prospect pipeline, I think it’s safe to say, expect the unexpected. Even though it’s Allvin running the show as the GM, Rutherford is still in the background whispering in his ear. In the past he has not been afraid to make the blockbuster deal that dominates the airwaves. He along with Allvin, Emilie Castonguay and Derek Clancey will find a way to clear cap space in order to build a team capable of contending for a Stanley Cup year in and year out. Whether it’s in the form of trading a star like Boeser or a big contract like Tyler Myers’, moves will happen. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.