With the trade deadline fast approaching, one Vancouver Canuck that has been rumoured to be on the trade block is Tyler Motte. The 27-year-old winger is a free agent this summer, and they would like to reclaim some assets rather than lose him for nothing in the offseason. If they do trade him, here are three players currently playing for the American Hockey League (AHL) team that could take his spot in the lineup.
The Canucks drafted Will Lockwood 64th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. The former University of Michigan captain has played 44 games with the AHL Canucks, ranking seventh in points with 22. He has also been a fixture on the penalty kill this season which is one spot any replacement for Motte must fill.
Related: Meet Canucks Prospect William Lockwood
The one issue with bringing in Lockwood is that he has only played two games in the NHL. The Canucks are currently battling for a playoff spot, so bringing in a rookie may not be what coach Bruce Boudreau would want. Young players like Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Höglander are having a hard time getting ice time in this lineup currently, so bringing in another young player with no experience could have the same effect. He may be most deserving of the call-up, but keeping him in the minors may be the best solution as he can thrive in the AHL rather than sit on the bench and play less than ten minutes a night in the NHL.
This season, Sheldon Dries is having the campaign of his life in the AHL. He leads the Abbotsford Canucks with 54 points in 44 games which includes 15 goals on the power play. There is also an added bonus as he can play center or wing which means the Canucks can slide him into the middle if one of their centers gets injured.
Dries also has some experience in the NHL. He played 48 games for the Colorado Avalanche over the past few seasons as well as two earlier with the Canucks this season. Luckily, the two games came when Boudreau was in charge so the new coach has a reference point when discussing if he should join the lineup. He has shown he can play in the NHL, now it is up to the team to decide if he has earned a spot in the lineup or if he is more valuable leading the Abbotsford Canucks into the playoffs.
Phillip Di Giuseppe
If the Canucks want a player with experience, Phillip Di Giuseppe is the clear answer. The former New York Ranger has played 201 NHL games and has been called up to the Canucks multiple times this season. He has yet to play a game with the NHL club, but coach Boudreau has seen him in practice which could play a factor when the time comes to call up someone after the trade deadline.
Di Giuseppe has been a leader for the AHL Canucks this season, putting up 34 points in 38 games. He plays on the penalty kill and power play, but what is most impressive is his ability to get the puck on the net. This season, he has a shot on goal in every game he has played and is tied for the team lead with 129. He has earned at least a chance with the big club based on his play so far and may be the frontrunner if Motte is traded and a spot on the fourth line opens up.
No Need to Bring in Another Player
Although it will be hard to replace all the intangibles Motte brings on a game-to-game basis, there are players in the organization that can help fill some of the void. Whether it be one of the three mentioned above or players like Justin Bailey, Sheldon Rempel or Nic Petan, the Canucks, for the first time in a long time, have players that can step up if needed. Although losing him will hurt, not getting an asset back and losing him for nothing in the offseason will hurt even more in the long run.