To say the Vancouver Canucks have started off the 2022-23 season poorly would be a major understatement. Coming into the year, there were many who believed they had the potential to be a playoff caliber team. While their blue line was expected to be a weak point, there was reason to believe their offense paired with Thatcher Demko in the pipes would be enough to make up for it. To this point, however, that has been far from the case.
Though management has remained adamant they don’t want to panic amidst the slow start, they may not have much of a choice if things don’t turn around in the near future. It is becoming crystal clear that this organization tried to speed through its rebuild far too quickly, and they are paying the price.
If they do end up changing their mind and decide to make a move or two, one player who could very likely be on his way out of town is Conor Garland. The 26-year-old was acquired alongside Oliver Ekman-Larsson prior to the 2021-22 season, and had a solid first season with the Canucks, registering 19 goals and 52 points in 77 outings.
Despite those numbers, however, there have been trade whispers surrounding him for some time now, and those have only increased after he was a surprise healthy scratch in a game on Oct. 18 versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. If he is indeed on the block, here are three teams that would work as great fits.
For months now, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving has made it clear he hopes to add one more offensively skilled forward to his group at some point this season. A quick peak at his roster suggests that if any position were in need of an upgrade up front, it is on the right side, making Garland a fantastic fit.
Divisional trades aren’t very common in today’s game, but it doesn’t mean they are impossible. Unless they are extremely delusional, Canucks management is quite aware of the fact their team is nowhere close to competing with the Flames right now, meaning that it shouldn’t be a major issue to help a rival team fill a role, so long as that said team can return the favor. Luckily for the Canucks, the Flames can do just that.
The Flames have a surplus of defensemen under contract right now, several of which would improve the Canucks blue line in a big way. One, in particular, is Oliver Kylington, who signed a two-year, $5 million extension this offseason. Despite that extension, he has yet to play this season due to a personal matter, which has given opportunity to other Flames defensemen to step up in his absence.
Before this deal would ever occur, of course, the Canucks would need to be clear about what to expect regarding a Kylington return. There has been nothing said about what his absence relates to, but it appears to be rather serious given the amount of time he has missed. That said, if he is able to return anytime soon, the Canucks would be wise to pursue him.
For a number of seasons now, the Carolina Hurricanes have been one of the NHL’s top teams. That said, if there was one area they lacked, it was scoring up front. They attempted to fix that issue this offseason by acquiring Max Pacioretty, but soon afterward the veteran forward tore his Achilles and isn’t expected back until the new year.
Even with Pacioretty in the lineup, however, this is a team that could still use another scoring forward, and by all accounts, Garland fits into the Hurricanes’ system. Coach Rod Brind’Amour demands his players to put in maximum effort night in and night out, and there is never a question about Garland’s work ethic. Despite being a small player, he plays a very tenacious style which would bode well with the Canes bench boss.
What makes the Canes such an intriguing trade partner for the Canucks is that they have arguably the most complete blue line in the entire NHL. What that means is that if they do indeed wish to add to their forward group, they will likely need to move one of their defensemen. Who that particular player would be is anyone’s guess, but there are several great options to choose from.
New Jersey Devils
One team that was believed to be in on Garland this offseason was the New Jersey Devils. A deal was obviously not agreed upon, but the two sides were reportedly having discussions. Whether they serve as the best fit is certainly a discussion worth having, though that shouldn’t concern the Canucks management or its fans one bit.
Unlike the Hurricanes, the Devils’ back end leaves plenty to be desired, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t be willing to part ways with a defenseman in order to acquire Garland. Having given out big money to Dougie Hamilton and recently trading for John Marino suggests they may not have interest in re-signing one, if not both Damon Severson and Ryan Graves, who are set to become unrestricted free agents at season’s end.
Now, obviously the Canucks wouldn’t be willing to trade Garland, who has three additional seasons after 2022-23 on his contract, for a player who could walk in free agency next summer. However, a sign and trade may be an option, as both Severson and Graves have several good seasons ahead of them. Neither may be as appealing as what they may be able to pry away from the Hurricanes, but are solid players nonetheless.
Garland Has Value
One thing that Canucks management needs to be careful of here if they do indeed move Garland, is that they don’t just simply give him away. As mentioned, he has plenty of term left on his deal and has a very team-friendly $4.95 million cap hit. That is a solid deal currently, and will only be better in the future with the salary cap expected to increase significantly by next season.
Garland’s production, paired with that contract, makes him a very valuable player in the NHL. He would fit in seamlessly on several rosters throughout the league, meaning if the Canucks play their cards right, they may be able to draw interest from a number of teams and help maximize a potential return. This will be a situation worth monitoring, as it doesn’t feel all that likely he remains in Vancouver for the remainder of the 2022-23 season.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.