3 Burning Questions After Canucks Trade Dickinson For Stillman

Late Friday night the Vancouver Canucks traded Jason Dickinson and a 2024 second-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for 24-year-old defenceman Riley Stillman. On the heels of news that the team was looking to move Micheal Ferland’s contract, general manager Patrik Allvin went another route and dealt Dickinson and his $2.65 million deal instead. All in all, they gain $1.3 million in cap space and a young asset in Stillman who will probably play a significant role in the lineup right away with the injuries to Tyler Myers and Travis Dermott.

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Yes, the Canucks had to add a sweetener to convince the Blackhawks to take Dickinson off their hands, but in a world where bad contracts are given away for “future considerations”, they were fortunate to get something in return. Now that the preseason is over after a 4-0 victory against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday, this trade has added more intrigue to the roster battles ahead of the season opener. With that, here are three burning questions that have to be answered before the puck drops in Edmonton next week.

Where Does Riley Stillman Fit In?

While Stillman is not the coveted right shot everyone wants for the Canucks at this point, he brings NHL experience, physicality and the ability to block shots to a defence corps that is hurting right now. Without Myers, they will need someone to kill penalties and he spent an average of 1:07 on the PK last season with the Blackhawks. He also isn’t afraid to throw the body as he logged 122 hits in 52 games, which would have had him tied with Kyle Burroughs for fourth on the Canucks in 2021-22.

Riley Stillman, Chicago Blackhawks
Riley Stillman, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In the short term, if Quinn Hughes and Luke Schenn and Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tucker Poolman make up the top four, then he will likely play with either Burroughs, Jack Rathbone or Christian Wolanin. Of the three, I would like to see him with Burroughs, creating a bruising bottom pairing that would be very tough to play against.

Who Doesn’t Make the Cut After the Addition of Stillman?

Before the addition of Stillman and the news of Myers’ 2-4 week recovery time, the battle for the bottom pairing and seventh defenceman was between Poolman, Burroughs, Rathbone and Wolanin. Now that Poolman has been bumped up to the second pairing with Ekman-Larsson, that leaves the latter three. So, who will get the short straw and be sent down the freeway to Abbotsford?

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Despite Wolanin’s strong game against the Oilers, I think it will be him that is eventually announced as the casualty. With Burroughs as the only right shot of the group and Myers out for the first few weeks of the season, the Canucks will need that asset in the lineup. As for Rathbone, I think he’s done enough in training camp and the preseason to warrant a spot as the seventh defenceman to rotate in and out with Stillman on the left side with Burroughs – at least for now. Wolanin will of course be the first man up when the next inevitable injury occurs.

Does This Mean Aman Has Made the Opening Night Roster?

Now that Dickinson is gone, coupled with the injuries to top-nine forwards Ilya Mikheyev, Brock Boeser, and potentially Conor Garland, the fourth and maybe even the third line has holes to fill. You can’t help but wonder if the trade that sent the veteran to the Blackhawks was necessitated by how strong Nils Aman has looked in the preseason, training camp and as far back as the Young Stars Classic.

The prospect that everyone thought was destined for Abbotsford could now be on the cusp of making his NHL debut on the fourth line in Vancouver. Quietly one of the best two-way forwards in camp and the preseason – of the bubble players anyway – the 22-year-old has seemingly played his way onto the roster and could even be killing penalties for head coach Bruce Boudreau.

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Signed as a free agent in the offseason for organizational depth, Aman is probably the biggest surprise to come out of the preseason since Tyler Motte forced the demotion of Sam Gagner and Sven Baertschi back in 2018-19. It will be interesting to see if the 6-foot-2 pivot can make as big of an impact as Motte did in his first season with the team when he finished with nine goals and 16 points in 74 games. He doesn’t have the speed of the now-Ottawa Senator, but he definitely has the defensive acumen and gritty game to play a regular role in the NHL. In fact, Aman might end up being the forward the Canucks believed they were getting in Dickinson when they acquired him from the Dallas Stars last season.

Canucks Need Depth To Step Up During Early Injury Crisis

Beginning their season on the road in Edmonton on Oct. 12, the Canucks will have to whether the storm early as they will pass through five cities as part of their season-opening nine-day road trip. Potentially missing three top-six forwards – although they got some good news on Boeser and Mikheyev Friday morning – and two NHL defencemen, they will need their depth to come through if they hope to avoid another slow start (from ‘Canucks: Injury puts Tyler Myers on the shelf for 2 to 4 weeks, Brock Boeser to return’, The Province, 10/7/22).

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The addition of Stillman will help stop the bleeding on defence, but he is not a savior by any means. All in all, only a cohesive team defence, great goaltending by Thatcher Demko and timely goals by anyone and everyone will get them through this initial injury crisis and off to a better start than 2021-22.

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