With the Vancouver Canucks sitting four points back of a playoff position, reports and rumours suggest they’ll be sellers at the trade deadline. However, just because a team is given a label doesn’t mean they need to make a move. In fact, the Canucks don’t need to make a big splash ahead of the March 21 deadline.
Teams have been calling general manager Patrik Allvin, asking about some of his marquee players, including Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller and Conor Garland. While the Canucks could be sellers, they also don’t need to trade away players who are viewed as core pieces.
The Return for Miller Better Be Good
One player who might be moved is Miller. The rumours have not stopped and multiple teams have called to inquire about the 28-year-old winger. He has another year after this one on his contract with a cap hit of $5.25 million and leads the Canucks with 22 goals and 63 points this season. He’s also on a nine-game point streak (six goals, 10 assists). If it comes to it and Miller is dealt, the return had better be good.
The New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs both have pieces that the Canucks should target in a trade. The Rangers have a lot of young, interesting prospects in their system, and even on their current roster. Former second-overall selection Kappo Kakko, Samuel Blais and Braden Schneider are a couple of young players who could be brought up in trade conversations, and Will Cuylle has had a strong season for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). The 20-year-old Toronto native has 28 goals and 53 points in 41 games this season.
Related: Canucks Must Make Roster Decisions Ahead of Trade Deadline
On the Maple Leafs’ side, Topi Niemela’s name continues to be brought up, and rightfully so. He is one of the better prospects in their system. He finished the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2020-21 with eight points in seven games, and as a 19-year-old, he has 30 points in 44 games as a member of Kärpät of Liiga. Nick Robertson is another name to consider. He scored 55 goals in 46 games for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL back in 2019-20, has 24 points in 30 games with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL over the last couple of seasons, and is currently slotted in Toronto’s top-six alongside John Tavares and Willam Nylander, all at just 20 years old.
Canucks Need To Decide On Boeser
One of the other reasons Miller’s name is out there isn’t just for the potential return, but also the lingering contract extension for pending restricted free agent (RFA) Brock Boeser. He is in the final year of a 3-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $5.875 million. After a slow start to the campaign, he now has 16 goals and 33 points through 51 games, including five points over his last five games.
The qualifying number for Boeser at the end of the season is $7.5 million, which is nearly a $2 million increase from his current cap hit. But he is also liked in the locker room, was drafted and developed by the team, has surpassed the 20-goal mark three times in his first four seasons, and looks to be on track to surpass it this year as well. If the two sides can find a happy middle ground, there’s a chance Boeser remains a Canuck for a long time. If not, he could be on the move, as the only one of the three not under contract for 2022-23.
Garland Making Noise Down The Stretch
If there’s one player who has picked up steam lately on the trade rumour front, it’s Garland. Brought over from the Arizona Coyotes in the offseason, along with defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Garland was immediately signed to a five-year extension with an AAV of $4.95 million. He has been a fan favourite for most of the season and has collected 31 points across 52 games this season.
It would be strange to move him in his first season after signing him to a long-term contract, but GMs have called about Garland, along with Boeser and Miller. Garland, like Boeser, is just 25 years old but is under contract for four more seasons after this one for under $5 million per. He can play both left and right-wing and can slot easily within Vancouver’s top-six.
At the end of the day, the Canucks need cap space to retain Boeser, with zero cap space at the moment. While Roberto Luongo’s $3.035 million in recapture penalty and pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) Jaroslav Halak’s $1.5 million comes off the books after this season, Tucker Poolman is currently on LTIR with a cap hit of $2.5 million that would return once he’s healthy. If Vancouver can’t find the money for an extension for Boeser, there’s a chance he gets moved. If they want to retain him, they’ll likely need the cap relief from trading Miller or Garland.
Again, the Canucks don’t need to make a splash before March 21, but it seems that if one domino falls, the Canucks’ cap situation and future will clear up.