The National Hockey League trade deadline is just around the corner and the Vancouver Canucks are right in the thick of things in the Western Conference playoff race. For the first time in a long time, they could be buyers instead of sellers, and that’s an exciting prospect for a team that has struggled to even have a sniff at the postseason in recent seasons.
The Canucks are where they are because of goaltending, key performances from their stars and some great depth scoring from the likes of Jake Virtanen, Tanner Pearson, and Adam Gaudette. If they hope to make the playoffs and make some noise while there, they will need this to continue. However, they are still one top-six injury away from being in a lot of trouble offensively.
We have already seen them struggle when Elias Pettersson was out of the lineup for just one game. So, what can general manager Jim Benning do to remedy this situation? Here are three possible trade targets that the Canucks could add to their forward ranks when the Feb. 24 deadline rolls around.
Josh Anderson (RW)
One name that is floating around the rumor mill is Josh Anderson. After scoring 27 goals last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, 2019-20 has not been as kind to the 25-year-old forward. He has only played in 26 games and is currently on the mend after suffering a shoulder injury following a fight with Ottawa Senators’ defenceman Mark Borowiecki. He only has one goal to his credit, but he still could be a difference-maker in the top-six for the Canucks, most likely in Loui Eriksson’s spot on Bo Horvat’s line.
Anderson has been a productive forward for the Blue Jackets over the past few seasons, having scored 15 or more goals every season since becoming a full-time member of the team. He also can provide energy, physicality, and versatility to the lineup. At 6-foot-3 and 222 pounds, he’s also a beast on the forecheck and can score goals. After learning that Micheal Ferland is out yet again with concussion symptoms, the Canucks could use a player like him in the lineup.
Anderson’s cap hit is also not high at $1.85 million average annual value (AAV) and could be had for a package including a mid-range draft pick and one of Sven Baertschi or Nikolay Goldobin.
Wayne Simmonds (RW)
With Ferland’s status up in the air again, the Canucks are probably looking to add some extra physicality to the lineup. New Jersey Devils’ forward Wayne Simmonds certainly fits the bill. His name has been linked to the team as recently as last week by TSN Insider Pierre Lebrun.
The Devils are clearly sellers coming up to this year’s trade deadline, so there will definitely be rumors surrounding the team all the way up to Feb. 24. Simmonds is just one of the many names that will be floating around until then. He is a rental, so the Canucks would be wise not to give up too much for a quick fix, just because they seemingly need to replace Ferland and his physicality.
Simmonds is a physical forward and a solid net-front presence on the power play. He also is a four-time 20 goal scorer and two-time 30 goal scorer. His production has fallen off in recent seasons, but he still has the offensive skills to complement Horvat and Pearson on the second line. He currently has seven goals and 16 assists in 57 games.
Tyler Toffoli (RW)
Ever since Tyler Toffoli entered the rumor mill, the Canucks have been a destination that could be a good fit for the veteran forward. He has a lot of positive history with Pearson when they were part of a very productive Los Angeles Kings’ second line with Jeff Carter back in 2014.
Related: Canucks Should Trade for Toffoli
Horvat is a poor man’s Carter, so the line could be a solid second wave of attack, and identity change from the shutdown label they have been saddled with when Eriksson has been the third forward. Toffoli provides a lot more than him on the right side and is a legitimate offensive threat every time he steps onto the ice, something Eriksson has not been described as being in a long, long time.
Toffoli’s performance lately has upped his trade value, so he could have priced his way out of the Canucks’ budget. Despite being in the position of buyers, Benning should not be selling the farm to get help for the top-six. Realistically the team is still two or three seasons away from being a contender for the Stanley Cup, so the draft picks and young prospects should still be a valuable commodity, not something to be freely bargained with.
With that being said, Toffoli would be a great addition to a team looking for scoring in the top half of the lineup. He is the most productive forward of the three mentioned in this list with 18 goals and 34 points in 58 games so far this season. If he can be had for a reasonable package of players and/or draft picks, the Canucks should be one of the teams interested in his services.
Salary Cap Could Handcuff Canucks
This trade deadline could be a difficult one to navigate for Benning and company. The Canucks have a lot of depth forwards that are taking up a lot of cap space. As of Feb. 16, they have $215,834 available and any trades that happen will need to have salary going the other way. That will be difficult to do if teams do not want the assets they are offering in return. Benning has already tried and failed to trade Baertschi and Goldobin, so it’s not likely any team will change their minds around the deadline. However, it is the annual silly season, so I guess anything could happen.
The Canucks may want to do things at the trade deadline this year, but the bad contracts that were signed earlier on could make that an impossibility. Unfortunately, the poor decisions Benning made in previous offseasons could handcuff him when the team is finally on the cusp of making the playoffs. He may have to do some fancy negotiations this deadline if he hopes to make any sort of positive additions to the team. One thing is for sure, it will be interesting to watch him try.