Now that the Vancouver Canucks have dealt veteran fourth line center Jay Beagle to the Arizona Coyotes, they will be looking for replacements either through trade or free agency. Considering the amount of budget-friendly options in free agency, trade is likely not the avenue they will be pursuing. So, with the free agency window opening on July 28 at 12 pm EST/9 am PST, let’s take a look at three targets they could be looking at.
1. Jujhar Khaira
After parts of six seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, the Surrey native will be looking for a new home on Wednesday. General manager Ken Holland chose to not extend a qualifying offer to Jujhar Khaira on Sunday, making him an unrestricted free agent (UFA). Could the Canucks have interest in bringing him home to British Columbia?
Ideally, the Canucks will sign a fourth-line center that is fast, physical, good on faceoffs, and has at least a little scoring pop to his game. Shot blocking and penalty killing would also be great to have. Khaira checks most of those boxes, as he’s a great skater and has thrown over 100 hits in every season since becoming a full-time NHLer in 2017-18. He also has shown the ability to score goals in the past with a career-high 11 goals and 21 points a few seasons ago.
Scoring won’t be the goal of the fourth line though. Khaira’s primary job will be to wear the other team down with physicality and forechecking, something he does very well. He’s a speedy forward that can kill penalties (almost two minutes a game with the Oilers), play a responsible game in the bottom-six and make the opposing team’s life miserable. He’s not overly good at faceoffs with a career 45.3 percent success rate, but that shouldn’t negate all the other benefits he would bring to the fourth line next season.
2. Ryan Getzlaf
Yes, it’s unusual to see a player that has 982 career points mentioned in the same sentence as the words fourth line center, but Ryan Getzlaf is not the spring chicken he used to be. Similar to his former partner-in-crime Corey Perry, his production has become that of a bottom-six forward. That doesn’t mean he’s not valuable to have on your team. Just look at what Perry did with the Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens at 36 years old when he led both teams to a Stanley Cup Final.
Getzlaf is going to explore free agency on July 28, so he will likely be in a different jersey for the first time in 16 seasons come October. So why not look at him as an option for the fourth line? At 36 years old and only five goals and 17 points in 48 games last season, he won’t demand a lot, so they should be able to get him for under $2 million on a one-year deal.
Getzlaf would be the perfect fourth-line center for the Canucks. He’s big, physical, can win faceoffs and should be able to score when the opportunity presents itself. He also could jump into the top-six to mix things up when they are looking for offence. Not to mention the veteran leadership he would bring to the dressing room after over 1000 games in the NHL.
3. Derek Ryan
After four seasons with 10 or more goals, 34-year-old Derek Ryan hit a bit of a wall during the 2020-21 season. He fell to only two goals and 13 points and his ice time plummeted to an average of 11:53 after hovering around the 14-minute mark the last two seasons. Did he just have an off-year, or is this the beginning of a decline? I think it’s more the former, rather than the latter. If given the chance, he could bounce back especially on a one-year show me deal.
Ryan may not be the biggest or most physical forward, but he’s one of the hardest workers you will ever see. He worked his way into the league as an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Hurricanes and is now a reliable bottom-six forward in the NHL. He’s played in the top six before with the Hurricanes and was even touted as having a release only behind Teuvo Teravainen, Jeff Skinner, and Sebastien Aho. He also can kill penalties, play on the power play and win faceoffs to the tune of a career 55.4 percent success rate. Sounds like a pretty good fit to me if he can rediscover the form he had just a season ago.
Canucks Have Plenty of Options in Free Agency
Apart from the three forwards mentioned above, the Canucks could also look to the following free agent centers:
- Mark Jankowski (former Flames and John Weisbrod draft pick)
- Brandon Sutter
- Marcus Johansson
- Darren Helm
- Eric Staal
- Erik Haula
Do you agree with my free agent picks for the Canucks’ fourth line center next season? If not, who would you choose? Let me know in the comments below!
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.