The Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings are reportedly engaged in trade talks involving Conor Garland. While rumours seem to indicate they are targeting a young right-hand defenceman like Helge Grans, Alex Turcotte’s name has also come up as a possibility too. With the lucrative returns the Anaheim Ducks and Philadelphia Flyers got in their trades of pending unrestricted free agents Josh Manson and Claude Giroux, you have to wonder what kind of haul general manager (GM) Patrik Allvin could get for Garland.
The Canucks are reeling after three-straight losses to the Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames and Buffalo Sabres respectively so they might be closer to selling today rather than standing pat and waiting for the offseason. If they can cash in on the seller’s market right now, that might go a long way to transforming this team back into a contender. Despite the success they have had under new coach Bruce Boudreau, they don’t seem to be there just yet, especially after getting manhandled by Stanley Cup hopefuls like the Flames and Lightning in recent days.
Allvin and Jim Rutherford finally made their first trades as Canucks on Sunday afternoon when they dealt Travis Hamonic to the Ottawa Senators for a 2022 third-round pick and acquired Travis Dermott from the Toronto Maple Leafs for the Winnipeg Jets’ 2022 third-round pick. Many pundits believe those won’t be the last deals they make before the clock strikes 3 pm ET.
Could the next one be Garland? In the end, he might be the easiest major asset to move at this point next to Tyler Motte and Luke Schenn. After looking at three defencemen of the right-hand variety in a previous article, let’s take a look at three forwards the Canucks should be targeting, this time centering around the turnstile-king known as Garland.
On a recent episode of Donnie and Dhali, Rick Dhaliwal reported that talks were heating up on the Garland front and that Turcotte was one of the young Kings the Canucks had their eye on. Selected fifth overall by the Kings at the 2019 Draft, the 21-year-old pivot hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire since going pro with only 12 goals and 39 points in 58 games with the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Ontario Reign, but he still has the toolkit to become an impact player in the NHL.
Boasting an impressive package of speed, playmaking and goalscoring ability, Turcotte would add a lot to a Canucks system that is severely lacking in all those areas. He doesn’t only provide goals and points either, as he also possesses a very polished 200-foot game (i.e. someone who could eventually take over for Bo Horvat as the matchup center). Not only replace Horvat but become a better scorer than him as well. Allvin, president of hockey ops Jim Rutherford and even Boudreau have come out in recent interviews saying the Canucks lack team speed. Adding him would help remedy that weakness and a whole lot more.
In a similar vein as Turcotte, Rasmus Kupari would add speed and skill to the Canucks lineup. Unlike Turcotte, though, Kupari has had some success at the NHL level already. Splitting his time between the parent club and the Reign, he has four goals and 23 points in 32 NHL games and five goals and eight points in 15 AHL games.
Kupari’s strengths lie in the offensive zone as his Finnish Liiga coach Mikko Manner once described him as being a mix of Sebastian Aho and Jesse Puljujarvi. That’s pretty high praise considering Aho has become one of the best Finnish forwards in the NHL with 172 goals and 381 points in 424 games. He also has never scored less than 24 goals since entering the league in 2016-17 as a 19-year-old. If Kupari can become even half of what Aho is right now, he would be a massive upgrade to the Canucks’ forward group in the future.
Another first-round pick of the Kings, this time from the 2018 Draft, Kupari has gained more confidence since his seven-game stint in the NHL during the 2020-21 season. He has also added another dimension to his game – physicality.
“I would say something that surprised me is he’s been more physical than I thought he usually would be,” linemate Trevor Moore said. “He hounds pucks, he’s a guy that can do a lot of different things, he’s not one-dimensional. He’s a guy that I definitely like playing with.”
The coaching staff has also started to trust him more and put him in all situations, including the penalty kill. He isn’t the top dog by any means, but averaging 28 seconds a night is pretty good for a young player still getting his feet wet in the NHL. It shows that he is versatile and capable of playing a variety of roles. Kupari has a lot of room to grow and could have the potential to be a solid top-six center/winger who can play the power play, penalty kill and score 20-25 goals. And he’s still only 22 years old.
Francesco Pinelli might require a bit more than just Garland, but if the Kings are willing to part with the 18-year-old Hamilton, ON native, the Canucks should do everything in their power to get a deal done. Surprisingly selected 42nd overall in the most recent 2021 Draft, they could right a massive wrong by acquiring him here. Picked immediately after they took Danila Klimovich 41st overall, Pinelli is a first-round talent covered in a second-round label (nothing against Klimovich and the package he possesses, I just think Pinelli has a higher ceiling than him).
Pinelli is an elite skater with excellent puck pursuit, work ethic and a high compete level. The 18-year-old can contribute on the power play and penalty kill, and projects to be a reliable two-way player in the NHLMike G. Morreale, NHL.com
In addition to his skating and work ethic, Pinelli also is great on the forecheck and isn’t afraid to throw his 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame into the fray when needed. Currently playing in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Kitchener Rangers, he has 19 goals and 52 points in 43 games, which is already a career-high from the 19 goals and 41 points he put up in 2019-20 when he played 59 games.
With how thin the Canucks are down the middle these days, Pinelli would shore that position up and become one of their top prospects almost immediately. His NHL debut might be a few seasons down the road, but the wait will certainly be worth it as he has the potential to be a solid top-six center that can play multiple roles and put up 60-70 points with an even number of goals and assists.
Garland Trade Needs to Yield Blue-Chip Prospects
In any Garland trade, Allvin and Rutherford need to get maximum value in return. Considering he is in the first year of a five-year contract, they should be in no rush to move him. If the Kings don’t want to give them what they want, they should walk away. There’s no shortage of suitors for his services, as rumors have indicated that the Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils and many others have expressed interest in the 26-year-old forward.
Whether it is skilled pivots like Turcotte, Kupari or Pinelli or high-end defence prospects like Helge Grans, Brock Faber or Sean Durzi, they need to get premium assets to start rebuilding a pipeline that has been left barren in recent years. Acquiring Dermott was hopefully just the first step in a retool that will transform the Canucks back into the contender fans have been waiting for over a decade to return to Rogers Arena.
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.