The Vancouver Canucks are in rough shape when it comes to the salary cap. They need to find a cheap, third-line center that can produce offence while still being defensively responsible. There is also the connection to Canucks coach Brad Shaw as he coached Ryan Getzlaf in the AHL. He checks all the boxes and is an unrestricted free agent this season. He is a player the Canucks should seriously consider signing.
The main argument against Getzlaf is age and injury history. He is 36 years old and missed some time last season with an upper-body injury, but his injuries weren’t severe and only caused him to miss single games most of the time. Getzlaf also plays a style that will wear down the body more often. He throws the body, is not afraid to fight, and still blocks shots. He is still worth the risk even if he misses a game here and there during the regular season.
Comparison to Sutter
In today’s NHL, the third line needs to create offence. That means your third-line center should have some offensive capabilities and be able to hold possession in the offensive zone. Last season, Getzlaf finished with 50 individual scoring chances while Brandon Sutter only had 30. He also had higher goals for percentage at 40% compared to Sutters 43.13. Lastly, Getzlaf finished last season with a .35 points per game compared to Sutter’s .28.
The argument is that Sutter plays a defensive role on the team, therefore, he is not given as many opportunities in the offensive end. While that is true, it is even more reason to pick Getzlaf over him to fill the third-line center role. You need a player who can get you 30-40 points a year in that third-line spot. Yes, it is good to have a shutdown player but sacrificing offence is not the way to build a third line. For that reason, if both players are willing to take cheaper contracts to play in Vancouver, you pick Getzlaf, who surpassed Sutter’s season-high point total in 2019-20.
This is the biggest question mark when it comes to Getzlaf. Can he be defensively responsible? The simple answer is yes. Although he has been a minus player the last few seasons, the main reason is that the Anaheim Ducks as a team have allowed the eight most goals against since 2018-19 while giving up the eight most shots per game. The team defensively has not been great, and his on-ice save percentage has been below 89% all three seasons.
When you dig into the analytics, however, it shows Getzlaf is still a good defender. His 46 blocked shots were the most by any forward on the Ducks and ranked him fourth overall. There were also times this season he played on the penalty kill. He has also not dropped below a 52% Corsi rating in his entire career and finished last season with a 54.6% CF. He has finished above 50% in categories such as Fenwick For percentage, shots for percentage, and scoring chance for percentage. The problem is the Ducks as an organization have struggled to keep the puck out of their own net.
Power Play Contributions
This is the main reason you bring Getzlaf in. Having a player that can perform on a second unit power play or even could be the passing options on a first unit will help bolster that finished 25th in the league last season. Also, having him on your second power play can help Travis Green because the coach will know he can rely upon his second unit more often. Last season, the first power-play unit would average over three and a half minutes per game while everyone except Tanner Pearson, who saw time on the first unit, finished below a minute and a half.
One added benefit to Getzlaf is it allows you to mix up power-play lines to create a second dynamic power-play unit. You finally have that passer on both lines that can set up teammates for chances. This could lead to a player like Miller or Boeser moving to the second unit and elevating players like Nils Höglander or Vasili Podkolzin to the first unit. Having two power-play units is crucial as if one is not producing, you have a viable second option that can still get on the scoresheet. The addition of Getzlaf allows you to have that second option.
Not Washed Up Yet
People may look at Getzlaf’s age and say stay away, but he can still produce at a third-line level. He would make this team better while providing value if brought in on a cheap one-year deal. He still has some gas left in the tank and could bring life back into a third line that desperately needs it.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.