The New York Islanders struck out hard on Johnny Gaudreau when he decided to sign a massive 7-year contract worth $9.5 million average annual value (AAV) with their division rival Columbus Blue Jackets instead of them. Now general manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello is left scrambling to recover from his latest swing and a miss after whiffing on Artemi Panarin and John Tavares in previous seasons. That’s where Vancouver Canucks GM Patrik Allvin could come in and provide a Plan B of sorts using speedy winger Conor Garland as the centrepiece.
Albeit not as flashy as Gaudreau, Garland could still add offence and a dynamic presence to a team that desperately needs to return to some high-flying hockey, and away from the defence-first system employed by former head coach Barry Trotz. While Garland most definitely won’t put up 100 points, he might be a good fit beside Mathew Barzal with his speed, tenacity and never-say-die attitude in the corners. His cap hit is also not in the realm of $10 million, which is what Lamoriello was prepared to spend on Gaudreau.
As for the Canucks, they are in the business of clearing cap space and Garland appears to have more interest in the trade market than J.T. Miller at this point. Considering Allvin and Lamoriello had a meeting that never amounted to anything on the 2022 Draft floor regarding Miller, maybe Lamoriello would be willing to talk about Garland, who is under team control until 2025-26 for a budget-friendly $4.95 million AAV.
With all that said, let’s take a look at three players the Canucks might be interested in should Allvin and Lamoriello renew acquaintances again this offseason.
Scott Mayfield, Right Defence
Coming in at a massive 6-foot-5, 223 pounds, Scott Mayfield is a mountain of a defenceman that combines size and physicality in a package that is very difficult to play against. Of the right-handed variety, he could be a great partner for Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Quinn Hughes, giving the Canucks two big, physical blueliners patrolling the right side of the ice. While not as prominent in the hit department as Luke Schenn, who led everyone on the team with 273, he still came in at a decent 77 and has eclipsed the century mark once in his career back in 2018-19. So, it’s not like he’s averse to throwing the body around. He also excels at blocking shots with three straight seasons of preventing 100 pucks or more from getting to his goaltender.
The only downside to Mayfield is his lack of mobility. Similar to Schenn, he can get beat wide and struggles to get back into position when caught pinching down the boards. At 29 years old, he also doesn’t fit within the description of a “young defenceman”, which is what Allvin and Jim Rutherford have been preaching as their ideal targets since taking over the team (from ‘What we’re hearing about the Canucks’ priorities 17 days out from the NHL trade deadline,’ The Athletic, March 4, 2021). However, despite his age, he still fills the needs of size and sandpaper, so maybe Allvin can convince Lamoriello to throw in a draft pick to offset the fact that he’s trading away a 29-year-old for a 26-year-old?
Noah Dobson, Right Defence
Allvin could possibly ask for more in a trade package involving Mayfield, but definitely not Noah Dobson. Likely the primary piece in the Miller deal discussed by Lamoriello and Allvin on the draft floor, the latter’s insistence that he needed to be involved might have been the reason it fell apart in the end. Now, if that was the case, approaching him using Garland as the bait would definitely be a non-starter. As such, this proposal could be dead on arrival.
However, Allvin should not give up so easily as Dobson would be a massive addition to the Canucks defence corps that already includes an offensive dynamo in Hughes. The former 12th overall pick in 2018 broke out in a big way last season with a career-high 13 goals and 51 points in 80 games and is on the cusp of joining the club of elite young defencemen that have emerged in recent years. That fact alone might make Lamoriello hesitant to include him in a trade involving someone over 25 years old. Having said that, he did part ways with Devon Toews for just two second-round picks, so I guess you never know what could happen when you’re dealing with the long-time New Jersey Devils executive.
Unfortunately, Lamoriello probably learned his lesson already, especially when you consider how great Toews has been with the Colorado Avalanche since then. If the Canucks want to pry Dobson away from the Islanders’ grasp, they probably will have to sweeten the pot with a pick or prospect, which is not ideal.
Anthony Beauvillier, Left Wing/Right Wing
The only forward of this trio is 25-year-old Anthony Beauvillier, who was ninth on Frank Seravalli’s most recent trade targets list on Daily Faceoff. Known for his speed and offensive creativity, it appeared he was on the path to greatness after his 21-goal sophomore campaign, but has since plateaued with four-straight seasons recording 18 or fewer. That said, he has hit double digits in all but one of his seasons in the NHL, which is still impressive. Unfortunately, when you’re getting paid over $4 million to score goals and end up hitting less than 20 every season, criticism will come for you.
Although, maybe Beauvillier is just a player like Mike Peca, someone who puts up decent numbers in the regular season but explodes in the playoffs? Just look at these numbers, 93 goals and 189 points in 408 regular season games versus 15 goals and 29 points in 49 playoff games. During the 2020 Playoffs alone, he put up nine goals in 22 games after only posting 18 in 68. Clearly, he comes to play at the biggest time of the year.
With the Canucks wanting to return to the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup, they will need players like Beauvillier in the lineup. No, he doesn’t provide much cap relief over Garland, but he is a year younger and his contract ends much sooner in 2023-24 rather than 2025-26. If it doesn’t work out, they can just trade him before free agency hits or sign him to a more budget-friendly deal – all while he’s still under 30 years old.
More Changes Are Coming For the Canucks This Offseason
The Canucks are still going to be busy this offseason trying to improve their team, even after signing a couple of forwards in free agency. With Miller generating less and less interest in the trade market, Allvin will have to turn to trade bait like Garland or Ekman-Larsson to get more of what he needs to make his team a contender again. Since Lamoriello might be desperate to do something substantial after losing out on Gaudreau, maybe Allvin can take advantage of the situation and check some major boxes off his to-do list in the process.