Since Jim Rutherford became president of hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks, the rumour mill has been kicked into high gear. Specifically ones about trading key pieces like J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser and surprisingly, new acquisition Conor Garland.
Whenever a new leadership group comes into the front office, everyone assumes major changes are on the horizon. Well, I’m here to tell you, that’s not going to happen – at least not at the trade deadline. Here are three reasons why.
Canucks Are Entering a Retool, Not a Rebuild
By trading players like Miller, Boeser and Garland, that signals to the fanbase and the core in the locker room that a rebuild is about to begin. Before Elias Pettersson signed his extension, he expressed his desire to win and be on a team that makes the playoffs every year.
“I want to stay (in Vancouver) now, but I also want to play for a team that’s winning and has the chance to go far into the playoffs every year,” Pettersson said in Swedish as translated by Bodin.
“I feel like we’ve got a chance to do that next year. If we have that chance when my next deal expires … I don’t know. I just want to play where there’s a chance of winning.”
If the Canucks go into a rebuild, I’m sure that will upset not only him but captain Bo Horvat as well, who has become frustrated with losing and missing the playoffs. While Pettersson is still only 23 years old, Horvat will be 27 in April, which is firmly in his athletic prime. I don’t think he would want to suffer through another five-year rebuild. As it is, he has only made the dance twice in his career. I’m sure he would like to get a few more kicks at the can before he hits the big 3-0.
Fortunately, Rutherford seems to understand the need to become a contender sooner rather than later. Speaking on the Bob McCown podcast, he stated that the Canucks were not far from becoming a competitive team year in and year out.
“We’re certainly not starting from scratch. There’s a lot of good players there,” said Rutherford before dismissing the idea of a full-blown rebuild.
“If you look at the teams that did a total rebuild, it’s nice to see those teams doing well now but everybody forgets about the four or five years they had to go through of tough years to get there,” he said. “I would like to think, with the players we have, that this team can be retooled.”
So, there you have it, right from the horse’s mouth. The Canucks are not going to rebuild, but retool. That suggests to me that he will not be trading core pieces like Miller, Boeser and Garland. Unless he thinks they are not part of his core. If that’s the case, all theories are out the window.
Canucks Are In No Rush To Trade Players Like Miller and Garland
If Rutherford and recently appointed general manager Patrik Allvin decide to trade Miller, Garland or Boeser, they will not feel pressured to do it at the upcoming trade deadline. Unless a team offers them an extravagant package that they cannot refuse, then they will wait until the draft or offseason to explore those options.
Related: Canucks Shouldn’t Trade J.T. Miller
NHL insider Elliotte Friedman has also floated the idea that the Canucks will attempt to re-sign Miller instead of trading him. That’s why Garland and Boeser’s names have surfaced in trade rumours. Rutherford and Allvin want to create cap space to accommodate his potentially large contract. If that is the thought process, then there’s really no rush to trade him right now. Miller has one more year on his contract, which means they can negotiate an extension in the summer, during the 2022-23 season or even next offseason.
The trade deadline might be an ideal time to trade Miller, Garland or Boeser, but that doesn’t mean it is the most strategic time to do it. During the offseason, all 31 teams will be open for business when it comes to acquiring talent like those three players. At the deadline, it will likely only be the buyers, which restricts a lot of teams from entering the discussion. Cap space is also more plentiful in the offseason as players become free agents.
Canucks Will Likely Be In the Playoff Race
It’s hard to predict where the Canucks will be in the standings on Mar. 21. Right now, they are six points back of the Calgary Flames, who hold the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference. Though, it might as well be 14 with the four games in hand the Flames have on them. That may seem like a lot, but stranger things have happened. If they can win the majority of their previously postponed home games and get some luck, they might be close to the playoffs when the deadline rolls around.
If that’s the case, Rutherford and Allvin probably won’t want to gut their roster by trading guys like Miller, Garland or Boeser. Rutherford has said in the past that he would ideally like to give this group a chance to make the playoffs. If they are on the cusp of that, I don’t foresee any major roster-changing moves happening at the deadline.
Canucks Could Still Be Active, But No Blockbusters
If the Canucks end up becoming sellers at the deadline, teams will undoubtedly ramp up their efforts to acquire someone of significance from them. Be it Miller, Boeser or Garland, Stanley Cup contenders will put their best foot forward when it comes to enticing Rutherford and Allvin to part with one of them. Though, for a trade to ultimately be made, teams will have to pony up the assets to get a deal done. Rutherford is not Jim Benning after all. He will get value for his players. In other words, don’t expect any blockbusters.
What is more likely are deals involving players like Tyler Motte, Tanner Pearson, Jaroslav Halak or Alex Chiasson. Trades that don’t necessarily fall under the category of a blockbuster. Rarely, hockey deals are made at the deadline. It’s usually rental players for draft picks and prospects. As much as we want to see some fireworks from Rutherford and Allvin, they will likely be relatively quiet when the end of March comes around. If anything, it will be small deals for more selections in this year’s draft. Just don’t expect that big Miller trade any time soon.
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.