The Vancouver Canucks have a few roster spots they will need to fill and improve heading into the 2021-22 season.
One position that needs quite a bit of help is the right side of the team’s blueline. Most of the Canucks’ defence can be re-worked aside from Quinn Hughes and other younger defenders, who still have to show what they can do for the club in Jack Rathbone and Olli Juolevi. On the right side, veteran defenceman Tyler Myers is the only lock for next season unless the team chooses not to protect him in the Seattle Expansion Draft, and the Canucks will likely have to provide depth behind him. Additionally, there have been rumours of a potential Nate Schmidt trade after his somewhat disappointing first season with the team, as he was expected to be a two-way player all season long (from ‘Canucks shopping list: That gaping hole on the blue-line,’ The Province, May 31, 2021).
The club does have options in trading for an elite right-handed defenceman in Seth Jones, but the price will be somewhat high. They could also attempt to draft a right-handed defenceman at ninth overall, but the likeliness of a player from the 2021 Draft being ready to play in the NHL next season is low. Therefore, the best option the club has in finding a right-handed defenceman is through free agency.
Brandon Montour would be one of the top options for general manager Jim Benning and the Canucks this offseason. The 27-year-old wrapped up his fifth NHL season with the Florida Panthers after splitting the previous six seasons with the Buffalo Sabres and the Anaheim Ducks. Aside from his first season in the NHL, he has scored five or more goals in the other four seasons in the NHL. Additionally, he has either posted 30+ points in an 82 game season or has been on pace to reach the mark. Throughout his career, he has 20:34 minutes of average time on ice (ATOI).
He’s also made three postseason appearances in his career. With the Ducks, he posted eight points in 21 games over two separate appearances. In his first appearance, he had a 19:11 ATOI through 17 games. The following season, he had 25:52 ATOI through four games. With the Panthers this offseason, he was unable to post a single point through six games. He tacked on 17:06 ATOI as well.
Throughout his five seasons in the NHL, he has shown he can be a reliable defenceman. Montour can eat up quite a bit of ice time and help pinch in offensively. He is coming off of a one-year $3.850 million deal with the Sabres. If the Canucks do decide to sign him, a contract at a similar price point would work.
Montour is the most expensive defenceman on this list and the only one who could play top-four minutes. Luke Schenn is a veteran defenceman who has played in 13 NHL seasons with seven different teams, including a short 18 game stint in 2018-19 with the Canucks. He has played in 797 games, posting 33 goals and 152 points.
After winning a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019-20 season, Schenn re-signed with the club at one year, $700,000 deal. He posted one goal and three points in 25 games with the club last season and added two points in 11 playoff games. This season, he played in 38 games, scoring two goals and four points while shuffling between the active roster and taxi squad. So far, he’s played in six playoff games.
During Schenn’s time in Tampa, he has played 12:27 ATOI in 2019-20 and 10:45 in 2020-21. He hasn’t played much with the club, becoming a depth defenceman, but if he signs in Vancouver, he’d likely be a staple on the team’s third defence pairing. In his short stint with the Canucks in 2018-19, he provided a physical presence as a third pairing d-man, finishing the season with 81 hits and blocking 31 shots.
He decided to leave the club in free agency due to the opportunity to win a Cup with the Lightning. Now that he has accomplished that goal last season and potentially adding another this season, he could return to Vancouver and earn a bigger role with the club. Additionally, he’d come with a cheap price tag for the Canucks.
Similar to Schenn, Cody Ceci would be a bottom pairing defender if he signs with the Canucks. After six seasons with the Ottawa Senators and one season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ceci joined the Pittsburgh Penguins this past season. After struggling with the Maple Leafs in the 2019-20 season, he improved with the Penguins in a third-pairing role.
He signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal with Toronto, and he posted one goal, eight points, plus-8 and 20:32 ATOI. In the offseason, the Penguins signed him to a one-year, $1.250 million deal while posting four goals, 17 points, plus-18 and 18:31 ATOI. Ceci played better in a limited role with the Penguins.
If the Canucks signed him to a similar deal Ceci had with the Penguins, he’d be a good addition for the club’s blue line, especially if he produces in a similar way.
Canucks Need Help on Right Side
The Canucks will need to add to the right side of their blueline. Montour is the ideal player to add but will likely come with a higher cap hit than the other two options. As for Schenn, he is a physical veteran defenceman and is the cheapest option of the three but is also on the wrong side of 30. Lastly, Ceci had a good season in Pittsburgh, but he’ll need to play just as well if he joins the Canucks next season.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.