Canucks Have Natural Trade Partner in the Pittsburgh Penguins

The search is over. The Vancouver Canucks have a new general manager (GM) in Patrik Allvin, formally of the Pittsburgh Penguins. With his hiring, they now have three former Penguins executives in their ranks. He joins Jim Rutherford and Derek Clancey, two people he worked with closely in Pittsburgh.

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Allvin and Clancey both spent over 15 years with the Penguins in amateur and pro scouting roles respectively, so it’s only natural that they would be familiar with the organization and the players within it. That’s why I would not be surprised to see the Penguins as one of the first trade partners for the newly minted GM and assistant general manager (AGM). With that said, let’s take a look at a few targets they could be looking at should they go down the path of familiarity.

Roster Players

John Marino (Right Defence)

With the Canucks needing more depth on the right side of their defence, John Marino would fit the bill as a good target. Acquired by Rutherford in 2019 from the Edmonton Oilers for a conditional sixth-round pick, he has developed into a solid two-way defenceman that can chip in a decent amount of offence from the back end. Hailing from North Eastern, Massachusetts and Harvard University, he impressed almost immediately when he scored six goals and 26 points in 56 games during his rookie season in the NHL.

John Marino Pittsburgh Penguins
John Marino, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since then, he has become an integral part of the Penguins’ defence averaging over 20 minutes a night while playing in all situations. Recently signed to a six-year contract worth $4.4 million in average annual value (AAV), the Canucks would have to dump some salary to acquire him. Depending on how much Ron Hextall and Brian Burke value him, it might also require them to give up something along the lines of a first-round pick as well, which would likely be a non-starter for Allvin. Though, if he can somehow convince them to part with him for a package of other picks, roster players or mid-range prospects, then he should definitely look into bringing him from his former employer to his new one.

Kasperi Kapanen (Right Wing)

Kasperi Kapanen has a long history with Rutherford and Allvin. He was Allvin’s first draft pick as director of amateur scouting back in 2014 and was a chip in two trades with Rutherford. First, he was the primary asset in the Phil Kessel trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015 and then was reacquired in 2020 for Evan Rodrigues, David Warsofsky and Filip Hallander. Interestingly enough, Rodrigues and Hallander are now back with the Penguins after the former was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres and the latter was acquired in the deal that sent Jared McCann to the Maple Leafs before the Seattle expansion draft.

Kasperi Kapanen Pittsburgh Penguins
Kasperi Kapanen, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kapanen is clearly a favourite of both Allvin and Rutherford, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they would covet him again. He is a former 20 goal scorer, legitimate top-six winger and threat on the power play. He is also only 25 years old and falls into the player category Rutherford is trying to add more of. Since his production has been down in the last couple of seasons, the cost might be manageable. As long as it doesn’t require a first-round pick, he’s a player the Canucks should consider adding to the fold.

Teddy Blueger (Center)

Before we get to the more realistic prospect targets, let’s take a look at center Teddy Blueger. Recently added to the injury list because of a fractured jaw that will keep him out 6-8 weeks, the reliable two-way speedster is exactly what the Canucks need in their bottom-six right now. Without Brandon Sutter, they have struggled both at faceoffs and on the penalty kill. Bo Horvat has been stressed to the max when it comes to taking draws and we all know the plight of the penalty kill that currently sits dead last at 67.8 percent.

Teddy Blueger Pittsburgh Penguins
Teddy Blueger, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Jason Dickinson was supposed to help the bottom six and penalty kill when he was acquired from the Dallas Stars in the offseason. That hasn’t happened so far as he’s struggled in the faceoff dot (43.7 percent) and has been less than stellar as a member of the penalty-killing unit. Juho Lammikko has done a bang-up job joining forces with Matthew Highmore and Tyler Motte, but they could use more offensive pop in the bottom six regardless.

Related: Vancouver Canucks 2021-22 Midseason Awards

Enter Blueger. When he’s healthy, he’s one of the best third/fourth line centers and penalty killers in the NHL. He has also improved his faceoff numbers from sub 45 percent to an impressive 54.8 percent. Oh, yes, the Latvian can score too, as he has eight goals and 17 points in 40 games this season already.


Lukas Svejkovsky (Center)

Selected 108th overall by the Penguins in the 2020 Draft, Lukas Svejkovsky is the type of talent Allvin and Rutherford want to add more of. Described by Allvin as a fast skater with great skill and hockey sense, he definitely fits with the mandate of becoming a fast, uptempo team that is exciting to watch. He is also a center and a right-hand shot, two things the Canucks woefully lack in their prospect pool.

Recently dealt to the Seattle Thunderbirds after parts of four seasons with the Vancouver Giants and Medicine Hat Tigers, Svejkovsky has 52 goals and 118 points in 166 career games. Before joining the Thunderbirds, he had 13 goals and 30 points in 24 games. He currently has two assists in three games with his new team. Being a fourth-round pick, he probably won’t cost too much to acquire and considering he was Allvin and Rutherford’s pick, Burke and Hextall might not be too attached to him as a prospect.

Josh Maniscalco (Right Defence)

Keeping with the theme of improving the Canucks depth on the right side, Josh Maniscalco could be a prospect worth looking at. Recently a graduate of Arizona State University where he put up an impressive 15 goals and 52 points in 71 games, Rutherford took a flyer on the mobile defenceman when he signed him to a three-year entry-level contract back in 2020. Lauded for his character and affinity to jump into the play, he could be a cheap option to trade for.

Josh is a solid puck-moving, offensive defenseman…He jumps into the rush and plays a style that is complementary to our group. We think highly of his character and are happy to add Josh to the organization.

Jim Rutherford (from ‘Penguins Add Puck-Moving D-Prospect Maniscalco, PGH Hockey | Now, 8/21/20)

After signing with the Penguins, Maniscalco turned pro with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins where he went pointless in eight games. This season he has played mostly in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers where he has eight goals and 24 points in 30 games. Despite not hitting the John Marino bar of success, he is still a legitimate prospect capable of becoming a consistent contributor in the NHL.

Praised by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach J.D. Forrest for his good attitude in the face of multiple healthy scratches during his rookie season, he definitely has the work ethic and skill to one day succeed at the highest level. “He’s been great,” Forrest said. “He’s had a really good attitude. It’s not easy when you’re starting to play pro…He’s paying attention to particular players in our games and trying to learn from watching. I’m sure when he gets an opportunity, he’ll step in and be just fine…”

Maniscalco’s success at the ECHL level will probably bring him back to the AHL at some point. With Rutherford and Allvin’s familiarity with the 22-year-old, he might end up doing it with the Abbotsford Canucks instead of the Penguins.

Filip Hallander (Center)

Finally, there’s Filip Hallander, a prospect the Penguins traded away to the Maple Leafs then reacquired a few years later. A former second-round pick of the Penguins back in 2018, he recently turned pro in the AHL where he has four goals and 10 points in 29 games. Compared favourably to former Penguin Patric Hornqvist, his work ethic and willingness to go into the dirty areas were two things that drew Allvin to the 6-foot-1 winger. His production during his draft year was also impressive as he scored nine goals and 20 points in 40 games with Timra IK of the HockeyAllsvenskan.

After going pointless at the 2019 World Juniors, Hallander spent three seasons in the SHL with Timra IK and Lulea HF where he accumulated 25 goals and 59 points in 123 games, including a career-high 13 goals and 24 points in 51 games in 2020-21. He also played for Sweden at the World Championship where he had an assist in five games.

Related: Canucks Have an Eye for the Swedes

In addition to his work ethic and strong character, Hallander has also been described as a player with a lot of skill and playmaking abilities. Like Hornqvist, his skating isn’t something to write home about, but as Hornqvist has proven to the NHL in the past, skating isn’t everything. His 259 career goals have certainly made that point abundantly clear.

Again, it seems like Allvin likes Hallander since he was involved in his selection at the draft and was probably part of the discussion when he was reacquired this past summer. Maybe he can convince the Penguins to part with him for a later-round draft pick or underachieving prospect from the Canucks’ pipeline?

What Types Of Changes Are Coming For the Canucks?

As Rutherford said in his press conference introducing Allvin, there are some big decisions coming up. It remains to be seen if those decisions involve trading big names like J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, Tyler Myers or Jaroslav Halak, but it’s clear deals are coming soon. The roster players of Marino and Kapanen might require a name like that to get something done if they don’t want a first-round pick to be involved. Prospects are probably going to be assets of choice when it comes to teams like the Penguins. They aren’t likely to trade big pieces away unless they fall drastically out of the playoffs, which seems like an impossibility at this point.

General manager Jim Rutherford Pittsburgh Penguins 2019 NHL Draft
General manager Jim Rutherford of the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2019 NHL Draft (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

So, will Allvin use his expertise and familiarity with the Penguins’ prospect pipeline to his advantage? We will just have to wait and see.