While the Vancouver Canucks appear to be done shopping on the bare shelves of the premium free agent market, there is still a dollar store full of bargain bin options they could consider either for an NHL contract or a professional try-out (PTO) ahead of training camp. Here are three players general manager Patrik Allvin should be targeting.
Calvin de Haan
Of the three players mentioned here, Calvin de Haan is the only one that has been directly connected to the Canucks as Irfaan Gaffar, reported on Aug. 10’s episode of The People’s Show on Sportsnet 650 that the team has had some talks with his camp. He has spent the last three seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks where he scored six goals and 24 points in 142 games along with 330 blocked shots and 338 hits.
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While de Haan is a left-handed defender, he has been known to play both sides effectively and could be a good addition to a defence corps that needs more snarl apart from Luke Schenn and Kyle Burroughs. Selected 12th overall by the New York Islanders back in 2009, he has always been known for his physicality and propensity to block shots – hitting the century mark in both six times in his career. Going into the 2022-23 season, he has 19 goals and 119 points in 520 games along with 1,123 blocked shots and 1,093 hits.
As you can probably tell by the numbers, de Haan is not an offensive defenceman, but rather a physical, no-nonsense blueliner who kills penalties, blocks shots and plays well defensively. Basically, he’s the kind of player the Canucks haven’t had since they let Chris Tanev walk in free agency and eventually join the Calgary Flames. All in all, if the money and term fit, he’s someone they could use alongside Hughes or Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the top four.
Similar to de Haan, although not as big or physical, Kris Russell can still skate and block a ton of shots. Currently the all-time leader in that stat with 2,044 blocks, he hasn’t met a puck he doesn’t like to throw his body in front of. Now 35 years old, the former Medicine Hat Tiger star has hit the century mark in shot blocks eight times in his career and five of those were in the 200-300 range. He has also received votes for the Lady Byng Trophy, finishing in the top 30 in 2015-16 and the top 40 in 2017-18.
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Known more for his offensive exploits in junior, the undersized Russell established himself in the NHL as a reliable two-way defenceman who was an effective penalty killer and shot blocker. His offensive game has shone through at times during his NHL career – most notably during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons when he had 29 and 34-point campaigns respectively – but looking back on his time in the NHL now, his name is synonymous with blocking shots, not putting up points.
In the Canucks’ case, they could use a shot-blocking dynamo like Russell in 2022-23 to help prop up a bad penalty kill and fill in for Tucker Poolman who is still battling the migraines that eventually ended his 2021-22 season (from ‘Canucks’ Tucker Poolman ‘training, skating’ as migraines still a concern’ The Province, 8/18/22). Yes, he on the older side, but that means he won’t be demanding a long-term deal worth a lot of money. In fact, they could just invite him to training camp and see what happens. Who knows? He could end up being an underrated addition from the Edmonton Oilers like Alex Chiasson was last year.
Surprisingly, Tyler Motte has not signed with anyone after spending parts of the 2021-22 season with the Canucks and the New York Rangers after Allvin traded him there at the trade deadline. Eventually moved to the Big Apple because they couldn’t find common ground on a contract extension, it’s not out of the question that they could revisit those talks as training camp and the preseason approaches. The latest report has him negotiating with upwards of five teams for his services. It’s unclear if the Canucks are one of them, but considering his success in Vancouver and the fact that he and his family love the city and the team, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in the blue and green on opening night in October.
Acquired by the Canucks in 2018 from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Thomas Vanek, Motte gradually endeared himself to the coaching staff and the fan base with his speed, hard-working play style, and tremendous penalty-killing abilities. Last season, he helped form one of the best fourth lines in the NHL alongside Juho Lammikko and Matthew Highmore (both of who have since left the team). Now, he could be the missing piece to a much-stronger duo on paper with the likes of Lazar and Joshua. Not to mention strengthen the team’s penalty killing alongside Lazar or Bo Horvat. If he can be signed to a short-term deal between $1 and 2 million in average annual value (AAV), then the team will be that much stronger for it.
For the Canucks To Add, They Will Have to Subtract
Unfortunately, with the Canucks so close to the salary cap and the uncertainty surrounding J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat’s contract extensions, they cannot add any more high-priced, long-term deals to their payroll. That likely means free agents like Evan Rodrigues (who has been mentioned by Rick Dhaliwal) and Sonny Milano are off the table as potential additions. That is until they find a way to shed salary with a trade involving Jason Dickinson, Tanner Pearson or Tucker Poolman or the more unlikely event of moving on from high-salary players like Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers.
Related: Canucks’ Potential 2022-23 Opening Night Lineup
Regardless, Allvin and his staff will have their work cut out for them to upgrade anymore of their lineup ahead of the 2022-23 season. Having said that, stranger things have happened. We will just have to wait and see what they have up their sleeve over the next month or so.