This past offseason saw a lot of roster upheaval for the Vancouver Canucks as a total of ten players saw a change of address due to a trade, free agent signing or waiver pickup. So, as we wait anxiously for the 2021-22 season to resume, it’s time to take a look at how those players are doing with their new teams.
Alex Edler – Signed With the Los Angeles Kings
After over a decade in a Canucks uniform, Alex Edler decided to take his skills to Hollywood and the Los Angeles Kings when he became a free agent on July 28. So far, he’s shown no signs of slowing down as he is averaging 18:26 of ice time and 1:36 per game on the penalty kill. He isn’t relied upon to kill penalties as much as he was in Vancouver, but he’s still putting in a fair amount of time shorthanded.
Edler’s offensive game has regressed a lot since his prime years when he was putting up over 30 points a season, but he seems to have reignited some of his past magic with the Kings. He has already surpassed his totals from last season and is projected to record over 30 points for the first time since the 2019-20 season when he finished with 33 points in 59 games. Suffice it to say, I don’t think The Eagle’s career is done just yet.
Braden Holtby – Signed With the Dallas Stars
Seasons from now, Braden Holtby will be the subject of a “Forgotten Canucks” piece because of his short 21-game stint with the team. Before Jaroslav Halak was Thatcher Demko’s veteran mentor, he held that mantle after signing a two-year deal with the Canucks at the beginning of free agency in 2020.
Holtby went on to play a rather uninspiring season with the Canucks that culminated with a compliance buyout on July 27, 2021, just a day before free agency. He ended up recording a career-worst 3.67 goals-against average (GAA) and .889 save percentage (SV%) in 21 starts. The former Stanley Cup winner wasn’t out of work for long as the Dallas Stars came calling the next day, signing him to a one-year contract worth $2 million in average annual value (AAV).
As part of a 1A/1B tandem with Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger, Holtby has turned his career around a bit with the Stars. In 15 games this season, he has a 2.44 GAA and .922 SV% – numbers he hasn’t seen since he won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2016-17. May be all he needed was a team in front of him that could play defence?
Loui Eriksson – Traded to the Arizona Coyotes
Ever since his first game with the Canucks where he put the puck into his own net, Loui Eriksson’s career has fallen off a cliff. With only 38 goals in 277 games since he signed the massive $36 million contract on July 1, 2016, he has been a far cry from the 30-goal man he was back in Boston during the 2015-16 season. He just broke a 39-game goalless streak with a shorthanded marker against the New York Rangers on Dec. 15 and has not scored more than 11 goals since that career year with the Bruins.
After a strong preseason that saw Eriksson score three goals in four games, there was hope amongst Coyotes’ fans that he could translate that production to the regular season. No such luck, as he only has one goal and five points in 26 games so far. He is also seeing minimal ice time 5-on-5, where he averages only 11:32 per game. The only value he brings is on the penalty kill, and that doesn’t seem to be moving the needle much either as the Coyotes rank 29th in that category. Needless to say, a change of scenery has not turned out to be the medicine he needed to turn his career around.
Jay Beagle – Traded to the Arizona Coyotes
Jay Beagle has been just as effective for the Coyotes as he was for the Canucks. He kills penalties, wins faceoffs and provides veteran leadership in the dressing room. At $1 million or so cheaper, he would be the perfect fourth-line center. His cap hit is why he is playing in the desert right now instead of on the West Coast.
Beagle was a valuable member of the Canucks’ bottom-six and an integral part of the penalty kill for three seasons. With how much they have struggled in that department this season, they probably wish he was still there. Too bad he wasn’t more of a goal scorer. Then that $3 million cap hit could be justified. As it is, he only has one goal in 21 games this season and has not hit double digits since the 2016-17 season when he was with the Capitals.
Antoine Roussel – Traded to the Arizona Coyotes
Yet another overpriced bottom-six player, but effective in his role is Antoine Roussel. Like Conor Garland, he knows how to get under the skin of his opponents. He is just not as shifty or dynamic offensively. That, unfortunately, limits his value. He does have three goals in 25 games this season, but he has yet to recapture the form he had when he was a member of the Dallas Stars in 2016-17. Back then, he was good for at least 10 goals and 25 points, along with his usual physicality and “burr in the saddle” qualities he has right now.
Roussel was a fan favourite with the Canucks and Stars because of his personality and overall game. He’s doing the same thing with the Coyotes, just without the production. At a $3 million cap hit, that’s a key part of the equation. Again, just like Beagle, that’s why he’s not wearing the Orca anymore.
Jimmy Vesey – Signed With the New Jersey Devils
Claimed off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Mar. 17, 2021, Jimmy Vesey just couldn’t get anything going with the Canucks last season. Playing mostly in the bottom six and occasionally on the power play, he could only muster three assists in 20 games before ultimately being cut loose by the team in the offseason.
Vesey couldn’t snag a contract in free agency, so he accepted a professional tryout contract (PTO) with the New Jersey Devils at the beginning of training camp. He impressed the brass enough to parlay that into a one-year deal that is going well for him so far. With five goals and eight points in 30 games, he is on pace to shatter his totals from last season.
Olli Juolevi – Traded to the Florida Panthers
The much-discussed and debated Olli Juolevi was traded by the Canucks to the Florida Panthers for Noah Juulsen and Juho Lammikko just before the 2021-22 season began. Still only 23 years old, he has yet to establish himself as a regular everyday defenceman in the NHL. Now, instead of being a failed draft pick in Vancouver, he gets a fresh start in Florida on a team that is bursting with potential.
Unfortunately, it took until Dec. 10 before Juolevi could get his first game in as a member of the Panthers. The oft-injured defenceman had an undisclosed injury that kept him out of the lineup for the first 25 games of the season and is still getting up to speed with his new team. Since his return, he is pointless in four games and has only seen an average of 10:17 in ice time.
Zack MacEwen – Claimed Off Waivers By the Philadelphia Flyers
A fan favourite throughout his time with the Canucks because of his work ethic and toughness, Zack MacEwen was placed on waivers at the beginning of the season in order to keep Jacob Dowling and Alex Chiasson. In hindsight, he probably would have been a more effective forward on the fourth line with Lammikko and Tyler Motte instead of Chiasson, but, as everyone knows, hindsight is always 20/20.
MacEwen was claimed by the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 13 and has been a regular in their lineup ever since his debut on Oct. 20 against the Boston Bruins. He is seeing less than 10 minutes a game on a fourth line with Patrick Brown and Oskar Lindblom and has dropped the gloves three times already. As of this writing, he has a goal and two points in 27 games.
Jonah Gadjovich – Claimed Off Waivers By the San Jose Sharks
Another tough guy the Canucks lost on waivers this season was the promising Jonah Gadjovich. After a breakout season in the American Hockey League (AHL) that saw him score 15 goals in 19 games for the Utica Comets, everyone was excited to see what he could do at the NHL level in 2021-22. He had a relatively solid training camp, but then-head coach Travis Green thought he didn’t do enough to earn a spot. So they tried to sneak him down to the Abbotsford Canucks.
That, of course, backfired because the San Jose Sharks ended up claiming him on waivers. He has now played 17 games for his new team and, like MacEwen, is seeing limited ice time on the fourth line. He is being his usual physical self with 43 hits, which is fourth on the team behind Rudolfs Balcers, Timo Meier and Mario Ferraro. To put that in perspective, they have all played at least six more games than him. He has yet to score a goal though, as he only has one assist so far.
Nate Schmidt – Traded to the Winnipeg Jets
Finally, we have Nate Schmidt, another one and done Canuck. Acquired to shore up the defence for the 2020-21 season, he never really seemed comfortable playing in Green and Nolan Baumgartner’s system. He finished the campaign with his worst point totals since the 2014-15 season and was a minus for only the second time in his career.
Now with the Winnipeg Jets after another trade in the offseason, Schmidt appears to have returned to his glory days. He already has more points than last season with 17 in 29 games and he’s formed an effective partnership with fellow newcomer Brenden Dillon. He has also become an advanced stats darling with a career-best 55.5 Corsi-for percentage (CF%). Basically, he’s playing like the defenceman the Canucks thought they were getting when they acquired him from the Golden Knights.
Canucks Lost Some Good Pieces in the Offseason
With how the Canucks are playing under Bruce Boudreau right now, they could use defencemen like Schmidt and Edler on their blue line right now. Of the ten players they lost this offseason, those two hurt the most. Schmidt thrives on the rush and Edler has shown that he’s still effective at 35 years old. Heck, he’s still putting up a decent amount of points. I’m pretty sure Boudreau’s system would have been perfect for their skillsets.
But, what’s done is done and the Canucks need to move forward with what they have. Newly-minted president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford is probably already hard at work trying to figure out ways to improve this defence core moving forward. Despite the solid performances of Tucker Poolman and Tyler Myers, they still need more skill on the right side. Preferably on the younger end of the spectrum, as they don’t have much in the way of prospect depth in that department.
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In the end, they probably won’t go very far with the defence core they have right now. Boudreau needs more to work with, and it’s Rutherford and the yet-to-be-named general manager’s job to fix the mistakes Jim Benning made in the offseason and replace what Edler and Schmidt brought to the lineup.
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Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer 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.
Matthew also co-hosts The Hockey Writers Prospect Corner on YouTube.