The Vancouver Canucks are off to a disappointing start in the 2021-22 season. The Canucks have posted a 6-11-2 record through the first 19 games of the season. As a result, the team’s owners are looking to make changes if the team continues to slip. The owners held two meetings last week, one between the Aquilinii family and another with general manager Jim Benning.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman noted there is a feeling around the team that something will happen, either a firing or a trade of some kind. Due to the rumblings around the club, multiple teams are contacting the Canucks and discussing potential trades for some of the team’s top players. The Minnesota Wild are one of the team’s who have contacted the Canucks, specifically about J.T. Miller, as reported by The Provinces’ Ben Kuzma (from ‘Canuck J.T. Miller’s time might be on the line amid Wild interest,’ The Province, November 23, 2021).
If the Canucks decide to act on the trade with the Wild, they have few options to add from the team.
Kuzma mentions Kevin Fiala as the player the Wild will likely dangle in a trade for Miller. The 25-year-old has struggled as of late, as he has only scored three goals on 58 shots, giving him a shooting percentage of 5.1%.
Still, he’s shown flashes of being a quality top-six forward during his time with the Wild. Through 132 games in the last three seasons, he’s scored 46 goals and posted 106 points. He’s posted 20 goals in his first two full seasons with the club and has scored 20 goals in the 2017-18 season with the Nashville Predators. He was impressive in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Play-In round series against the Canucks, where he scored three goals in four games. The forward likely needs a change of scenery based on his struggles to start the season.
If the Canucks decide to trade Miller to the Wild, Fiala wouldn’t be enough. The American forward has posted 49 goals and 137 points through 141 games with the Canucks. Also, he has two years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $5.25 million, while Fiala is in the final season of his contract with a cap hit of $5.25 million. Therefore, a trade involving Fiala would require an additional piece or two in return for Miller.
In Feb 2021, The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta reported the Canucks attempted to trade for Matt Dumba before free agency in the 2020 offseason, but talks centred around goaltender Thatcher Demko. The Canucks still need to improve their defence, and they could add Dumba in a trade for Miller.
The 27-year-old Dumba is a right-handed defenceman, something the Canucks are lacking. Tucker Poolman and Travis Hamonic are third pairing blueliners, while Dumba belongs in the top four. Through 480 games, he’s scored 70 goals and posted 205 points while averaging 20:18 time on ice. Additionally, he’s posted a career Corsi For % of 51.3.
The biggest issue with targetting Dumba in a trade with the Wild is his cap-hit. The Canucks’ blue line is loaded with high-paid contracts. Quinn Hughes has a six-year contract with a cap hit of $7.850 million, Oliver Ekman-Larsson has six years remaining with a cap hit of $7.260 million, and Tyler Myers has three seasons remaining with a cap hit of $6 million.
Additionally, Poolman has four seasons remaining with a cap hit of $2.5 million, while Hamonic has two seasons remaining with a cap hit of $3 million. Adding Dumba and his two-year, $6 million deal will be a lot for the blue line, especially if it doesn’t lead to the group improving. If the Canucks decide to add him, they will have to trade either Myers, Poolman or Hamonic.
The Canucks would have to choose between Dumba or Fiala as the centrepiece to a trade with the Wild. Similar to Fiala, a trade involving Dumba would require additional pieces returning to Vancouver.
The Canucks did not have a first-round pick in the last two NHL drafts. Additionally, the team traded their 2022 second-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes in the package for Conor Garland and Ekman-Larsson. Therefore, a trade with the Wild should include a top draft pick. The Wild still have their first, second and third-round picks in the next three drafts, so including a pick in the trade is possible.
Kuzma mentions Jordan Greenway as a player the Canucks can add in a trade for Miller. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound winger would add grit to the team. His size would be a welcomed addition as the team doesn’t have much of it upfront. Kuzma points out the forward has had success this season in a shutdown role with Joel Eriksson-Ek and Marcus Foligno. He adds Greenway’s $2.5 million cap hit could be too rich for the Canucks.
Through 224 NHL games, he’s scored 26 goals and posted 88 points. He’s struggled to score a goal this season, registering three assists through 14 games. The 24-year-old is more of a complimentary piece if the Canucks were to make a trade with the Wild.
Adding a Top Prospect
The Canucks can also explore the option of adding one of Minnesota’s prospects. The team’s top three prospects heading into the season were Vasily Podkolzin, Jack Rathbone and Olli Juolevi. Podkolzin and Rathbone are both on the main roster, while Juolevi was traded earlier in the season. Additionally, the club hasn’t made a pick in the first round of the draft in two years. Therefore, adding a top prospect from the Wild makes sense.
Calen Addison is a name that sticks out from the Wild’s top prospects. He is a right-handed defenceman, which the Canucks need in their pipeline. Additionally, he is spending time between Iowa in the American Hockey League and Minnesota in the NHL. If the Canucks can land the 21-year-old in a trade for Miller, he will become a valuable addition to the team.
Trading Miller Doesn’t Solve Problems
The Canucks can piece together an impressive package in a trade with the Wild. A trade centring around Fiala or Dumba with either a depth player such as Greenway, a top prospect or a draft pick could work.
Although the Canucks could add some quality players in a trade for Miller, the team has to avoid making a big roster move at the moment. The front office’s future is uncertain at the moment, specifically Benning’s future and allowing him to make a major trade could be risky for the organization. Benning’s job is on the line, and he may attempt to make a risky trade in order to save himself.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.