Canucks’ Targets in Potential Demko Trade with Penguins

The Vancouver Canucks are retooling their roster. The organization started by trading captain Bo Horvat to the New York Islanders last week. Additionally, the Canucks made a majority of their roster available outside of Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Andrei Kuzmenko. Netminder Thatcher Demko was a part of the untouchable group earlier in the season, but over the past few weeks, the club has received calls from multiple teams interested in trading for him.

Thatcher Demko Vancouver Canucks
Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the Pittsburgh Penguins as one of the four teams likely interested in trading for the netminder. Demko has three additional years remaining on his contract following this season, with an annual average value of $5 million. The Penguins are in win-now mode, and trading for Demko makes sense. He has a team-friendly deal, while their current starter Tristan Jarry is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason and could cost the Penguins over $6 million to re-sign.

Related: Canucks’ Schenn & Garland Next to Go After Horvat Trade

The return from Pittsburgh in a Demko trade would be interesting. First, Demko is returning from an injury, and if he returns in his dominant form, the Canucks will look to get a lot more than what they did in the Horvat trade. The Canucks are looking for NHL players in their 20s. However, the return in the Horvat trade tells the club is open to adding more. The Islanders traded 25-year-old Anthony Beauvillier, 20-year-old prospect Aatu Raty, and a conditional 2023 first-round pick. The Penguins don’t have the best prospect pool, but they do have a few pieces that the Canucks may accept in a deal.

Owen Pickering

The Penguins are one of the few teams ranked lower than the Canucks in The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler’s 2023 NHL prospect pool rankings (from ‘Pittsburgh Penguins are No. 29 in 2023 NHL prospect pool rankings,’ The Athletic, January 12, 2023). The Canucks rank 28th, while the Penguins rank 29th. Still, the Penguins would have to offer some of their top prospects to acquire Demko. Additionally, the club should be willing to give up prospects since they are attempting to win a Stanley Cup in the final years of the Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang era. Wheeler has Owen Pickering ranked as the best prospect in the Penguins’ system.

Owen Pickering Pittsburgh Penguins
Owen Pickering, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Penguins drafted the left-handed defenceman in the 2022 Draft with the 21st overall pick. Standing at 6-foot-4, he is an intelligent player and a great skater. Additionally, he is a pass-first defenceman with a hard point shot. Despite his height, he struggles to put on weight, weighing 185 pounds. Wheeler believes he won’t be a big point producer but does have a ceiling as a second-pairing defender and a third-pairing defenceman as his floor. The Canucks already have their left-shot point-producing blueliner in Hughes, meaning Pickering would be a perfect addition behind him if he can reach his ceiling. He is in his third season with the Swift Current Broncos scoring six goals and posting 30 points in 40 games, on pace to post a career-high in all scoring categories.

Ryan Poehling

Ryan Poehling fits the criteria for what the Canucks want in terms of age. The 24-year-old is also on his second NHL contract and is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason. The Montreal Canadiens selected the forward in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft with the 25th overall pick. He is now in his fourth NHL season but has yet to break out.

Related: Canucks Have 3 Wingers the Golden Knights Could Use

The Lakeville, Minnesota native spent three seasons with the Canadiens, scoring 13 goals and posting 22 points in 85 games. The Penguins traded him along with Mike Matheson and a 2023 fourth-round pick for Jeff Petry. He’s played in 36 of the Penguins’ 50 games this season, scoring five goals and posting 11 points while averaging 11:03 in time on ice.

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The centre could progress with the Canucks as the organization would provide him with more minutes as a retooling team. He could become a middle-six centre with the organization.

Ty Smith

The Canucks checked on defenceman Ty Smith last year when he was a member of the New Jersey Devils (from ‘Braden Schneider, Bowen Byram and 8 more blue-chip young defenders the Canucks could target at the deadline,’ The Athletic, March 7, 2022). The Penguins traded for the defenceman in the John Marino deal in the offseason. The 2018 first-round pick played in two full NHL seasons with the Devils, scoring seven goals and posting 44 points in 114 games. He only played nine games with the Penguins this season, scoring a goal and posting four points. However, he’s played 29 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the American Hockey League this season, scoring four goals and posting 14 points.

Ty Smith Pittsburgh Penguins
Ty Smith, Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Smith is a skilled and smart defenceman but struggles in his own end, which has impacted his ability to play in the NHL. The Canucks would be gambling on adding a player with offensive ability but one that struggles to play in his own end.

First Round Pick

Similar to most trade packages for Demko, the Canucks should expect to receive the Penguins’ first-round pick in a deal. The organization isn’t shy in trading away its first-round selection, only selecting in the opening round twice over the past 10 drafts. With their window to win closing, they will likely trade the pick. The Penguins’ first-round pick could range from the 17th overall pick to the end of the round if they can string together a Stanley Cup run.

Canucks Will Have Better Options Than Pittsburgh for Demko

The Penguins don’t have much to offer compared to the other clubs interested in Demko. The New Jersey Devils, Los Angeles Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets have some of the best prospect pools in the league, so the Penguins will have to come up with a better offer than all four.

Pickering is a good start, improving the Canucks future on the blue line. Additionally, Poehling could be a middle-six centre for the club, while the organization’s interest in Smith last season could lead to him joining the Canucks. The Penguins are likely open to trading away their first-round pick, completing the trade.

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