The Vancouver Canucks are trending towards missing the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs, but they have now won six of their last 10 games. The direction the team will take at the April 12th trade deadline will depend on how they perform through the rest of March. The team has a few contracts, which will expire this offseason, and if they are in a position to trade players, they can acquire valuable assets in return.
Also, the club is slated to have an important offseason with the likes of Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko scheduled to become restricted free agents. The Canucks have $24.6 million in cap space, which is not much considering Pettersson and Hughes should take a large chunk. Therefore, the Canucks could move a player who is signed for a few more years but has a tradable contract.
Tanner Pearson is the Canucks’ prime trade candidate as the trade deadline approaches. His contract is set to expire this offseason and has a cap hit of $3.750 million. Pearson is a second-line winger and can provide secondary scoring to any team he is on. He posted his second 20 goal season last year with 21 goals and a career-high with 45 points in 69 games.
So far this season, he has scored six goals in 32 games, which is at a slower pace than he was on last season. Pearson’s six goals are largely due to the Canucks’ struggles to start this season, as he is fifth on the team in goals.
In a trade for Pearson, the Canucks can add a late first-round or an early second-round pick or a prospect in return. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the Arizona Coyotes were interested in the forward a few weeks ago in order to compete for a playoff spot. The Toronto Maple Leafs are another option as a trade partner as Pearson would not have to quarantine for 14 days. The Maple Leafs could also use a second-line winger to play with John Tavares and William Nylander.
The only reason a Pearson trade may not happen is general manager Jim Benning has stated he will try to re-sign the forward. If the team is well out of a playoff spot as the trade deadline approaches, Benning should trade Pearson.
Similar to Pearson, Brandon Sutter is another forward the Canucks should move at the trade deadline. Sutter is in the final year of his contract, with a cap hit of $4.375 million. The veteran forward has been useful to the Canucks as a depth player and a mainstay on the team’s penalty kill.
A potential trade partner for Sutter would be the Montreal Canadiens. As THW’s Blain Potvin mentioned, the Habs could use the forward to lock up a playoff spot. Sutter would provide them with depth help as a forward who plays in his own zone, with 62.9% defensive zone starts. He could help the Canucks receive a second-round pick while they will retain some of his cap hit.
J.T. Miller is the least likely of the three to be traded since the forward is one of the team’s best players. The Canucks traded goalie Marek Mazanec, a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the forward. Since joining the team in the 2019-20 season, Miller leads the team in points with 99 and is second in goals with 35 through 98 games.
Nonetheless, Miller’s contract is tradable as it has three years remaining with a cap hit of $5.250 million. For a player who has been able to produce at the rate Miller has, his contract is a steal, which is why the pieces the Canucks would get back in a trade for him would be impressive. A team competing for the Stanley Cup would benefit from adding a forward of his calibre with the cap hit he brings.
A trade makes sense for the Canucks based on Benning’s comments a few weeks ago about the team being two years away from competing. Miller will be 30 and in the last year of his contract, which means his value could drop in the next two seasons. Then again, Benning also plans on re-signing Pearson, so a trade involving Miller may not be likely.
Additionally, trading Miller may not be worth it as players with his skill set are hard to find around the league. The Canucks would have to be offered an impressive package for him. A trade involving the 28-year-old would see the Canucks receiving multiple picks and prospects.
Canucks Could Gain Valuable Assets
Sutter and Pearson are far more likely to be traded than Miller. The Canucks and Benning have to move from their stance of re-signing Pearson as they will miss out on an opportunity to add valuable assets for a second-line winger. As for Sutter, getting a second-round pick for him will be beneficial as well. Miller will help the Canucks receive the most valuable assets, but anything less should be a non-starter.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.