On Thursday night the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Boston Bruins 4-2 on the backs of Jacob Markstrom’s 28 save performance and Daniel Sedin’s historic goal. With the two points they earned in that victory the Canucks now sit tied for second in the Pacific Division with 51 points. And that’s good enough to earn them the third seed in the Pacific Division playoffs. But those 51 points have been earned while playing more games (48) than any other team in the division other than Edmonton (49). Based on that it’s hard to say whether or not the Canucks have a legitimate shot at making the post-season dance, especially not knowing how long captain Henrik Sedin will be injured. If a prediction had to be made selling will dominate the Canucks trade deadline day.
As sellers the Canucks have plenty of veterans that would interest playoff bound teams (Dan Hamhuis, Alex Burrows, Radim Vrbata, Yannick Weber, Brandon Prust). But if for whatever reason Benning decides to buy, as buyers the team has built good depth, especially in the area of forward prospects, so they could manage to grab a role player for the playoff stretch with a prospect and draft choice.
Canucks Trade Deadline Moves Will Include Selling…Lots of Selling
The landscape of the Canucks current landscape the direction in which the franchise is moving indicates that the club is in a much better position to be sellers than they are to be buyers. They’ve put a lot of youth into their lineup this year, something they haven’t done in many years. They have five rookies on their current roster (Jared McCann (19), Ben Hutton (22), Alex Biega (27), Jake Virtanen (18), Michael Zalewski (23). And they’ve only kept adding youth throughout the season. They have eleven players on the that same roster that are 26 and under. So the Canucks are clearly moving in the direction that Jim Benning promised – a new youthful corps to transition from the aging group led by the twins – while staying surprisingly competitive in the standings.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Canucks have out shot their opponents in just 18 of their 48 games this season, so while the team has managed to collect points on a lot of overtime losses, they do have an alarmingly low number of wins and some troubling statistics, like the one mentioned above. However that’s okay and it’s expected during a rebuild. There are just five players remaining from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final team and most of the rest are in their first three or four years in the league.
Another shocking stat: out of the 25 players on the Canucks roster (including Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter, and Dan Hamhuis who are all on the IR) twelve have yet to play at least three full seasons in the NHL (including 2015-16).
With that in mind the Canucks have never been more primed to shed their last shell of the remnants from an era come and gone. Keeping some quality professional veterans in the lineup is important, but the Canucks have some of the best in Henrik, Daniel, Ryan Miller, Alex Edler and Jannik Hansen. In order to take the next step in their transition now’s the time to get rid of guys like Radim Vrbata, Alex Burrows, Dan Hamhuis, Brandon Prust and Yannick Weber, especially if the team has no interest in giving them extensions. Rather than lose all that potential return to an open market on July 1st, Benning should ship the players knowing he’ll get limited return but it’s better than nothing. Rumors coming out of Florida about Brandon Pirri might interest Benning who will need to address scoring if he chooses to move Vrbata and Burrows. George Richards who covers the Florida Panthers for the Miami Herald tweeted:
As trade rumors start to swirl, #FlaPanthers scratch Brandon Pirri
— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) January 22, 2016
Alex Burrows, Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata would be highly desired commodities for teams looking for veteran depth in anticipation of a deep playoff run. Burrows to Montreal to address scoring depth…or first line depth or maybe even a reunion with Luongo in Florida for a playoff run? Radim Vrbata to Florida in an attempt to ease Jagr’s scoring pressure? Dan Hamhuis to Detroit or San Jose following those team’s long histories of bringing in veteran defensemen? The point is Vancouver has options. Serious options.
Canucks At Trade Deadline: Not Likely to Buy
This scenario is obviously a lot less likely. As buyers the team would have to sell off a good portion of their newly found youth power. It just doesn’t seem likely. Reports have claimed that Bo Horvat would have been involved in a trade for Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin. That in return for Ryan Johansen Columbus was demanding Ben Hutton and more. Benning obviously didn’t feel like either of those players were worth it.
And he’s right. Unless a guy like Chris Higgins, or any of Vrbata, Hamhuis or Burrows wanted out and the Canucks felt like getting a different veteran guy to fill the leadership roles they would leave behind, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for Benning to start shedding prospect depth.
Plain and simple. The Canucks aren’t buyers unless a magical deal for someone like Steven Stamkos were to arise in return for veterans, not prospects.