It is no secret that the Vancouver Canucks have injury troubles on their blueline this year, with Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Alexander Edler all out for the time being. What’s kept under wraps, however, is whether Canuck General Manager Mike Gillis pulls the trigger on a deal for a defenseman.
Throughout the year, the Canucks were right up against the salary cap, but their recent injuries may open up space to add another player on their roster, possibly an insurance defenseman. Noted killjoy Bob McKenzie tweeted last night that :I don’t think Canucks, right now, are in market for a dman.”
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun to speculate.
Potential Target: Chris Phillips, Ottawa Senators
Phillips is having truly a horrible year in Ottawa. He finds himself at -27 and only Edmonton’s Tom Gilbert has been on the ice for more goals at even strength this year. That said, there are a lot of factors that go into a low plus/minus, one of them being PDO, which is your teams’ shooting percentage when you’re on the ice added to your goalie’s save percentage. At 96% (7.4% shooting percentage plus an 88.6% save percentage) Phillips’ plus/minus number is far lower than how he’s been playing, particularly since he sees the best Quality of Competition and takes fewer shifts in the offensive zone than his Ottawa teammates. Add that to playing with a rookie defenseman, Phillips has certainly been playing better than his -27 would have you think.
That said, Phillips has a $3.5 million cap hit that is probably too high for the Canucks at this point. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun has reported that Phillips does not want to be traded and would rather stay for a rebuild, which would take his name off the table. If the numbers worked, Phillips would be a reliable-enough bottom-four defenseman for 18 minutes a game who is unrestricted at the end of the season anyway.
Plus, how many Stanley Cup losing players can say that they’ve scored a Cup winning goal?
Potential Target: Steve Staios, Calgary Flames
Former Canuck Steve Staios has only played 19 games this year, and when he does play, he sees limited minutes and is fourth on his team in Quality of Competition faced. Staios is old, Staios is slow, and Staios won’t contribute anything offensively, but if the Canucks are looking to shore up their depth, taking on Staios might be better than when they took on Andrew Alberts last year. Staios, as you’d hope out of a player who plays in easy situations, does keep the puck in the other team’s end more often than its in his. Staios has a high cap hit (although is a UFA) for his on-ice performance, but if Gillis can squeeze it in through a trademark loophole, he probably wouldn’t cost too much to take off of Calgary’s hands.
Potential Target: Ian White, Carolina Hurricanes
It was reported earlier on Wednesday that White had actually been dealt to the Canucks for a package that was rumoured to involve Jannik Hansen, which would be a horrible deal. White is generally regarded as an offensive defenseman, but he has scored just six goals since being taken off of Tomas Kaberle’s defensive pairing since being a big part of the Dion Phaneuf trade.
Ian White can play minutes without taking penalties, having just 18 PIMs this year in 55 games played. White plays against average competition and starts just under half of his shifts in the offensive zone, so having a positive shot differential (by .07 of a shot over 60 minutes) is solid enough. White is also a UFA at the end of the year and would be a good rental, just not if you have to give up a roster player.
Potential Target: Eric Brewer, St. Louis Blues
Brewer is, in my humble opinion, the strongest target the Canucks could go after, although he has a large salary ($4.5 million) that could be tough to fit under the cap and would probably cost a pretty penny to pry from the St. Louis Blues. Once upon a time, Brewer was a consistent 20-point defenseman for the Edmonton Oilers, but his production tapered off after he moved to St. Louis and he had some injuries. That said, he’s quietly having a strong year with the Blues, scoring eight goals, but also playing with a positive shot differential despite playing against the strongest competition of regular defenseman in St. Louis and starting more shifts in the defensive zone than any St. Louis defensemen.
Offensive, defensively, Brewer is solid at both ends of the ice, but more importantly, moves it up ice and could have some very good point totals on the Canucks second pairing.