Penguins’ Trade Targets on the Vancouver Canucks

What a storyline this would be, the Vancouver Canucks end up out of the playoff picture, and president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford gets involved with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline. Some stories write themselves, so we’ll have to wait a couple of months before it potentially comes to fruition, as the Canucks have only played 36 games. They are, however, six points out of a playoff spot with four teams to leapfrog. Let’s look at a couple of Canucks who could help the Penguins make a push for the Stanley Cup.

Tyler Motte

The 26-year-old winger is a pending unrestricted free agent, and he’s one Canuck who won’t cost a boatload to acquire. A depth option for the Penguins, Motte plays a rugged game and loves to mix it up, which the Penguins could use a little more of from their bottom six.

Tyler Motte Vancouver Canucks
Tyler Motte is a fan favorite for the Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Michigan native has chipped in a little bit offensively this season with three goals in 20 games, and he’s been a staple on the Canucks penalty kill units. Motte’s not flashy; he’s the chip-and-chase type that loves to keep things simple and muck it up in the dirty areas of the ice. He’s a gamer, who battles, plays hard, and could flourish under head coach Mike Sullivan. While the Canucks winger isn’t known for his highlight-reel goals, this one was as pretty as they come:

The Penguins management duo of Ron Hextall and Brian Burke have made it clear there will not be a ton of assets flying out the windows in Pittsburgh. The sense is, if they do make moves before the March 21 trade deadline, it’s going to be depth moves where major prospects and high draft picks aren’t being touched. Another scenario is the potential of a “hockey trade,” which sees two players under contract for the foreseeable future traded for one another. The Canucks have legitimate options when it comes to the depth department and hockey deals, but let’s stick with the bottom-six for now, and that brings us to another forward who loves to mix it up.

Alex Chiasson

Chiasson is a big body at 6-foot-4 and loves to play an in-your-face style of game which is almost like a lost art in the league. He seems to thrive on pissing off opponents and would certainly bring a different element to the Penguins forward group. So far this season, he’s collected 27 hits in 28 games and three power-play goals. It’s rare to see a forward who only averages 10:24 of ice-time a night average almost 2:26 on the man advantage.

Alex Chiasson during his time with the Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Chiasson, like many players across the league, has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently in protocols. Just as the Canucks have been playing better of late. It’s worth noting Burke was with the Calgary Flames back in 2016 when they acquired Chiasson in a trade and re-signed him after making the playoffs. A player the Penguins president of hockey operations is very familiar with and another addition that wouldn’t break the bank.

Related: Penguins’ Trade Targets on the Buffalo Sabres

The only knock on the Canucks winger is that he loves to toe the line of acceptable and unacceptable. Chiasson is a little bit of a wildcard on the ice and has a history that isn’t all pretty. He loves to have an impact by throwing opponents off their game. A risky target for the Penguins.

Brock Boeser

Back to that “hockey deal.” This is the type of player that would cost assets, but someone who is a restricted free agent and could be locked up long-term. Boeser is having a down year in Vancouver, and he’s heard his name mentioned in trade rumors throughout the early part of the 2021-22 season. The Canucks former first-round pick from 2015 is making $5.87 in the final year of his contract and, in a case of bad timing, only has nine goals on the season.

Brock Boeser Vancouver Canucks
Brock Boeser would be an interesting fit in Pittsburgh (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The cost to acquire Boeser at this trade deadline would include a few pieces from the Penguins for a few different reasons. First off, there’s money to worry about. Boeser makes almost $6 million, and for a team that’s cash strapped like Pittsburgh, money in means money out. Insert Jason Zucker and his $5.5 million salary this season and next.

Worth noting, Zucker’s best season as a pro came back with the Minnesota Wild in 2017-18 when he scored 33 goals and recorded a career-high 64 points. His head coach that season and three others with the Wild happens to be behind the boss in Vancouver. I thought that was interesting as I explored this trade further.

While Zucker is a potential fit, so is Kasperi Kapanen. Being four years younger and $2.3-million cheaper, the Canucks would likely have a lot more interest in the younger Penguins forward. Kapanen plays the game hard, skates like the wind, and has shown decent chemistry with Evgeni Malkin, however, he doesn’t project as Boeser does.

This would be an upgrade for the Pens. The Canucks forward is a three-time 20-goal scorer who has the potential to hit 35-40. Adding him to Sidney Crosby’s line could move Bryan Rust back with Malkin and give the Penguins several different lineup options. It also provides management a core piece for the future once the trio of current superstars retire.

While certainly fun to ponder, we know the Canucks would want a couple more pieces included in any Boeser deal, and at this point, it’s unlikely the price gets met by the management duo in Pittsburgh. Motte and Chiasson are the much more likely targets out of Vancouver. Two teams who could open conversations closer to the trade deadline if the Canucks are out of the picture in the west. One thing we do know, Rutherford knows Hextall’s extension.

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