Vancouver Canucks 2023 Free Agent Targets

The Vancouver Canucks missed the playoffs once again after posting a 38-37-7 record. The organization continues to retool around their current core as the front office hopes to build a winning team.

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Improving the roster will be tough to do for the Canucks this off-season due to their cap situation. The club is projected to be over the cap limit in the offseason. Therefore, they’ll have to find ways to create space, whether it is through buyouts or trades. However, if the Canucks create space, they will look to address a few of their needs through free agency, which includes the third-line centre spot and their weak blue line. Here are three free-agent options they have.

Vladislav Gavrikov

In March, Rick Dhaliwal mentioned Vladislav Gavrikov as one of the players the Canucks may go after this offseason. Gavrikov’s agent Dan Milstein also represents Canucks forward Andrei Kuzmenko. Dhaliwal noted when the organization met the agent in Florida to negotiate Kuzmenko’s contract extension, the two sides discussed Gavrikov.

Vladislav Gavrikov Los Angeles Kings
Vladislav Gavrikov, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Rob Curtis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Gavrikov started the 2022-23 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets before the organization shipped him to the Los Angeles Kings before the trade deadline. Through 72 games, he posted six goals and 19 points. At 6-foot-3, 213 pounds, the left-shot defenceman could be useful on the second pairing for the Canucks. He is a stay-at-home defender, something the Canucks can use.

The Canucks’ blue line needs a rebuild, as it has been their weak point for some time. Quinn Hughes is a good player to build around, while Ethan Bear and Filip Hronek are pieces the team has high hopes for. Tyler Myers has disappointed since signing a five-year deal in 2019 and is entering the final season of his contract, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s play is declining. Therefore, if the organization hopes to improve its blue line over the next few seasons, it’ll likely target Gavrikov this off-season.

Ivan Barbashev

Dhaliwal mentioned the Canucks are also interested in Ivan Barbashev. He reported the club’s interest at the same time as the Gavrikov report. Similar to the defenceman, Barbashev is also one of Milstein’s clients.

The Canucks are looking for a third-line centre, and Barbashev has experience in the position. However, throughout his career, he has played on the wing more. Still, the Canucks showed interest in the forward and could use him as a player who can switch between both positions. This season, he scored 10 goals and posted 29 points through 59 games with the St. Louis Blues before the club traded him to the Vegas Golden Knights. He finished the season with six goals and 16 points in 23 games with the Golden Knights. Meanwhile, in the playoffs, he’s scored four goals and posted six points in eight games.

Related: Canucks: Third-Line Centres to Target in Free Agency

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The Canucks will most likely head into the 2022-23 season with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller as their first and second-line centres. Adding Barbashev as a third-line centre could help the club with depth scoring. Barbashev turns 28 mid-way through next season, and if the Canucks do sign him, it should be a short-term deal.

Ross Colton

In April, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wondered if Ross Colton could be a potential fit for the Canucks. He said the Tampa Bay Lightning are tight up against the cap, and it may be difficult for them to keep him as they have other players they prioritize over the forward. Colton is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, and Tampa likely will have to move on. As a result, the door is open for the Canucks to take a shot at adding a third-line centre with Stanley Cup-winning experience.

Ross Colton Tampa Bay Lightning
Ross Colton, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Colton finished his third NHL season with the Lightning. Through three seasons with the club, he’s scored 47 goals and 83 points in 190 games. In the playoffs, he’s scored 10 goals and posted 19 points in 52 games. He also posted a face-off win percentage of 56.1% in the 2022-23 season. Colton has shown potential as a point producer, as he recorded a career-high 22 goals and 39 points in 79 games in the 2021-22 season.

Adding Colton as a third-line centre could provide the Canucks with three scoring lines. At 6-foot, 194 pounds, the left-shot centre will likely be one of the Canucks’ targets this offseason to help with their third-line centre needs.

Canucks Need to Clear Cap Before Free Agency

The Canucks need to clear cap space before targeting any of these three players. Whether through a buyout of a veteran player such as Myers or trading him, Brock Boeser, Conor Garland or maybe even Miller. If the club frees up space signing one of Gavrikov, Barbashev, or Colton will help with their needs. Either the organization addresses their blue line or their third line centre slot this offseason.