Canucks News & Rumors: Defense, Kadri, Goalies & President

As the hockey world sits in shock over the quick exits of both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins in first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, teams that didn’t make the “second season” are strategizing to fill needs, work with those players already under contract, and consider what players the team wants to sign for next season. Here’s some of what the Vancouver Canucks have been up to during the past week.

Item One: Filling the Canucks Needs?

Vancouver Canucks Alexander Edler Elias Pettersson
Vancouver Canucks’ Alexander Edler celebrates his overtime game winning goal Elias Pettersson (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal)

In THW’s Jim Parsons’ recent rumors report, he cited Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province who reported that the Canucks would be aggressive trying to fill what the team sees as two roster weaknesses. Weakness No. 1 is the need for a top-six right-winger. Weakness No. 2 is the need for a top-four defenseman who might play with Alex Edler on the team’s blue line.

Kuzma wrote that the Canucks must decide whether to re-sign UFA defenseman Luke Schenn, but noted that he believed RFA blueliners Josh Teves and Brogan Rafferty should get new deals. However, he didn’t think the Canucks would re-sign RFA defenseman Derrick Pouliot. And, decisions remain to be made about Ashton Sautner, Guillaume Brisebois, Olli Juolevi, and Alex Biega. (from ‘Ben Kuzma: How effective could a Hutton-Stecher tandem be next season?’ The Province – 04/18/2019)

I, for one, hope to see Biega back in a Canucks’ uniform. I think he played well and deserves more time. His energy is contagious. As well, re-signing Schenn seems like a no-brainer. After being given up on by a number of teams, he was brought in almost as an afterthought late in the season and played well. In addition, he’s the kind of on-ice mentor young defensemen might benefit from. New defenseman Quinn Hughes noted how much he had learned by playing with Schenn.

Related – News & Rumors: Pettersson, Boeser, Draft Lottery & Soderstrom

Item Two: Could Nazem Kadri Become a Canuck?

As Kuzma reported above, weakness No. 1 was the Canucks’ need for a top-six right winger. Obviously, the Canucks need more scoring; and, although Nazem Kadri is a center, could he address the Canucks scoring needs?

Alex Hoegle, of the Canucks Way, wondered whether, because of the amount of cap space remaining this off-season, the Canucks might be in the market for a big trade or free agent signing. Certainly, Hoegler postulates, it would be enticing for a veteran to add his services to a team with a pool of emerging talent (Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and Hughes to name four).

Would Benning really be aggressive enough to go after Kadri, who might have sawed off the branch he was sitting on after his suspension for cross-checking the Boston Bruins’ Jake DeBrusk? Kadri is a really good player, has a cap-friendly contract (these days, a bargain at $4.5 million), and Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas must remove salary to ensure the team has sufficient cap space to sign Mitch Marner to the market-value contract he certainly will receive.

Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara Toronto Maple Leafs Nazem Kadri Jake DeBrusk
Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara pulls Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri off teammate Jake DeBrusk. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mary Schwalm)

In truth, the Canucks have no one really like Kadri. He’s an agitator similar to Raffi Torres, who played on a Canucks team that reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. There’s one difference, however. Kadri can score.

Even though Kadri’s been playing the third-line center for the Maple Leafs all season, in that role he’s scored 16 goals and 28 assists in 73 games. That would, given this season’s scoring for the Canucks, make Kadri the fourth-leading scorer on the team after Pettersson (66 points), Horvat (61 points), and Boeser (56 points). Obviously, the Maple Leafs and the Canucks play different offensive styles; but, Kadri has scored consistently throughout his career. And the Canucks need scoring.

Related – News and Rumors: NHL Draft, Soderstrom, DiPietro & Kielly

Kadri would bring stability because he’s signed through 2021-22. He also fits a team need – a third-line center. Sadly, that center wasn’t Brandon Sutter. Obviously, there’s history with Kadi who laid a hit on Daniel Sedin several years ago. But the Sedin twins have retired, so it isn’t like they would constantly be banging heads (bad metaphor).

Hoegler noted that the Canucks might get Kadri in a decent trade; and, because the Maple Leafs might need another defenseman, wonders if Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning might let Chris Tanev go. The offseason promises to be interesting.

Item Three: Jacob Markstrom Clearly Wants to Stay in Vancouver

The 2018-19 season was difficult for Canucks’ goalies. A key example was the emergency call-up of Michael DiPietro from the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s for a Feb. 11 game against the San Jose Sharks. Surprisingly when Jacob Markstrom was injured, DiPietro had to start. As DiPietro noted, the 7-2 loss wasn’t the debut he had hoped for, but it was still a dream come true.

Vancouver Canucks Jacob Markstrom
Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

However, as bad as 2018-19 was for Canuck goalies, next season looks to be radically better. The Canucks have a strong starting goalie in Markstrom who seems to be getting better. They also seem to have two really good goaltenders-in-waiting (Thatcher Demko, who came up to the Canucks after mid-season, and DiPietro, who is currently playing with the Ottawa 67’s in their playoffs against the Oshawa Generals.

Last week, Markstrom’s agent Pat Morris told Sportsnet radio that Markstrom wants to be part of the team’s future long term.

Related: Markstrom Is the Canucks’ Second-Biggest Surprise

As Morris noted, “That’s where his (Markstrom’s) instructions will lean, to try and get something done. It takes two to get a deal done, it takes term and it takes dollars. The player has to be willing, and Jacob has enjoyed his time in Vancouver and wants it to continue.”

Item Four: A New President of Hockey Operations for the Canucks?

After the mysterious announcement in late July 2018 that then team president Trevor Linden and the Canucks had “agreed to part ways” after four years, are the Canucks in the market to name another President of Hockey Operations and let Benning become the full-time general manager?

On April 9, Bob McKenzie talked about the Canucks bringing in a President of Hockey Operations. McKenzie admits he views the President job as one created to soothe angry fans: bring in a former player, put him in charge of hockey operations, make a big deal about it, and let him make the fans happy. In fact, McKenzie noted that he really doesn’t think the job is needed with the Canucks, especially now that the team has great young players who will keep the fans excited.

He added that, if you give a guy a chance to use the full weight of the office like Brendan Shanahan in Toronto, he could clean house. But McKenzie doesn’t think the Canucks’ house needs to be “cleaned.” Perhaps, a President of Hockey Operations might create a buffer between an owner and a general manager or a conduit between players and management. Otherwise, McKenzie wonders what the deal is.

Related – Canucks’ Rumors & News: Pearson, Hughes, Schenn, Eriksson

What’s Next?

With the 16-team IIHF World Championship tournament beginning on May 10 in Slovakia, two Canucks players already have been included on Team USA’s roster – goaltender Demko and defenceman Hughes. The rosters haven’t been finalized, and we’ll have more information later about which Canucks will play.