Canucks Shouldn’t Trade for Ferland

Jim Parsons, in his Jan. 24, The Hockey Writers rumors’ post, discussed the rumor that the Vancouver Canucks were interested in forward help and that the Carolina Hurricanes’ 26-year-old Micheal Ferland was the target. Although Parsons attributed the idea to Patrick Johnston of the Vancouver Province, Johnston is not the only one discussing that possibility.

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This past Tuesday, Darren Dreger, speaking on TSN 1040, noted that he thinks general manager Jim Benning and the Canucks would love to add Ferland, either by trade or free agency. Dreger, however, noted that perhaps free agency was a better route for the Canucks.

Why Ferland?

What’s Ferland’s attraction for the Canucks? A little digging through the sports archives takes us back to the first round of the 2015 Playoffs, a series the Canucks lost to the Calgary Flames four games to two. A young rookie on that Flames team made a difference and tipped the series towards Calgary. That young rookie was Ferland.

Only playing because then-Flame Lance Bouma (now playing in Switzerland) was injured, the young Ferland hit, skated, disrupted and made such a difference for the underdog Flames that his coach threw him out against the Sedin twins. Ferland’s physical play helped carry the series, and his battles with Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa became a focal point.

Ferland significantly impacted the deciding game of the series in Calgary. The Canucks had taken a 3–0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game, then Ferland scored twice to help the Flames win. His first goal, late in the first period, made it 3-1 Canucks. His last goal – an empty-netter – sealed the Flames’ 7–4 elimination victory over the Canucks.

Micheal Ferland
(Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

That same Ferland, traded during the summer of 2018 to the Hurricanes with Dougie Hamilton and prospect Adam Fox for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin, has come back into the news as a possible trade chip for the Hurricanes, who look to be sellers at the trade deadline. Not that the team wouldn’t want Ferland, but he’ll become an unrestricted free agency at the end of the season. And, as Dreger notes, Carolina’s asking price for him will be high.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and his 31 Thoughts column also weighed in on Ferland. Friedman’s word was that Ferland and the Hurricanes weren’t close on a contract extension. Ferland is currently making $1.75 million and looks to garner to a big raise, which some team will certainly offer him. It just might not be the Hurricanes. The 26-year-old carries a reasonable salary cap hit, but there’s no guarantee he will re-sign with a team who trades for him this season.

Dreger also agreed during his radio interview that the market for Ferland will be strong. Why? Because he is “as tough as nails.” He can be a strong top-six player and a physical presence on the ice who can overpower an opposing team, just as he did in the 2015 series against the Canucks. But, long-time Canucks fans probably know that better than anyone.

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Rumor has it that there’s a long line of teams interested in signing him as a free agent. Teams on that list, Friedman notes, include the Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins and, of course, the Canucks.

The Ups and Downs of Trading for Ferland

The one thing that stops the Canucks from going all-in on Ferland is the number of teams lining up in the summer for his services. Canucks GM Benning obviously has concerns that trading for Ferland at the trade deadline will be a one-and-done and the kind of short-term deal the Canucks really aren’t looking for this season.

The Canucks also know that, even if he comes in and makes an immediate difference in the team’s success, he might test the free agent market in the summer. And, who can blame a young player for wanting to know if a team out there might want you, or what that team might think you’re worth?

As things have been stacking up for the Canucks this season, Elias Pettersson has been a wonderful surprise and has added another pearl to the team’s necklace, along with other young stars like Brock Boeser. The team is starting to shape an identity. The goaltending is also becoming more solid with Jacob Markstrom and prospect Thatcher Demko manning the net.

But the team isn’t there yet. The Canucks need someone to skate with strong, young two-way center Bo Horvat. Ferland fits that bill well. Additionally, the Canucks have great young players, but their lines are far from set. The ongoing rotation of wingers on the top two lines remains a puzzle. Thus, the team is trying to answer questions about Horvat’s and Pettersson’s partners for the long-term, past this season.

Bo Horvat Canucks
Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks, Nov. 21, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Of course, it’s good that the Canucks are in the playoff hunt, but it’s really a season too early. No matter what happens this season, the Canucks must look to the future even if it means trading away chances in the playoffs for a better team next season and those going forward.

Would Hurricanes Consider Trading Ferland to Canucks?

Perhaps this discussion is moot anyway. Ferland currently has an upper-body injury and has not played in a while. He also had a concussion earlier in the season. But, injuries or not, he has had a decent season with 13 goals and 12 assists (25 points) in 41 games. Fortunately, the All-Star break offers the young winger time to rest before resuming the season.

Micheal Ferland Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina Hurricanes left wing Micheal Ferland (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

If the Canucks were to trade for him, they are unlikely to move high picks for him. They could trade defensemen Alex Edler or Chris Tanev, but they also might want to keep their experienced players if they do get into the playoffs. Obviously, the enigmatic Nikolay Goldobin could be had, but any team interested in him might guess there’s a chance the Canucks would dump him anyway.

Canucks GM Benning said on Sportsnet 650 that he won’t mortgage the future just to make the playoffs. That’s probably a wise move at this stage.

My sense is that Ferland, as attractive as he might be to the Canucks – and make no mistake, he would fit in well with their plans, should not come to the team through a trade. It’s less risky to wait until the summer to see if Ferland is available as an unrestricted free agent. It might be pricey to sign him, but he might be value-added in the long-term. I say wait.