With the NHL trade deadline just around the corner, trade rumors are beginning to circulate more and more around the league. This particular deadline is especially important for the Vancouver Canucks, who are in the midst of a rebuild.
The Canucks have a lot of the pieces needed to put them back in the running for a Stanley Cup in the near future, but they also have some expendable assets and some voids to fill throughout the lineup. Deciding who to keep around for the long-haul and who to ship off can be a very difficult decision, but we’re going to break it down and figure out who is the best option when it comes to making a deal at the coming deadline.
The Canucks Forwards
Looking at the Canucks up front, they are looking fairly solid, but there’s, of course, more work to be done. There are staples, for sure, but there are also a healthy amount of expendables and even a few players that I’d place as being on the fence.
- Bo Horvat – The Canucks number-one center, best player and future captain. He is here for the long-run and will lead the Canucks to their first Stanley Cup — mark my words.
- Brock Boeser – Pure sniper. Offensive weapon of mass destruction. Prince Charming. Boeser is the answer to Canucks fans’ prayers and the goal-scorer the franchise hasn’t seen in far too long.
- Brandon Sutter – Penalty killer, two-way stud, veteran presence. Sutter is a glue guy and pillar of stability for the young and upcoming Canucks.
- Jake Virtanen – Fast and big, young and physical. As Virtanen develops, he will grow into a major aspect of the Canucks’ future.
- Thomas Vanek – Mercenary, gun-for-hire, suitcase. Vanek is a temporary fix to a long-term problem and is likely to be moved at the deadline or in the off-season.
- Loui Eriksson – Inconsistent, disappointing, big cap-hit. A shade of his former, 30-goal self, Eriksson is washed up and evidently out of place — he is currently on the fourth line.
- Markus Granlund – Unreliable, low production, easy to trade. With a very small salary, Granlund could be a great fit on another team and just isn’t fitting in with the current trajectory of the Canucks.
On The Fence
- Daniel & Henrik Sedin – Long-time Canucks, heroes, legends. The Sedin Twins have been major staples of the Canucks offence for quite some time and even at 37, they continue to lead by example. There’s no way that they’ll be traded, but re-signing them is currently a hot topic.
- Sven Baertschi – Horvat’s sidekick, speedy, skilled. Baertschi has been one of the Canucks’ best forwards over the past couple of seasons but he’s also outclassed by some of the prospects in the system and on the rise.
- Sam Gagner – Special teams master, face-offs guy, two-way presence. Gagner is a good bottom-six asset and a great role player that could jell with just about any team he’s tossed into.
A big factor, when it comes to this decision, is the previously mentioned prospects in the system that are on their way to cracking the Canucks’ lineup. There’s only so many spots on the roster and the best player will play, so moving some of ‘The Expendables’ and/or the ‘On The Fence’ guys at the deadline, could prove to be a wise decision.
The Canucks Defence
On the blue line, things are a little bit more clear and easy to analyze — the prospects pool is much smaller, the veterans are integral and the young talent is uncontested, for the most part, at this point in time.
- Chris Tanev – Reliable, smooth, calculated. Tanev is the epitome of trust-worthy on the back end. Simple plays and smart decisions make him the Canucks top defenceman.
- Alex Edler – Big, versatile, no-trade clause. Edler is a long-time defender for the Canucks, but where Tanev is reliable, Edler is not. Unfortunately, his NTC makes him insanely difficult to move. On the bright side, though, he’s the most versatile D-man the Canucks have.
- Troy Stecher – Skilled, strong skater, high potential. The 23-year-old is currently on his second campaign as a Canuck and his potential is evidently clear.
- Erik Gudbranson – Huge, strong, physical. With his contract up after the season and his various injury problems, many people have him pegged as the most expendable Canuck come the trade deadline. However, he’s a solid defensive D-man and the Canucks’ best physical presence.
- Michael Del Zotto – Strong skater, versatile, inconsistent. MDZ carries the heaviest amount of responsibility on the Canucks but many consider him to be a bottom-pair defender. With some pretty brutal statistics under his belt, he just might be on his way out.
On The Fence
- Ben Hutton – Young, great skater, below average hockey sense. Hutton is a frustrating case — he’s got all the tools of an elite defender but continues to make ill-advised choices on the ice, resulting in poor statistics and lack of trust from coaches. Thus, halting his development.
- Alex Biega – Tenacious, hard worker, respected. The 29-year-old Biega has been on the outside looking in for quite some time and has never been able to grab a full-time spot in the NHL. His effort and consistency haven’t gone unnoticed, though, and he continues to get chances. Unfortunately, he might be the odd-man-out as the Canucks move forward.
Today's #OnPoint Poll Q: In light of the MDZ trade rumours, if you were to deal a Canucks' defenceman who would you trade?
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) January 16, 2018
In the not-so-distant future, the Canucks will need to make room for the upcoming Olli Juolevi and one or two of the previously mentioned defencemen will need to be out of the equation.
The Canucks Goalies
Anders Nilsson and Jacob Markstrom are virtually identical goaltenders and make for a reliable one-two punch between the pipes. Being able to bounce between two starters is a big asset. With Thatcher Demko making his climb, either Nilsson or Markstrom will need to move on, but for at least another season, they will be fine.
Who Should the Canucks Trade?
First and foremost, from the forwards, I think Thomas Vanek is likely to be traded at the deadline to a cup-contending team. Eriksson’s ridiculous contract and poor play make it next to impossible to move him but Granlund could possibly be moved because of his small contract. I also have Baertschi labeled as a wildcard — he could be tossed into a trade as a pot-sweetener if nothing else.
On the blue line, I think Gudbranson will be traded for a mediocre return, unfortunately. MDZ is seemingly trusted by Travis Green above everyone else so I doubt that he’ll be moved. Hutton might be moved, if the price is right, but I highly doubt it at this point.
So, Vanek and Gudbranson should be moved while Granlund, Baertschi and Hutton could be used to cement a deal for a solid asset coming back across the table.