Not much was expected of the Vancouver Canucks entering this season.
After an offseason that saw their management group finally (reluctantly?) utter the word rebuild in public, that’s to be expected.
But the team came out of the gate quick, sprinting to a surprising 6-3-1 record after the first 10 games.
Dreams of playoffs danced in Canucks fans’ heads, only to be crushed in the last month after injuries/reality set in.
With the team 11 points back of the final playoff spot in the West, we can confidently say the Canucks will not be a playoff team again this season. Circle February 26 on your calendar – the date of the NHL trade deadline – because the Canucks should be busy before then.
Here are five tradable players (ie. not players with full no-trade or no-movement clauses like the Sedins, Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, and Alex Edler) that could fetch a return for GM Jim Benning:
There’s no more obvious player to be traded this year than Thomas Vanek.
That’s been the case since he was signed to a one-year $2 million contract in September.
While the 33-year-old didn’t seem like a good fit with the rebuilding Canucks, he’s been a nice story this season, ranking second on the team in scoring with 32 points (13-19-32) in 45 games.
He’s been so good for Vancouver that people are starting to talk about giving him a contract extension.
But taking nothing away from his performance with the Canucks, they’d be crazy to turn down trade offers for him. His birth certificate dictates that.
Vanek is producing near the pace he did last year with Detroit when he notched 38 points in 48 games. He fetched a third-round pick from Florida at last year’s deadline.
He’s a year older and has another perceived blemish on his record after just two goals and 10 points in 20 games with the Panthers down the stretch a year ago, so the price could conceivably go down.
But if you’re a team looking for offence in depth role, Vanek should still have value. Would he be a fit with the Penguins? They’ve got Dominik Simon and Daniel Sprong (five career NHL goals combined) playing with Sidney Crosby at the moment.
Sticking with the soon-to-be-UFA theme, Erik Gudbranson is an eligible player to be traded before the deadline. While age isn’t an issue, the team doesn’t appear to be overly enthusiastic about re-signing him.
The big question with Gudbranson is how much he’ll fetch in return.
Gilman on Gudbranson: He's gonna get signed to a significant contract. At this stage, I would be moving him and getting the assets I can and not re-signing him – based that I think his expectations would be upwards of $5-6million #canucks
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) November 9, 2017
A lot of people seem convinced that Gudbranson, a former third overall draft pick with good size and leadership qualities, will get overpaid as a free agent. Given that he’s only 26 – young for a UFA – history has taught us to expect him to get a pay raise on his $3.5 million contract.
If there are GMs with hearts in their eyes for Gudbranson on July 1, shouldn’t they feel the same at the trade deadline?
It could happen, meaning there’s potential for the 6-foot-5 blueliner to bring much more in return than your average bottom-pairing defenceman.
If we’re looking at comparable deals, consider that pending UFA defenceman Michael Stone (he was also 26 at last year’s deadline) was acquired by the Flames for a third and a fifth-round pick. He re-signed in Calgary for $3.5 million this offseason – matching Gudbranson’s current salary.
Other pending UFA defencemen dealt last year include Ron Hainsey, who was had for a second rounder, and Brendan Smith, who fetched a third round pick.
The bidding should start with a second rounder, with the potential to go up if a team just has to have him.
If you’re interested in winning now, Chris Tanev is basically untouchable. The problem is, with or without him, the Canucks aren’t winning anything significant for a few years.
While the 28-year-old’s career is far from over, we should expect his play to decline in the not too distant future.
A defensively-sound puck mover, injuries have to become a concern when projecting how well he’ll age into his 30s. He’s never come close to playing a full 82-game season in his 377-game career.
Tanev has a limited no-trade clause in his $4.45 million AAV contract, with two years left after this season. They don’t have to trade him now, but his value will likely only go down the longer they wait.
If the team is honest with themselves and serious about a rebuild, he’s a player they should seriously consider moving.
Defencemen like Tanev aren’t dealt often, so it’s difficult to figure out his value on the market. Whatever they get back should include a first round pick though.
So why couldn't Vancouver and Toronto figure out how to trade Tanev to the Leafs? Would still make sense imo.
— Platinum Seat Ghosts (@3rdPeriodSuits) September 12, 2017
That deal would make a lot of sense for the Maple Leafs, wouldn’t it?
If you’re a team looking for defensive depth and Chris Tanev is out of your price range, perhaps Michael Del Zotto is more your speed.
He makes just $3 million this season and next, and has the capability of playing in all situations. He’s not a top-four defenceman on a Cup-contending team, but he could be very effective in a bottom-pairing role.
Perhaps he gets the Canucks a third round pick.
Sam Gagner is likely the least desirable player on this list, given he has two more years left on his contract after this season, paying him $3.15 million per season.
But at age 28, he’s still relatively young.
Perhaps the Columbus Blue Jackets would be interested?
He was a great fit with them last season, scoring 50 points. Though he wasn’t the straw that stirs the drink, he was part of 12th-best power play in the NHL last year.
Would they view Gagner as someone who could help revive their power play this year? It currently ranks 30th in the league, clicking at just 13.5 per cent.