The NHL trade deadline annually generates a massive amount of speculation and guessing games. This year’s March 2 deadline will be no different. Are the Canucks buyers or sellers? Will the Canucks make a bold move or will they be a quiet bystander while rival NHL teams look to improve their rosters?
Here’s a list of the Canucks players most likely to be involved in trade talks and the likelihood of them actually being moved:
You don’t have to be wire tapping Jim Benning’s land-line to know that Zack Kassian is very likely to be moved on or before March 2nd. Kassian has had his name bandied about in trade talk for most of this season after multiple healthy scratches and lackluster play. Willie Desjardins simply does not trust Kassian and has publicly stated that Kassian needs to develop some consistency in his game.
It is a bit sad that Kassian is the most likely Canuck to be traded given he has the size, speed, and skill that the Canucks need in their top 6. Kassian has a favourable contract signed through 2015-16 at an average cap hit of $1.75M. The Canucks should have no shortage of teams calling regarding the availability of Kassian.
Look for Kassian to be moved to an Eastern Conference team. The Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins are likely landing spots for the enigmatic Kassian. Benning did not bring Kassian to the Canucks and will have no hesitance in moving him.
Will Eddie Lack be the new Cody Hodgson? Canucks Nation loves back-up goalies and they really love Eddie Lack. The problem is that the Canucks have a lot of depth at the goaltending position with Jacob Markstrom and Joacim Eriksson playing well with the AHL Utica Comets and promising draft pick Thatcher Demko in the pipeline. Lack is a UFA after next season and carries low $1.15M cap hit. Lack is an upgrade for most teams at the backup position and is ready to take on a starter’s role if given the chance.
Lack will be traded by the deadline and perhaps will be packaged with another Canuck roster player for some top 6 help. If Craig MacTavish was ever to make a “bold move”, he should do whatever it takes to get Lack. The Oilers and Eddie Lack are a perfect fit, but I’m not sure MacT has the kahunas to make a good enough offer to land the likeable goaltender. The Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers are most likely to land Lack based on need.
The Canucks are deep in goal and have a goalie in Jacob Markstrom who is an AHL all-star. Markstrom is putting up gaudy numbers with the Utica Comets. He is 2nd in the AHL with a 1.94 goals against average and tied for 1st in save percentage at .934. His 6’6″ frame along with extreme athleticism makes him an attractive trade piece.
Markstrom stays with the Canucks and Lack moves on. I believe the Canucks like both goalies, but will move the more marketable Eddie Lack and gamble on Markstrom being able to transport his AHL success into the NHL. Markstrom’s contract has a slightly higher cap hit than Lack’s at $1.2M, but has RFA status after this season. The RFA status is the key to why Markstrom will remain a Canuck and Lack will not.
A lot of teams will be calling Jim Benning regarding the availability of Brad Richardson. Richardson is a Willie Desjardins favourite and has been an extremely good player for the Canucks. He would be attractive for any team looking to add a solid centre for a Stanley Cup run. Benning will have to listen as Richardson is a UFA at the end of the season and will surely want a raise from his $1.15M deal. This is one free agent signing that Mike Gillis hit a home run on.
If Benning gets a good enough offer, I believe Richardson goes at the deadline. The Canucks are one of the few teams that have depth at centre. Shawn Matthias or Linden Vey can move to the middle if Richardson were to be traded. The Canucks will have an easier time signing Matthias as a UFA than Richardson. Canuck’s fans won’t want to see Richardson go, but he is the exact type of player that needs to be moved in order to restock the team with younger players. The New York Islanders might be a team to watch on this one.
Chris Higgins has a modified no-trade clause, but could be on the move. Higgins has struggled scoring this year, but is a valuable 200 foot player. Part of Higgins’ struggles in the scoring department stem from being miscast as a top 6 player. Higgins is an extremely effective 3rd line winger and I’m sure many contending teams value him as a deadline addition. Higgins has two years left on his contract at a $2.5M cap hit.
Fear not female Canucks fans, Higgins is going nowhere. The Canucks would be wise to keep Higgins and move him to the 3rd line with the insertion of a new player or Nicklas Jensen into the top 6.
The Canucks aren’t Stanley Cup contenders and they need to get younger, but making the playoffs is a goal for the organization. First year GM Jim Benning will have a lot of decisions to make as the Canucks look poised to be in a playoff race until the final days of the season.
Feature Image: canucks.nhl.com