Canucks need to find the next Motte, not pay a fourth-line premium

Mar 4 2022, 11:34 pm

Tyler Motte has been everything the Vancouver Canucks could have hoped for when they acquired him four years ago.

Traded from Columbus to Vancouver for Thomas Vanek at the trade deadline in 2018, the deal turned out to be one of Jim Benning’s smartest moves as Canucks GM. It’s ironic because at the time the trade was widely seen as a failure to get a significant return on Vanek, who was having a nice season in Vancouver with 17 goals and 41 points in 61 games.

But Motte had other ideas. He was a training camp surprise the next fall, earning his way onto Travis Green’s team because of his intelligence, defensive awareness, and work ethic.

The 5-foot-10 forward has been a staple in the Canucks’ lineup ever since, providing speed and checking on the fourth line and penalty kill. Motte can chip in offensively, scoring 48 points in 188 games over the last five seasons with the Canucks, including 22 points (12-10-22) in his last 65 games.

With 17 days to go before the trade deadline, the Canucks have a decision to make on Motte, who is a pending unrestricted free agent. And it’ll probably be a difficult one to make.

Daily Faceoff‘s Frank Seravalli is reporting that the Canucks will trade Motte if they can’t come to an agreement before the March 21 trade deadline and that Sean Kuraly’s four-year, $2.5 million AAV deal in Columbus is in the ballpark of what Motte could command.

The Canucks want more guys like Motte on their fourth line, not fewer. With that said, they need this version of Motte — one who is young, cheap, and effective.

If they commit too much money, Motte won’t be cheap anymore. And if they commit too many years, in the back half of his contract he won’t be young, and he may not be very effective either. Motte turns 27 next month.

Because of Motte’s character, the gut reaction for many is to re-sign him, and maybe even overpay a little bit if you have to. The problem with that way of thinking is that’s exactly how Benning got the Canucks into this mess in the first place.

The new Canucks management team of Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin has been clear in their message that the team needs to clear cap space in order to improve this offseason. Does committing over $2 million to a fourth-liner, as good as a fourth-liner as Motte has been, make sense for this team?

Of course, it doesn’t.

Motte has been excellent for the Canucks, but paying a premium for his services is not the answer for a cap-committed team looking to improve.

The answer is instead to look for the next Tyler Motte.

Matthew Highmore is already here, and Will Lockwood is showing promising signs in Abbotsford. Maybe neither one of them pans out, but that’s a risk the retooling Canucks can afford to take.

It remains to be seen what the Canucks can acquire in a trade for Motte, but clearly, that’s an avenue the team needs to explore.

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