Welcome Matt: Canucks should consider Höglander trade if they're not going to play him in NHL
Vasily Podkolzin made his return to the Canucks’ lineup in last night’s 5-4 overtime loss in New Jersey.
He was one of three forwards not named Nils Höglander recalled from the Abbotsford farm team on Sunday. Phil Di Giuseppe scored in Jersey. Nils Åman played nearly 10 minutes.
While Podkolzin and Åman, a free agent signed from Sweden last summer, figure in the Canucks’ plans going forward, one now must wonder where Höglander fits?
The easy answer is that he is two games away from requiring waivers, and the Canucks are simply protecting the asset. But that’s short-term asset management.
What about bigger picture asset management? Because Sunday’s transactions were also a declaration on Höglander.
Nearly 13 months after former coach Bruce Boudreau (not exactly a stickler for defensive detail) said the Swedish winger needs to improve defensively or become a 30-plus goal-scorer, the Canucks have yet again deemed him not NHL-ready.
Last night’s lineup saw Dakota Joshua playing in the top-6 and journeymen playing on the fourth line. That Höglander can’t crack this lineup is concerning.
Many will say that he’ll get his chance after the trade deadline when either Brock Boeser or Conor Garland is traded or when more injuries mount, but on Sunday he was no better than the third forward and second winger on the farm according to management. And who knows? Countryman Linus Karlsson may also be ahead of him.
Caught this alarming tweet from Elite Prospects’ Daniel Gee:
There’s still a lot of work to be done in improving Höglander’s in-zone defending. Very reactive and not disruptive enough even at the AHL level. A more well-rounded player will go a long way with the new coaching staff imo. https://t.co/WgD6v15unD
— Daniel Gee (@DanielGScouting) February 6, 2023
Eventually, Höglander and the Canucks have to cross the waivers bridge. While it’s easier to cross post-deadline, it’s better crossed in another organization.
We are two years removed from his fine rookie season in the Canadian bubble, and Höglander has gone backwards since. He’s a poor defensive forward in an organization full of poor defensive forwards.
Management is going to have to conceive of some creative trades to get money off the books, and the culling is likely to happen on the wing where the Canucks have some depth. While that might provide opportunity for Höglander, one wonders if it might just be Höglander.
As Gee writes, would this new coaching staff just prefer a different profile of player? Can you make a lateral trade for a defenceman or a centre?
Because while the short-term view of leaving the 22-year-old in Abbotsford amounts to asset management, the Canucks need a solution with this player before he withers on the vine and loses all value.
They’ve done that before and were most expert at bleeding out value in the Jim Benning era. Today’s management team is not as tied to Benning-era prospects like Högs.
If he can return a similar aged and equipped player at another position, or help shed cap space, the Canucks should consider trading him.
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