It could be an interesting trade deadline for the Vancouver Canucks this year.
With the team in an unfamiliar position, with a realistic shot at a playoff spot for the first time in four years, management will have a choice to make before the February 25 deadline.
“I’m not going to mortgage the future just to try to make a run and make the playoffs,” said Jim Benning in an interview with Sportsnet 650 last week.
“We want to keep our draft picks because we have the draft in Vancouver this year.”
So don’t bet on draft picks being used as currency this time around.
Instead, Benning will need to decide if he wants to look only for “hockey deals,” as he called them, or move out aging assets for draft picks and young players. This is the time of year where playoff teams get desperate, with the price of veterans getting inflated more than any other point in the calendar year.
How else can you explain a player like Tomas Tatar fetching Detroit a first, second, and third-round draft pick last year? Tomas Plekanec, who is now retired, somehow got Montreal a second-rounder. Michael Grabner, as a pending UFA, reeled in a second-round pick for the New York Rangers.
Most of the deals made at the deadline are regrettable for the team that’s buying, meaning it can be a very profitable time to be a seller.
- Benning says Canucks won't mortgage future at trade deadline
- Jeremy Roenick says Alex Edler should waive his no-trade clause
- Canucks defence prospect Jett Woo beginning to pile up points in WHL
The Canucks should think about selling, despite the feel-good nature of their season so far.
The goal for this franchise should be the Stanley Cup, not a brief trip to the playoffs. Benning’s job is to figure out when his team can contend for the Cup, and build towards those years.
Will those years include Alex Edler, who turns 33 in April? What will Chris Tanev, 29, look like then?
A smart general manager in Benning’s situation will use the deadline as an opportunity to build for the future.
Here’s a few candidates that he could move.
1. Alex Edler
Contract: Last year of a deal that carries a $5 million cap hit (no-trade clause)
Stats: 36 GP, 5 G, 15 A, 20 PTS
As the only pending unrestricted free agent left on the Canucks, Edler is the most obvious trade bait.
He has a full no-trade clause though, meaning that he ultimately holds the cards.
That doesn’t mean that he won’t agree to waive it though.
The problem? Edler has been the team’s best defenceman and the Canucks could sure use him, not only to make a push for the playoffs this season, but in future years as well.
“I want to try to sit down with [Edler] and his agent and see where they’re at. Try to figure out going forward the strategy there.”
Canucks fans will surely hope Edler opts for the Keith Tkachuk plan of agreeing to a trade, only to return as a free agent in the summer. If he does that, everybody wins.
Jake Muzzin just landed the LA Kings a first-round pick and two prospects. Edler won’t get that kind of a return, but he could come close.
Potential value: 1st-round pick from a contending team needing a left-shot, all-situations, top-four defenceman
Teams that could use him: New York Islanders, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets
2. Chris Tanev
Contract: One year left after this season, $4.45 million cap hit (modified no-trade clause)
Stats: 46 GP, 2 G, 8 A, 10 PTS
If you’re in need of a right-shot defenceman instead, how about Tanev?
Signed for one more year after this season, the Canucks could get ahead of the game and extract value for him now.
A puck-moving shutdown defenceman, Tanev has obvious value when he’s in the lineup. The problem is, he can never seem to stay healthy.
That will hurt his trade value, but it shouldn’t kill it.
The problem for the Canucks is they’re particularly thin on the right side. They would need to add a right-shot blueliner in the summer.
Potential value: Late 1st-round pick or high 2nd-round pick (or equivalent value) from a contender in need of a right-shot shutdown defenceman
Teams that could use him: Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins
3. Brandon Sutter
Contract: Two years left after this season, $4.375 million cap hit (no-trade clause)
Stats: 21 GP, 4 G, 1 A, 5 PTS
With Jay Beagle signed for three more seasons and Adam Gaudette likely ready for full-time NHL employment, it’s hard to see where Brandon Sutter fits into the team’s future plans.
A right-shot centre with good defensive awareness, Sutter could provide depth for a contender. You can never have enough centres when the playoffs come around, and his ability to kill penalties will also intrigue teams.
The Canucks would have to get him to waive his no-trade clause, which turns into a modified no-trade clause next season. They might also have to hold back some salary, which they can afford.
Potential value: 3rd-round pick from a contending team that needs depth at centre and help on the penalty kill
Teams that could use him: Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens
4. Nikolay Goldobin
Contract: Last year of a deal that carries a $863,333 cap hit
Stats: 44 GP, 5 G, 18 A, 23 PTS
It’ll be interesting to see what the Canucks do with Nikolay Goldobin.
A restricted free agent at season’s end, it’s clear that he’s not a favourite of Travis Green. Despite ranking fourth in points, behind Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, and Brock Boeser, he’s been a healthy scratch on multiple occasions.
“If there’s a hockey deal to do for one of our younger players, I’m not going to say our prospects, but a player we have on our team for a different look, a player on another team that we think is going to help us, we’ll look at something like that,” Benning said recently. Goldobin would fit that profile.
Given his stat-line and age, he has value. Perhaps now is the time to swap him for another young player that Green will trust more going forward.
Potential value: A young-ish player from another rebuilding team wanting to add skill to their lineup
Teams that could use him: Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings
5. Erik Gudbranson
Contract: Two years left after this season, cap hit $4 million
Stats: 46 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 PTS
Erik Gudbranson hasn’t had a good run in Vancouver.
After two injury-plagued seasons, the hulking defenceman has been relatively healthy this year. All he’s done is solidify the fact that he is no better than a bottom-pairing defenceman.
He has the worst plus/minus (-20) on the team by a lot, his advanced stats are shockingly bad as usual, and recently he’s been passed on the depth chart by Troy Stecher.
But he’s still big, can fight, and has perceived leadership qualities. His game is better suited to the NHL in the late-1990s than 2019, but there are still a number of old school general managers in the league that overvalue those characteristics.
We’re looking at you, Dale Tallon.
Potential value: 3rd-round pick from an old school GM that wants to add a right-shot defenceman with size, toughness, and leadership
Teams that could use him: Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens