This year’s NHL trade deadline (Monday at noon) promises to be a busy one for the Vancouver Canucks. For the first time in a long time, it appears that the organization will commit to being “sellers”.
“Our intention is not to discuss our plans as related to the deadline” Canucks GM Jim Benning said on a conference call on Monday. While Benning wouldn’t explicitly state his intentions for deadline day, he did drop some hints.
Benning seemed resigned to the fact that the Canucks will likely miss the playoffs. “That’s going to be hard for us to overcome” Benning said, commenting on his team’s position in the standings. “It’s going to be tough”.
Given where the Canucks stand right now, 8 points out of the final playoff spot in the West, they have an opportunity to cash in on some diminishing assets.
What they need
The Canucks are in a quasi-rebuild, so they need to get younger. My guess is that prospects will be preferred by this regime, but it may be more worthwhile and more readily available to stockpile draft picks instead.
GM Jim Benning will be looking for a defence prospect, but those are hard to come by. There’s also a need for a forward with top-end scoring ability, but again, those don’t grow on trees.
What they have to give up
Contract: Last year of a deal that carries a $4.5 million cap hit and a no-trade clause.
Possible landing spots: Dallas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Chicago
Potential return: 1st round draft pick, A-level prospect
Dan Hamhuis is the most valuable chip that Benning has to play with. He’s still a top-4 defenceman and would be a valuable addition to any team.
Hamhuis is the best defenceman available on the market right now, so there should be a bidding war for his services. He’s also the type of player, a dependable puck-moving defenceman, that good teams are always looking for.
Hamhuis is well entrenched in the community and took less money to come to Vancouver in the first place. The Smithers, B.C. native has a full no-trade clause, but perhaps he would be willing to waive it for a chance at the Stanley Cup.
Hamhuis might be a candidate to be this year’s Antoine Vermette. Vermette was moved from Arizona to Chicago at the deadline last year, only to return to Arizona as a free agent.
Vancouver would be hard-pressed to be able to replace Hamhuis for next season, so a Vermette-type deal would be the best of both worlds.
Dallas seems to be the most logical destination for Hamhuis, given their success this season and the trouble they have preventing goals against.
Contract: Last year of a deal that carries a $5 million cap hit and a modified no-trade clause.
Possible landing spots: Chicago, Arizona, Detroit
Potential return: 2nd round draft pick, B-level prospect
Like Hamhuis, Radim Vrbata is a good player on an expiring contract that could help a lot of playoff teams. Unlike Hamhuis, he’s not playing very well.
Coming off a 33-goal season, Vrbata may have commanded a 1st round pick last summer. But now? Vrbata isn’t going to come close to last year’s production has just 24 points (12-12-24) in 57 games.
To complicate matters, Vrbata is injured, although he is expected to only miss about a week. His health will be monitored very closely until Monday.
Vrbata, given his age and the glut of young forwards ready to take his spot in the Canucks’ organization, has no future in Vancouver. He will be moved before the deadline, the only question is what for.
Contract: One year left on a deal that carries a $4.5 milion cap hit and a no-trade clause.
Possible landing spots: Anaheim, Colorado, NY Rangers
Potential return: 3rd round pick
This one would be a tough one for Canucks fans to take, but Alex Burrows could be on the move before the deadline.
Burrows, who will turn 35 in April, is a fan favourite but his best years are clearly behind him. He appears to have lost a step, and lost his scoring touch that made him so successful for so many years. Burrows has just 16 points (7-9-16) in 57 games this season, averaging 15:23 of ice time per game.
At this point in his career, Burrows could still be a 3rd or 4th liner on a contender, chipping in the odd goal and helping on the penalty kill.
Burrows’ cap hit will scare cap-teams away, unless the Canucks agree to pick up part of his salary. He’s only scheduled to make $3 million next season, which makes him a lot more palatable for non-cap teams.
Maybe playing for his old coach in New York would be a fit? Anaheim has cap space and appears to be reuniting the 2013-14 Canucks, so who knows?
Contract: Last year of a deal that pays him $1 million.
Possible landing spots: Columbus, Edmonton, Carolina
Potential return: 4th round pick
Linden Vey was acquired by the Canucks nearly two years ago for a second round pick. Undoubtedly, his stock has dropped since then, as evidenced by him clearing waivers in October.
With Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter, Bo Horvat, Jared McCann, and newly acquired Markus Granlund under contract for next season, Vey could be the odd man out at centre.
Teams that need depth at centre could be interested in Vey and may be enticed by his stat-line this season. He has been quietly good since being recalled by Vancouver, putting up 9 points (2-7-9) in 23 games while averaging 15:30 of ice time.
Could one of the minnows of the league be enticed by his potential and have a spot for him on a third line? We’ll see.
This could be the biggest fire sale in Canucks history. Vrbata is as good as gone, while I would classify Hamhuis moving as probable. Burrows could move too, though his situation is complicated by his contract and no-trade clause.