With J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, and Elias Pettersson, the Vancouver Canucks had one of the best 1-2-3 punches at centre this season.
Don’t let that fool you into thinking that Vancouver has good depth at the position.
With Jason Dickinson not working out as a centre, the Canucks have no other NHL-calibre pivots signed heading into next season.
While UFA’s such as Juho Lammikko and/or Brad Richardson could return, what the Canucks really should be looking to add is another right-shot centre.
They didn’t have a single right-shooting pivot last season after Brandon Sutter was sidelined with long-haul COVID symptoms.
As the offseason brainstorming begins, here are seven potential right-shot centre targets for the Canucks to consider this offseason.
Low-cost UFA category
1. Colin Blackwell (Toronto Maple Leafs)
- 2021-22 Stats (SEA/TOR): 58 GP, 10 G, 10 A, 20 PTS
Arguably the most expensive “low-cost” option here, Colin Blackwell’s services will likely be in demand on the open market after another successful NHL season.
The late-bloomer posted 17 points in 38 games with the Seattle Kraken before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline.
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) March 20, 2022
While his ice time dwindled in Toronto, Blackwell still provides good speed and energy in a bottom-six role. He showcased those skills on the penalty kill as well. Blackwell scored twice shorthanded and nearly broke even in terms of on-ice goals-for (five goals-for, eight goals-against at four-on-five). That’s a remarkable feat.
Money might be the biggest issue here for the Canucks. Blackwell profiles similarly to Tyler Motte, and he could fetch an overly expensive contract on the open market.
If the contract makes sense though, he’d be a perfect fit in Vancouver’s bottom six.
2. Noel Acciari (Florida Panthers)
- 2021-22 Stats (FLA): 20 GP, 3 G, 5 A, 8 PTS
Just two years removed from his first career 20-goal season, Noel Acciari only suited up in 20 games for the Florida Panthers in 2021-22.
The 30-year-old suffered an upper body during the preseason and didn’t make his season debut until mid-February.
His late-season start, coupled with the Panthers’ stacked forward depth, meant that Acciari found himself in and out of the press box as the season progressed.
The Rhode Island native has some versatility as a right-shot centre and penalty killer. He may be a good low-cost flier to target this offseason, even if he doesn’t fit in with the Canucks’ age window.
3. Nick Bjugstad (Minnesota Wild)
- 2021-22 Stats (MIN): 55 GP, 7 G, 6 A, 13 PTS
For the past few seasons, Nick Bjugstad hasn’t been much more than an injury-prone, fourth-line depth piece for teams like the Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins.
That being said, Bjugstad could still provide value on a league-minimum salary.
There's no stopping Nick Bjugstad when he's barreling in on goal like this. 😤 pic.twitter.com/LQewJtsYWY
— NHL (@NHL) November 28, 2021
The 29-year-old won more than 55% of his faceoffs this season. He can also provide some size and physicality, although he doesn’t use that as much as you’d like considering he stands at 6-foot-6, 217 pounds.
Another knock on Bjugstad is that he’s never been a penalty killer at the NHL level.
Boeser/Miller trade contingency plan category
4. Vincent Trocheck (Carolina Hurricanes)
- 2021-22 Stats (CAR): 81 GP, 21 G, 30 A, 51 PTS
The first three options are all relatively low-cost targets.
These next two aren’t in the same category and likely would only happen if the Canucks deal one of Miller, Brock Boeser, Conor Garland, or someone else with a significant salary owed next season.
Vincent Trocheck provides everything you’d want in a high-end second-line centre. He scores, kills penalties, wins the majority of his face-offs (54.6% this season) and eats up a ton of minutes.
He also might not fit into the Carolina Hurricanes’ long-term plans at centre.
Vincent Trocheck lays a hit on Brad Marchand: pic.twitter.com/4757dvPYqB
— Evan Marinofsky (@EvanMarinofsky) January 19, 2022
If he does hit the open market, look for Trocheck to command a long-term deal in the $6 million/year range. Because of that, he’s really only a target if the Canucks lose a top-six forward.
5. Evan Rodrigues (Pittsburgh Penguins)
- 2021-22 Stats (PIT): 82 GP, 19 G, 24 A, 43 PTS
You can think of Evan Rodrigues as a more inconsistent version of Trocheck. The 28-year-old has some similar traits, but consistency was an issue for him this season.
He had 30 points in his first 33 games before tailing off in the second half, posting just 13 points in his final 49 games.
Rodrigues won’t cost as much as Trocheck, but he still might be too expensive for the Canucks as a pending UFA.
Offer sheet/trade category
6. Nicolas Roy (Vegas Golden Knights)
- 2021-22 Stats (VGK): 78 GP, 15 G, 24 A, 39 PTS
Nicolas Roy would command interest from around the NHL if Vegas isn’t able to get him signed to a deal.
The 24-year-old is already a high-end third-line centre with size (6-foot-4, 204 pounds) and good defensive awareness.
If any team were to sign him to an offer sheet at a deal with $4.2 million annually or less, the compensation to Vegas would be a second-round pick.
Offer Sheet update:
Here are the updated Offer Sheet compensation tiers for the 2022 off-season.
The updated tiers represent an increase of roughly 2.21% over last years thresholds, which is 50% of the average player salary increase of 4.42% for 2022.https://t.co/fTuH7jqThF pic.twitter.com/8Z2eu40hcn
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) May 18, 2022
7. Michael McLeod (New Jersey Devils)
- 2021-22 Stats (NJD): 77 GP, 6 G, 14 A, 20 PTS
While his offensive statistics don’t jump off of the page, Michael McLeod has everything you want in a bottom-six centre.
He already shoulders heavy defensive minutes, kills a lot of penalties, wins a lot of faceoffs (57.3% this season), skates like the wind, and has decent size at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds.
For those reasons, the New Jersey Devils probably don’t want to give up on him. That being said, they are in desperate need of a bigger scoring punch heading into next season. If the Canucks are looking to shed salary and trade a top forward, targeting McLeod in return makes a lot of sense.
McLeod is signed for one more season at a cap hit of $975,000.
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