Though the Canucks have been among the league’s most active teams this off-season, the daunting reality is that they likely haven’t done enough. For all their bluster, next year’s team likely isn’t good enough to make it to the dance.
That’s why Canucks general manager Jim Benning is exploring the trade market for a quality winger to better their chances. He’s not exactly been shy about it, either. The always candid (often, too candid) executive revealed to The Province that he’s looking to add a winger with size and a scoring pedigree to shore up their offence.
Given the logjam on each wing and the question marks therein, that’s not really a bad plan. Of course, that depends almost entirely on the player they trade for and what they surrender for their services. I’ve a few ideas in mind, though, so let’s take a look at players the Canucks should consider.
For whatever reason, it appears as though the Colorado Avalanche’s front office is annually at odds with one of their star players. And even when they’re not, their internal budget can often force them to part with players they’re otherwise fond of.
Considering that Gabriel Landeskog is their captain and signed through the 2020-21 season, he’s not fallen into that category yet. You have to wonder, though, when Jason Botchford is suggesting that Landeskog is ‘apparently available’ as he did in his free agency post-mortem article.
Assuming the validity of Botchford’s report (and based on his track record, we have every reason to), Landeskog should be the Canucks plan a, b and c. Landeskog is 23-years-old, has accumulated 246 points in 356 games and has proven to push the possession needle in the right direction for much of his young career.
Prying a young captain from a rebuilding franchise, theoretically on the upswing, will prove costly. Think Christopher Tanev as the starting point — though, one can dare to dream after the Edmonton Oilers traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. That would create a glaring hole on the Canucks right side, though. That’s worth considering.
Gustav Nyquist/Tomas Tatar
If you were to use General Fanager to glean the Detroit Red Wings salary structure and lineup, you’d marvel at the number of forwards either guaranteed a spot on their opening night roster or on the cusp of breaking through. Something’s gotta give.
The amount of good money the Red Wings have invested in bad players only serves to compound matters. Then there’s the expansion draft to consider. For all the Red Wings sustained success, and oh, how much they’ve enjoyed, they are not setup for long-term success.
Beyond the obvious problems with their books, the Red Wings blue line leaves much to be desired. That’s a problem they’ve probably anticipated for years now, as their previous attempts at prying Alexander Edler will attest.
Perhaps the Red Wings circle that wagon. They were rumoured to have offered the Canucks a package that included Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar and a draft pick in advance of the 2013-14 season. If Benning can secure that package, the Canucks might be better for it. Though, it’s fair to wonder if, given their long-term cap woes, the Red Wings won’t try to move Gustav Nyquist and his hefty $4.75-million against the cap annually.
If the Canucks want to add to their top-six without surrendering much in the way of NHL ready talent, Scott Hartnell might be their guy. Part of that reason is the risk associated with investing assets in a player about to enter his age 34 season. Hartnell can still play. He lit the lamp 23 times last season and added 26 helpers. The question is how much longer Hartnell can play.
That’s a question worth asking, given that the team taking on Hartnell will be stuck paying him $4.75-million for the next three seasons. If you’re getting a heavy, 20 goal winger with leadership and experience for all three of those seasons, then that’s not an issue. The problem is that those exact qualities which make Hartnell such a coveted player are the same reasons he’s not likely to continue ageing well.
Perhaps the Canucks offer the Blue Jackets a plug-and-play blue liner, like Luca Sbisa, and a little something from their prospect pool to make it work. That would give the Blue Jackets over $1-million in immediate salary relief and an upgrade on two or maybe even three of the defenceman currently slated to make their opening night roster.
Frankly, this option probably best fits the Canucks needs without hindering their ability to build through the draft and get younger.