The Vancouver Canucks have been trying to trade Luca Sbisa for a while now. It’s the worst kept secret in town.
Summing up the Canucks plans in the wake of free agency, Jason Botchford of The Province had this to say on the handsomely compensated defenceman.
Some around the league suggested a possible Luca Sbisa trade was being discussed this weekend.
If true, it would make sense because Gudbranson is essentially an upgrade on Sbisa, who will be battling for ice time on the third defensive pair.
Which only confirmed much of what I heard elsewhere. The fact that every hypothetical trade the Canucks have been involved in features the Swiss rearguard doesn’t really fan the fires, either. Vancouver’s run out of room for Sbisa and don’t have the time or space to afford him a chance to reward their once defiant faith in him.
Finding a partner has proven difficult, though. Think of all the question marks on the Canucks’ blue line and consider for a second that Sbisa’s future therein isn’t guaranteed, even with the $3.6-million owed him for the next two season. It kind of makes sense.
I’ve seen worse players with worse deals in murkier salary situations dealt, though. So colour me unconvinced that this is an immovable player. It just might require a little creativity on the Canucks part. Let’s look at three such ways they might accomplish this.
Take on a Bad Contract
Based on a combination of the estimates made on www.CapFriendly.com and my own calculations, the Canucks have about $2.25-million in salary cap space available to them. That figure includes Anton Rodin and Philip Larsen as parts of the Canucks opening night roster and does away with Alex Biega. If you include Sbisa’s salary, that’s about $5.8-million, though the Canucks will likely want to leave themselves with about a million dollar cushion.
That means the Canucks can take on somewhere in the neighbourhood, though preferably less than, $5-million in salary. There are a few such players on the market worth the trouble, too. Maybe they approach the Carolina Hurricanes. Bryan Bickell certainly isn’t due the $4-million he’s owed, but I think viewed outside his salary Bickell can be a competent piece in the bottom six. The Canes are also rocking one of the league’s youngest defence corps, with a canyon sized age gap between their next wave of defenders and the elder statesman Ron Hainsey.
There’s also the Columbus Blue Jackets and Scott Hartnell to consider. We’ve been beating that drum for quite some time on this platform. It just makes way too much sense. The Blue Jackets defence is bad enough that Sbisa is a legitimate top-four player on their team. I’m not sure if Sbisa alone is good enough to land Hartnell, but I don’t think that’s far off.
Lower Expectations on the Return
I have a hard time believing the Canucks have given up on the idea of Sbisa as a top four defenceman. They’re just running out of space and time. Keeping that in mind, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Canucks are scaring teams off with what exactly they want in return for their project defender.
If Rob Scuderi can be dealt twice in one season, there’s no reason the Canucks can’t part with Sbisa if they bring their asking price in line with what the market will bear. Maybe that means taking a fifth-round pick. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but considering Sbisa is in line to be the sixth or seventh defenceman on this roster, it’s not the worst possible outcome. Especially since they absolutely can find a replacement for Sbisa in free agency, for less than half the cost, if they feel the need to go that route.
The Canucks don’t seem overly keen on acquiring draft picks under Jim Benning, which has been an interesting development given his history as an expert at the draft. I’d like to think a late pick has higher value than usual in Benning’s hands. And I’d like it if he had the opportunity to prove as much more regularly.
With $800,000 of Roberto Luongo’s salary on the books until 2023, the Canucks have the ability to retain salary on another two transactions. If it can land them the best possible return for Sbisa, it might serve their interests well to retain a couple bucks to make it happen.
Depending on the player they receive in return, they just might have the financial muscle to pull this type of deal off. And if it’s just for a pick or a prospect, then they’re still putting themselves in a better position financially for this season and next.
Honestly, I’m glad I’m not the one trying to trade the last two years of Luca Sbisa’s contract. That’s a tall order. Especially with a stagnant cap and the expansion draft looming over everything teams are doing right now. I remember a few months ago when analysts were saying that this would be one of the busiest off-seasons to date, but it’s been relatively quiet so far. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
Then again, I’m of the mind that having Sbisa as a seventh defenceman for this roster wouldn’t be the absolute worst thing ever. The fact that he can play both sides is hugely valuable and provides the Canucks with much-needed flexibility when injuries strike. It’s just a shame about the cost, is all.