The Canucks have confounded much of their fan base this season with a roster that has punched above its weight. Just when you think Vancouver is going to take its seat in 28th place — where the Canucks finished last season — they reel off a couple of road wins to stay within five hopeful points of a wildcard spot.
Our opinion of the Canucks at the trade deadline?
This team should be an all-out seller. Full stop.
But as long as a playoff round (and the accompanying revenue) are in reasonable sight, ownership will bristle at trading away assets for draft picks come March 1. But assuming the Canucks do sell, the question then becomes: What do they have to sell?
Alex Burrows and goalie Ryan Miller are both pending UFAs that could garner interest, but really, any playoff team already has goaltending. Almost none need a starter, and you can forget St. Louis, a failed Miller destination in the spring of ’14. What about Miller as a backup plan in Los Angeles, with Jonathan Quick still recovering from groin surgery?
As for Burrows, Vern Fiddler recently fetched a fourth round pick for New Jersey: Is Burrows’ value about the same? He could help a playoff team as a fourth-line penalty killer and general disturber.
A true seller would deal Jannik Hansen, who has a modified no-trade clause (10 teams) and one year left at $2.5 million. He’d help all 30 NHL teams and has relatively high value on deadline day. Or defenceman Alex Edler, who is harder to move with a full NTC.
Edler and Hansen are both believed to be very happy living and playing in Vancouver, like Kevin Bieksa was before accepting a deal to Anaheim on June 30, 2015. They represent two key trades in any Canucks rebuild however, and surely Hansen and Edler can’t see a Stanley Cup in Vancouver before their contracts expire in one and two years respectively.
The remaining pending UFAs — Philip Larsen, Jayson Megna, Jack Skille — would be of little interest to contenders.
In a lean 2017 draft, the Canucks need draft picks. Especially in Round 1, where they fell from third to fifth last season due to Winnipeg’s lottery luck. Last season GM Jim Benning failed to turn Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata into draft picks, then lost them both after July 1. He’d have two more second-rounders this summer at least, had he moved them both at the ’16 deadline. This organization isn’t deep, and though players like Troy Stetcher, Nikita Tryamkin and Ben Hutton have proven NHL-worthy, there is still a dire need for top-end talent that will only come from the entry draft.
PENDING FREE AGENTS:
Ryan Miller, 36, $6 million
Alex Burrows, 35, $4.5 million
Jack Skille, 29, $700,000
Jayson Megna, 27, $600,000
Philip Larsen, 27, $1.025 million
Anton Rodin, 26, $950,000
Bo Horvat, 21, $894,167
Brendan Gaunce, 22, $863,333
Reid Boucher, 23, $715,000
Michael Chaput, 24, $600,000
Erik Gudbranson, 25, $3.5 million
Nikita Tryamkin, 22, $925,000
POTENTIAL ASSETS TO MOVE:
Miller: Still a very capable goalie and excellent insurance for a playoff run.
Burrows: A utility player who’d garner a third or fourth round pick.
Hansen: Great speed. A smart, useful right winger who would help any team.
Edler: A power play asset who plays 24-plus minutes per game.
2017: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th.
2018: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th.
ONE BOLD MOVE THE TEAM COULD MAKE:
Ask Edler to waive his NTC. The Canucks aren’t in a position to trade any younger talent, but Edler — 30 years old with two years left at $5 million — is still a valuable commodity that would reap a prospect and a high draft pick. There’s no way the Canucks put Edler in a position to win in the next two seasons. How badly does he want to win?
THE CANUCKS SHOULDN’T…:
Do anything that a contending team might do.
We’ve seen the damage that occurs for teams that make wrong-headed playoff runs, then come up short and end up drafting 10th or 12th rather than third. This was the league’s 28th place team last season, and has spent 2016-17 hovering between 22nd and 26th.
The Canucks players can look themselves in the mirror and declare that they haven’t tanked this season. They have overachieved and should be proud. Now it’s management’s turn to be the responsible stewards of this franchise and use the 2017 trade deadline as a springboard for future Canucks teams.
Collect draft picks, jettison pending UFAs, and try to move Hansen and/or Edler. If the 2016-17 season marks rock bottom for the Canucks, this won’t go down as one of hockey’s painful rebuilds.