Boeser tries to focus on his game as Canucks, agent look for trade partner

Mike Halford and Jason Brough discuss how many defenceman are keepers going forward for the Vancouver Canucks, and debate whether anyone other than Quinn Hughes is untouchable.

ST. LOUIS – He turns 26 on Saturday, but the day Brock Boeser really looks forward to is one week later.

On March 4, the day after the National Hockey League trading deadline, the Vancouver Canucks winger will finally know his team for the rest of this season. After a months-long trade mission, Boeser’s uncertainty and angst will finally ease a little. One way or another.

“For sure,” Boeser told Sportsnet on Tuesday before the Canucks travelled here to play the St. Louis Blues on Thursday (8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT, Sportsnet, SN NOW). “There’s just so much talk over the last few months. You never know what can happen. So, yeah, day by day — I’m trying to focus on that.”

Boeser’s agent, Ben Hankinson, has been working with Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin on trying to find a trade partner for Boeser, who after six seasons in Vancouver, all but one of them undermined by injuries, would like a fresh start and more opportunity.

But the three-year, $20-million extension Boeser signed with the Canucks last summer has proved a major obstacle in trade discussions and Allvin, in an interview with Sportsnet two weeks ago, made it clear that he still values the Minnesotan and won’t “force anything.”

On Wednesday, Hankinson told The Athletic that he has talked to Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin and that Boeser would fit “perfectly” on his home state’s team. But the agent said Allvin would have to retain a significant portion of Boeser’s salary – assuming the sides can even agree on the assets to be exchanged.

“They’re trying to move some things around potentially,” Hankinson said of the Wild. “But where does Brock Boeser fit? I think he fits perfectly: a top-six scoring wing, probably playing with (Matt) Boldy. But there are other pieces in play.

“There’d have to be a lot of salary retained by Vancouver, and I don’t think that’s something they’re too excited to do because they just signed Brock Boeser.”

If Hankinson’s appearance on the The Athletic Hockey Show was intended partly to put more public pressure on the Canucks to make a deal, the methodical Allvin is unlikely to yield as a key objective in moving Boeser is to create as much cap flexibility as possible.

The Vancouver GM declined an interview request on Wednesday.

Two weeks ago, Allvin said of Boeser: “If there is a deal that makes sense for us, we’ll definitely look at it. But. . . it’s our job to help him. I mean, that’s my conversation with the coaches: (How do we) get the best out of every single player? Brock has been very professional. With all the outside distraction, he’s been coming into the rink every day with a good attitude and trying to compete and be better.”

And the issue of retained salary?

“It all depends on what the actual deal is and what’s included,” Allvin said. “We all know that retaining money, you usually get an asset back for it.”

Allvin’s decision on Tuesday to remove Luke Schenn from the Canucks lineup and allow the veteran defenceman to return to Vancouver to await a likely trade keenly reminded Boeser of the uncertainty of his own situation.

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He has been linked in reports to several teams including, on Wednesday by Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman, the Calgary Flames and Washington Capitals.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Boeser said. “I’m just coming to the rink every day, working as hard as I can with what I’m given, and trying to make the most of every opportunity.”

On seeing Schenn leave the team in Nashville, Boeser said: “It’s not easy. He’s one of the leaders we have here. He leads by example every day and he’s a guy everyone listens to in the locker room, so it sucks to see. He’s a guy who comes to rink every day working hard, so I just hope that if he gets traded he gets put in a good situation where he can continue to succeed.”

Boeser had an assist and nine shot attempts in the 5-4 shootout loss to the Predators, and the Canuck’s ice time of 19:21 was his highest since Rick Tocchet replaced Bruce Boudreau as coach on Jan. 22.

But while he has continued to produce points – 37 in 49 games this season – Boeser has scored just 10 goals, six of them at five-on-five, and has only one goal in his last 14 games. Since a four-point game against the New York Islanders two weeks ago, Boeser has two assists in five games.

His defensive profile has been bleak all season. The Canucks have been outscored 54-39 at five-on-five with Boeser, whose expected goals-for is just 39.7 per cent. Boeser’s goals-against-per-60-minutes of 4.92 is worst among active Canucks, and his plus/minus rating of minus-21 is second-worst on the team.

Despite his high hopes for this season and a bold prediction of 30-plus goals, Boeser was slowed at the start by a freak, pre-season hand injury that required surgery and has had the winger trying to catch up since October.

When the Canucks traded captain Bo Horvat to the New York Islanders three weeks ago, Boeser became the longest-tenured player in Vancouver. He was the Calder Trophy runner-up just five years ago when he scored 29 times, which is still Boeser’s high-water mark in the NHL.

“This year has thrown different challenges at me than in the past,” he said Tuesday night after the Nashville game. “I feel some things haven’t gone my way, but I just put that aside and I just come to the rink and try to be better and want to be better for our team and try to contribute and help our team win. I’ve been here a while and I’m sick of this losing stuff, too. I’m just trying to put my hard hat on and get to work.”

Wherever he works.

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