The Vancouver Canucks have until the March 3 deadline to make all the trades they’d like — or hope — to, but there’s reason to believe the team could strike sooner.
Jim Rutherford, Vancouver’s president of hockey operations, has been known to jump early on the trade deadline in his career.
In 2016 with the Penguins, he acquired Carl Hagelin more than a month before the deadline, and he had a big impact on the HBK line en route to the Cup. In 2017, he got out a week ahead of the deadline to acquire Ron Hainsey as his defensive depth pick up. In 2018-19, he made several impactful moves well before the deadline day.
Even going all the way back to his Carolina days, Rutherford acquired Doug Weight more than a month before the deadline in that ’06 Cup-winning season.
So as we wait and see what happens next to this Canucks roster, we should be mindful that Rutherford may be one of the first GMs across the league to be active.
First up, Bo Horvat?
“I think this has intensified this week,” Elliotte Friedman said on Friday’s 32 Thoughts Podcast. “I don’t know that it’s going to happen for sure, but I believe some teams have stepped up and indicated they’re serious.
“Nobody has denied to me that there has been some intensifications.”
The big question with Horvat is whether the Canucks will allow a potential trade partner to talk extension with the pending UFA first, in hopes the price of acquisition rises higher. If a team knows it will be keeping Horvat past this season, it may be willing to move more for him than if he were just a rental.
Friedman noted that while things can and will change rapidly in this market, as of Thursday night it didn’t appear the Canucks had granted teams permission to talk contract with Horvat.
As for possible destinations, there will be no shortage of teams looking for a scoring centre, who just so happens to be having a career year, with 30 goals in 44 games.
“I think Seattle’s in it, I think Minnesota’s been around it but only as a rental. I think Boston’s been around it, but it’s not easy for them to do it. I think New Jersey’s around something. I’m not saying yes, I’m not saying no here, but I think they want to do things.
“Carolina. I don’t know what to make of it,” Friedman continued, speaking before Max Pacioretty left Thursday’s game with an injury that could be long-term or even career-threatening. “Carolina, they don’t do rentals. At least they don’t pay big prices for rentals. But I think they want to win so I won’t discount them.”
If these teams are looking at Horvat, but aren’t granted an opportunity to talk extension with him before a trade, they may also want to get something done well ahead of the deadline to have more time to talk to him in-house.
And, of course, the market for Horvat could run much deeper than we think right now.
“You know what team I wonder about here that could be a total wild card is Tampa,” Friedman said.
The Canucks have back-to-back games Friday and Saturday against Colorado and Edmonton, after which there will be two days off. All eyes at that point will be on not only Horvat and other trade candidates, but coach Bruce Boudreau as well, whose days appear to be numbered and with Rick Tocchet the favourite to step in.
DOES MATT DUMBA’S HEALTHY SCRATCH MEAN A TRADE IS NEAR?
It’s a yearly tradition to see Matt Dumba‘s name on trade boards, and after so many years of nothing happening, you’d be excused if your eyes glazed over it this time. The Wild, after all, are third in the Central and trying to take a run at a Stanley Cup. Dumba is still a useful player for them and could act as an own-rental.
But when Dumba was made a healthy scratch for Thursday’s game, people took notice. Could that have been the first indication that the team was making strides toward a deal?
“I don’t think Dean Evason and Bill Guerin would do that just to healthy scratch him,” Friedman said on the podcast. “If they were scratching him because he was getting traded I think they wouldn’t say anything or they’d come out and say that.”
Evason said the decision to scratch Dumba was for purely hockey reasons after the defenceman had a noticeably weak game against Washington, where he was on the ice for a team-low 30 per cent of on-ice shot attempts at 5-on-5 and made several careless turnovers.
“I look at this as purely a hockey thing,” Friedman said. “I think they wanted to get Goligoski into a game. I think Dumba was struggling a little bit so they decided to do this.
“I assume he’ll be back in the lineup pretty quickly. I think it is possible he gets dealt. Bill Guerin has told people ‘if you want me to do it, make it worth my while.’ And I think there’s a decent chance someone will.”
For Dumba’s part, he told The Athletic earlier this week that the team has been up front and honest with him about the possibility of a trade.
“Instead of sitting around and thinking about it, I’m trying not to stress myself out,” Dumba said. “That’s why I don’t have any social media or pay attention to this stuff. When I’m on the road with the boys, I’m with the boys and really enjoying dinners and being around them and playing the games. When I go back home, I’m with my dogs and girlfriend and enjoying all my friends and family we have in Minnesota. Yeah … I’m just trying to make the most of every day.”