Another season, another bottom finish five for the Vancouver Canucks. Despite bolstering their roster this past offseason with additions like Thomas Vanek, Sam Gagner and Michael Del Zotto, the hard luck Canucks find themselves near the bottom of the NHL’s standings once again. Not even a generational breakout star like rookie Brock Boeser can save the free falling Canucks, as it looks like they’re on a collision course with the NHL’s Draft Lottery once again.
Just as it they were at last year’s trade deadline, the Canucks are expected to be deadline sellers. Except this time around don’t be surprised if GM Jim Benning decides to be more aggressive in his approach. The Canucks shipped out fan favorites Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen at least year’s deadline, but waffled on goaltender Ryan Miller before ultimately deciding to retain him. The Canucks tried to convince Miller to return to Vancouver, but he split for the Anaheim Ducks on the opening day of free-agency. Look for Benning to avoid situations like that this time around.
As for who’s available, TSN analyst Ray Ferraro was on TSN 1040 radio in Vancouver this morning, where he broke down the value and potential return for two Canucks blue liners: Erik Gudbranson and Ben Hutton.
Gudbranson is no stranger to trade speculation. Multiple reports have indicated that the Canucks will look to move on from the rugged, tough 26-year-old defenseman after one and a half disappointing season. He’s on an expiring contract and will be a restricted free-agent this offseason.
“If you’re happy with him as a #4 defenseman, because in my mind that’s what he is on a really good team, are you going to be happy paying him $5 million,” asks Ferraro. “Because if you are, you’ll make this move. If not, you’ll try to get him at a rental price.”
As for Hutton, the 24-year-old was once thought to be a key part of the team’s future, but just like Gudbranson, two middling seasons on an underwhelming Canucks blue line, have worn on the youngster. Hutton managed 25 points in his rookie campaign, but is on pace for just 12 this season.
Does it make sense for the Canucks to trade Hutton now, when his value is at its lowest? Or should they hold onto him in the hopes that he can turn things around? “If you’re selling now, you’re at lowest possible return,” says Ferraro. “It wasn’t long ago that he was playing with confidence, with a view forward. It was a puck mover on a team that didn’t have any. He’s of the age where players either start to get it, or they don’t.”
You have to think, at this point, that the Canucks would be happy to get some future assets for either player really.
In terms of offensive options, it’s likely that veteran forward Thomas Vanek will also be traded before the NHL’s February 26th trade deadline.
The 33-year-old Vanek has been surprisingly effective this year, scoring 12 goals and 29 points in 43 games for the Canucks. If the team can recoup a mid-round pick for their $2 million investment, they’d likely take it in a heartbeat.
So, who else may be available? Certainly the Canucks would love to rid themselves of Loui Eriksson and his atrocious contract, but there’s almost zero possibility of that happening. Defenseman Chris Tanev could fetch a decent return, as several teams would covet the right-shooting, shutdown defenseman. Could the Canucks make center Brandon Sutter available when he returns from injury? He could be a perfect fit in the 3rd line center position with his former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
As for the rest of the roster, anyone not named Sedin, Horvat or Boeser is likely up for negotiations. Things could get interesting on the West Coast.