Canucks Retooling 2.0: 5 Reasons a Big Trade is Coming


The Vancouver Canucks are going to have to roll out their old “Change is Coming” motto again.

They did move an aging Kevin Bieksa and a troublesome Zach Kassian, who does not seem to be returning to the ice any time soon. Jim Benning then filled the leadership role with none other than Brandon Sutter, who is making points at a career-high pace. It did cost a couple draft picks and a fairly-prized prospect named Adam Clendening, and that is how the Vancouver Canucks spell their past off-season: a change-filled one to say the least.

But with this season bound to be a pivotal one in the franchise’s retool – or rebuild, whichever you call it – the biggest changes have yet to come for this aging Canucks team.

More changes are coming, fast and furious.

Here are five big reasons that suggest that the big moves are right around the corner.

1. Current Roster Space and Youth Development

With McCann, Virtanen, and surprise rookie Hutton all making decent strides at the NHL level, Benning and Linden have a big year ahead of them. The Canucks are listed with 22 skaters, one below the maximum of 23. Add Higgins to the 22 and you have a full house, at 23 skaters – two extra forwards and an extra defenseman.

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  • You can’t help but wonder which two forwards are going to sit out. One would most likely to be the youth, one of Virtanen, McCann, or Baertschi. The lone defenseman out would be a Weber, which sucks, but is not so bad knowing that Weber can play a decent top-4 role.

    But the forward ranks are a mess, a conglomerate of the Sedins, a Sutter, and a Burrows who can all play the top line, and then… a logjam of middle-six forwards before hitting the likes of a Cracknell, a Dorsett, and a Prust – a solid 4th line. This logjam consists of Baertschi, McCann, Virtanen, Higgins, Hansen, Vrbata (seeing that he will not play with the Sedins), and Horvat.

    Seven players who can play the middle six, not counting the four who can play the top line. Great.

    Also, you have to respect Gaunce, Kenins, Grenier, Vey, Cassels, and Shinkaruk all making strong cases to make the team next year. The blueline is not as packed, with just Biega, Pedan, and Fedun potentially cracking the NHL in the 6th and 7th defenseman spots.

    Something has got to give. A rookie try-out, a struggling veteran, or a prized trade-bait. Somebody has got to go.

    2. Upcoming Free Agency

    I know that not all UFAs make it to the open market, but there certainly are big names out there that can really help the Vancouver Canucks. Next year’s batch of free agency includes Vancouver boy Milan Lucic and Keith Yandle, in addition to Luke Schenn and Loui Eriksson.

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    Lucic, the former WHL Vancouver Giant, did openly admit that he would love to play for his hometown NHL team. Don’t forget that Jim Benning won the Cup with Lucic in 2011. He carries a $6.0M cap hit against the L.A. Kings in his last year, and with the Kings looking out of the game early in the season, he may be highly motivated to be a strong presence in a locker room filled with blossoming rookies, here in his hometown where he raised his cup.

    Yandle is a highly-prized defenseman that the Canucks may be willing to pursue. With the Canucks low on the blueline prospects pool, Yandle, at 29 years of age, would be a good choice for the Canucks if they want to get even quicker and deadlier on the blueline. If Hamhuis goes, Yandle is an enticing name to play with Bartkowski on the 2nd pairing. At $5.25M cap hit, he is making just $0.75M more than the 33-year-old Hamhuis. Not too sure if the Rangers would let him go, though.

    Luke Schenn is also an intriguing force on the blueline, most likely on this list because of how cap-tight the Philadelphia Flyers are. At just 25-years-old, the 6’2″ 229lbs, Luke Schenn would loathe to leave his brother in Philadelphia. However, with Brayden also looking for a raise as an RFA, their contract status may uproot some other players and make them available on the trade block. Though highly unlikely to make the free market, if he does, there will be a lot of suitors. The Canucks would love a 6’2″, 229lbs Schenn in the back-end. That would make Sbisa expendable!

    Loui Eriksson is another lovely name to the ears of Jim Benning, who was part of the crew that pulled off the Eriksson-Seguin trade. Eriksson would serve as a Vrbata replacement, a sniper who is younger and faster. In all facets of play, Eriksson shows more promise going forward than Vrbata, and is cheaper at $4.25M. The Bruins, stuck with only a million dollars in cap space and a glaring deficiency on the blueline beyond Chara, MQuaid, and Krug, would rather spend on the goal-stopping department than the goal-scoring department.

    With these guys potentially on the move, the Canucks would do themselves immense good to free up some excess cap space for the coming FA frenzy. Recall this past offseason that still has NHL vets without a team? There may be some bargains out there.

    3. Struggling Vrbata

    Six games, a minus-3, and no points to show for. The PP he was asked to anchor is a miserable 28th in the league, and even when he got his wish to play with Bo Horvat, nothing came about. Nothing is going right for Vancouver’s past leading scorer, and he is surely bound to get shipped out or let go by the end of the season, being 35 years old. Averaging about 17 minutes per game, the right-handed sniper is having a start that would lead him nowhere in today’s NHL. Check out my previous piece, and the stalemate that Vrbby is in. If there were no suitors for Higgy last season, imagine Vrbby’s market right now.

    His trade value is dropping, and if that continues, he will be cut out to dry after this season. If his value goes up in any way, he will be shipped out for the youth. Either way, he will most certainly not be returning as a Canuck next season.

    4. Weber outside looking in

    However, the current Vancouver Canucks blueline is admirable. Benning has done a great job, learning stick with his Sbisa axquisition. Tanev and Edler are doing an admirable job, and Hutton is not only turning heads himself but making Sbisa look decent! Sbisa has had nearly no ‘pizza’ moments, and has looked solid with his physical play, save for the 1-v-1 catastrophe when facing McDavid the last game.

    With the PP struggling, the Canucks would absolutely love Weber back in the lineup. But with the top-6 as solid as it has been thus far, Weber finds himself on the outside looking in even after inking a new $1.5M contract. By the way, Mr. Weber-not-Shea-Weber, that contract expires this year. Good luck.

    If the Canucks want Weber back in and sticking with the club for the near future, they should find a way to make a spot for him. I really do not mind him playing our 7th-Dman role. We just need some scoring from the blueline, that is all.

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    5. Expiring Contracts

    Finally, there are a lot of veterans with expiring contracts. There are also just as many prospects who are looking to make the jump to the NHL next year. Snag some names off of the Free Agency, and you are not left with much cap, even less roster spots.

    Here are the Vancouver Canucks who are playing in the final year of their contracts.

    UFAs at the end of this season:

    RW – Radim Vrbata, 34 years old, $5.0M (returning unlikely)

    LW – Brandon Prust, 31 years old. $2.5M (returning if at a lower cost)

    C – Adam Cracknell, 30 years old, $0.575M (returning most likely)

    D – Dan Hamhuis, 32 years old, $4.5M (possibly returning)

    D – Matt Bartkowski, 27 years old, #1.75M (most certainly returning, with a raise)

    D – Yannick Weber, 27 years old, $1.5M (possibly returning)

    Notable RFAs at the end of this season:

    LW – Sven Baertschi, $0.9M (certainly returning, with a raise)

    C – Linden Vey, $1.0M (probably returning)

    LW – Ronalds Kenins, $0.6M (probably returning)

    There are lots of moving parts, with big contracts poised to get moved out to make cap space for younger ones who will get their due raises, and for a Lucic and an Eriksson to come and light up the team. Again, Gaunce and Grenier make really strong cases to make the team as checking bottom-6 wingers.

    It is a season of uncertainties, and it is a season primed for big names to change addresses. Tortz ended up in Columbus. Let’s see where some other Canucks will be at the end of this season.

    Funny. It is barely a month into the long-waited regular season, and I can’t wait for the trade deadline to be here already.

    Next: Vancouver Canucks - Season of Uncertainties

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