Vancouver Canucks: Signing a defenceman smarter than getting Hanifin

Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks would have to pay way too much for Noah Hanifin, meaning general manager Jim Benning is better off signing top-four blueliners in free agency.

Last week, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the Vancouver Canucks were a “stealth team” for Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Noah Hanifin, and the trade speculation has only continued to ramp up.

Hanifin, 21, was the fifth-overall draft choice in 2015. He scored 10 goals and 32 points for the Hurricanes this season — both career highs. However, Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province noted the extremely high and unreasonable asking price the ‘Canes are seeking:

"And it’s not just parting with their seventh overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.The Hurricanes aren’t looking for picks or a mid-range prospect. They have those.They would want the No. 7 selection and a prime, young, roster player to make a deal happen. But Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson, Adam Gaudette, Jonathan Dahlen and Thatcher Demko are untouchables."

Hanifin would certainly boost the Canucks blue line, but TSN’s Craig Button summed up why general manager Jim Benning is better off keeping his seventh pick to draft a blueliner:

You see? The Hurricanes have the right to want aplenty for Hanifin, but the seventh pick plus an impact roster player is too much — given his limits offensively. Problem is, Benning must certainly be feeling the need to add a blueliner who can come in and make an impact immediately.

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As such, I’m proposing that he simply avoid Hanifin at all costs and prepare to dive into free agency, where plenty of top-four blueliners are available.

Don’t expect them to be players for John Carlson — who could certainly look for $8 million a year, but there is another tier of blueliners that could help immediately.

Bringing back Dan Hamhuis isn’t such a crazy idea. He loved it in Vancouver and took less money to sign here in 2010.

The Canucks could entertain the idea of bringing a locker room leader into the fold, where he could mentor the likes of Olli Juolevi, Troy Stecher and whomever the Canucks draft with the seventh pick.

Calvin de Haan could also be a cheap add for Benning. He doesn’t bring much offence (81 points in 304 NHL games), but he carries a 50.4 career Corsi For percentage and has four seasons in which he registered over 100 hits and 100 blocked shots. That’s the stay-at-home defenceman they need.

Taking a chance on Alexei Emelin – who had a failed tenure with the Nashville Predators – could also be worth it. A one or two-year deal wouldn’t hurt Benning, especially if he’s confident Emelin can bounce back to his old Montreal Canadiens form.

Then there are guys like Ian Cole and Jack Johnson, who could provide some physicality while also logging key minutes on both the power play and penalty kill. Neither of them would cost too much, either.

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Point is, Hanifin would cost the Canucks two potential franchise cornerstone players. In signing one of the five blueliners mentioned above, the Canucks would be getting an impact player at a lower cost. None of them carry the skills that Hanifin displayed, but it helps Benning retain his seventh pick and all the core young player he’s spent years adding to the roster.