Canucks: Which players could be traded at the deadline?

Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning is usually active at the trade deadline. Which players could he look to ship out this time around?

The Vancouver Canucks have been a seller at the trade deadline in each of the last four years, but general manager Jim Benning may get the chance to buy this time around.

Entering play on Saturday, the Canucks hold a 19-15-4 record — two points behind the Edmonton Oilers and the Dallas Stars for the two wild card spots. They’re just four points behind the Arizona Coyotes and the Vegas Golden Knights for first in the Pacific Division.

There’s good reason to believe that the vastly improved Vancouver club will be in the playoff race leading up to the trade deadline. And surely, Benning is exploring every possible way to improve the team.

But Vancouver is tight against the salary cap, and they have quite the logjam at forward. Ideally, Benning would be able to move out one or two expensive forwards to clear cap space while adding help wherever possible, whether that means upgrading the bottom-six or simply adding another depth defenceman.

In regards to the forwards, Tim Schaller, Loui Eriksson, Tyler Motte and Sven Baertschi are ideal candidates to be dealt.

Head coach Travis Green hasn’t used any of them on a regular basis, but Vancouver wouldn’t garner much of a return, and there isn’t going to be much of a market for either player.

Nobody wants to touch the final three years of Eriksson’s deal unless the Canucks offer sweeteners and/or agree to take back a comparable contract. Baertschi went unclaimed on waivers, and Vancouver hasn’t been able to find a trade partner for him.

Still, you never know which teams could be desperate for secondary offence at the deadline. General managers are always aggressive during the trade season, and perhaps Benning will find a taker.

It gets a little more interesting with the blueliners. Veteran Chris Tanev is in the final year of his contract, and if Benning isn’t keen on extending him, it makes sense to get something for the 30-year-old, rather than risk losing him for nothing.

Tanev is arguably Vancouver’s biggest trade asset heading into the second half of the season. If the team falls out of the playoff race, Benning will have to sell — and that could mean bidding farewell to Tanev.

Troy Stecher briefly popped up in the trade rumour mill back in October, but his name hasn’t really been mentioned much on that front.

The B.C. native has seven points in 38 games, and he’s slated to become an RFA after the season. One could argue that Stecher would be more coveted on the trade market than Tanev, given that he’s five years younger, healthier and better offensively.

But if the Canucks are in the playoff race leading up to the deadline, then it’s hard to envision Benning trading Tanev and/or Stecher — unless he’s getting equal value in return.

Assuming Vancouver is a buyer this time, Baertschi is probably the only somewhat logical trade candidate, but a lot can change between now and the deadline. We’ll just have to wait and see how everything plays out.