The Canucks should try to make another trade with the Lightning

Vancouver Canucks Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Vancouver Canucks Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks struck gold last time they traded with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here’s why the two teams should make another deal.

At last year’s NHL draft, the Vancouver Canucks and Tampa Bay Lightning conducted one of the most mutually beneficial hockey trades in recent memory.

Looking to bolster his top-six, Canucks general manager Jim Benning acquired veteran forward J.T. Miller from the cap-strapped Lightning, who needed room to extend rising superstar Brayden Point.

In return, Tampa Bay received a conditional first-round pick, goalie Marek Mazanec and a 2019 third-round pick.

Miller enjoyed a career year with his new team. He led the Canucks in scoring with 72 points (27 goals, 45 assists), while helping the team end a five-year playoff drought. And of course, Miller was instrumental in guiding the young Canucks to within one game of reaching the Western Conference Final.

The trade worked out just as well for the Lightning.

They flipped that first-rounder from the Canucks (it turned out to be the No. 20 selection in this year’s draft) to the New Jersey Devils for Blake Coleman. The 28-year-old scored 13 points in 25 playoff games to help Tampa Bay win the Stanley Cup following years of playoff heartbreak.

Which begs the following question: Why not try to make another trade as the draft and free agency draw closer?

Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic (subscription required) explained that the cap-strapped Lightning will now have to watch key players depart this offseason. He listed forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde and defenceman Ryan McDonagh as possible trade candidates.

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There’s simply no way general manager Julien BriseBois can keep everybody.

In his latest 31 Thoughts column, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman explained that BriseBois has seemingly “done a lot of the internal legwork already, knowing which players are (or are not) willing to waive no-move or no-trade protection.”

And that brings us back to the Canucks.

Assuming Benning loses blueliner Chris Tanev in free agency (that’s looking likely at this point), he’ll need another top-four blueliner. If top-six forward Tyler Toffoli (a pending UFA) and/or Jake Virtanen (a pending RFA with arbitration rights) leave, Vancouver will need more scoring depth up front.

Should Tanev, at least one of those forwards and goalie Jacob Markstrom depart, Benning will have some cap space to work with. And let’s not forget that the contracts of Brandon Sutter, Jordie Benn and Alexander Edler expire after next season.

Trading for McDonagh (31, signed for six more years) or Johnson (30, signed for four more years) should be off the table. But why not see if somebody like Palat, Killorn or Gourde can be had for the right price?

All three of those forwards are proven and clutch playoff performers. They can provide much needed scoring depth and two-way play to a Vancouver team that relied too much on its top-six to drive the offence in the potseason.

Defensive stalwart and workhorse Erik Cernak is a pending RFA. The Lightning are loaded on defence with Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev and McDonagh. If Cernak is too expensive for Tampa’s liking, could Benning look to swing a trade for him?

There’s just no way the Lightning will be able to keep this entire core together. And with a flat salary cap for 2020-21, there won’t be many teams interested in trading for Tampa’s expensive players.

This could be Benning’s chance to acquire an impactful player (maybe two) from Tampa Bay at a reasonable price. Palat and Cernak especially would be grade-A fits for this Vancouver team that needs to bolster its top-six and blue line.

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There aren’t any indications right now that the two teams are discussing trades, but it makes all the sense in the world for the Canucks and Lightning to do something together again.