Canucks may have interest in Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher

The Vancouver Canucks need another top-six forward, and they’re reportedly interested in Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has received plenty of criticism over his early performance in the 2020 offseason.

It was reasonable to sign Braden Holtby to a low-risk two-year deal — and to let the Calgary Flames win the bidding for Jacob Markstrom. Acquiring Nate Schmidt from the Vegas Golden Knights to replace fan favourite Chris Tanev (who also signed with Calgary) was a savvy move on Benning’s end.

But letting Tyler Toffoli (a four-year, $17 million deal with the Montreal Canadiens) and Troy Stecher (a two-year, $3.4 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings) leave on bargain deals understandably led to frustration and disappointment for the fans.

With Toffoli gone, the Canucks need to acquire a proven top-six forward. The problem is that Benning has very little cap space to work with. Complicating matters is Jake Virtanen‘s upcoming arbitration hearing.

If Benning can find a way to clear some cap room via trade, he might be looking at Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher, whose name is being mentioned heavily in the rumour mill.

Here’s what TSN’s Frank Seravalli had to say regarding Vancouver’s interest in Gallagher:

And you can put the Vancouver Canucks right at the very top of that list of teams that would be interested in Brendan Gallagher if and when he makes it to the block in Montreal to bring Gallagher home. Of course, he makes his off-season home there, starred for the Vancouver Giants, and more than that, the Canucks at large are interested in a winger…

I think it all depends on cost. I think the Canucks, at this point, have some ability to move out some contracts, whether or not it’s Loui Eriksson or Brandon Sutter, who knows what happens with Jake Virtanen the restricted free agent. So, Jim Benning has some flexibility now and it all is going to depend on cost. And so they could go back in a budget item with a guy like Josh Leivo, but moving forward I think Benning would like to make one more splash if he can this off-season.

Gallagher’s agent, Gerry Johannson, told Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic that “contract talks have broken off with the Habs.” Having signed Toffoli and Josh Anderson (whom they acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Max Domi trade) to long-term deals, Montreal is loaded in the top-six now. And it makes sense for Montreal to trade Gallagher rather than risk losing him for nothing in free agency next year.

Gallagher would undoubtedly be a compelling fit in Vancouver’s top-six. He hit the 30-goal and 50-point marks in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Last season, the 5-foot-9, 184-pound forward tallied 22 goals and 43 points in 59 games.

The 28-year-old Gallagher is a consistent scorer, and it’s fair to assume he’d put up close to 30 goals and 50-plus points on a line with Elias Pettersson or Brock Boeser.

And because he’s only signed for one more year, Gallagher hopefully wouldn’t cost too much in a trade. Perhaps a Gallagher-for-Virtanen swap would entice the Canadiens? Just a thought.

Next: Canucks: What Nate Schmidt brings to the blueline

When it comes to hopefully landing a quality top-six forward, Benning has a handful of options in both the trade and free agent markets. But if Gallagher can be had for the right price, he should be the Canucks’ main target.