If the Vancouver Canucks are going to keep the Lotto Line together, they're going to need another top-six center. That's not something Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel will be able to provide for them. However, this is also not to say that there aren't better, more cost-effective options for the Canucks to consider.
Some Canucks fans have been clamoring for Minnesota Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek online, and while there's currently no truth to any rumors you might be seeing, the dots are worth connecting. The Canucks have a pretty strong Swedish contingent within their organization, from GM Patrik Allvin down to a prospect like Jonathan Lekkerimäki.
Eriksson Ek is still just 26 years old and signed to a reasonable $5.25 million annual cap hit. His 10-team no-trade list on his contract comes into effect starting in 2024-25. If the Wild have any intentions of moving Eriksson Ek and shedding some much-needed cap space, now is the time to do it.
Indeed, the Canucks will still need to pay Elias Pettersson, although the player has yet to make up his mind on his future in Vancouver. In the catastrophic case that a resolution can't be found by the summer, the Canucks would also have an in-house contingency plan in Eriksson Ek. Yes, the 26-year-old is nowhere near the level Pettersson is at offensively, but he is an adept faceoff man who has always put up strong defensive results. Eriksson Ek has also scored 20 or more goals in each of the last two seasons and is on track for his third in a row this year.
Again, at this time, there is no reason to believe the Wild are interested in moving their No. 1 center. The team still owes Zach Parise and Ryan Suter over $7 million on their buyouts next year, which coincides with the activation of Eriksson Ek's modified no-trade clause. There might not be a better time for the Wild to re-tool and make cap space than now.