Trade Deadline 2013: Five Depth Forwards for the Canucks to Target

Matt Pettinger gets stoned by Dan Cloutier which pretty much sums up his Canucks tenure.

It might be a quiet trade deadline this Wednesday, but that hasn’t stopped us from rolling out an exhaustive trade deadline preview. So far we’ve done a full inventory of the Canucks’ areas of need, cap-space and trade chips, discussed whether or not Roberto Luongo would be moved at the deadline, examined Mike Gillis’ trade deadline resume and dusted off the old Weinrich-to-Brown meter to rate possible blueline additions at the deadline, and the old Rucinsky-to-Gelinas meter to do the same with top-six forwards.

Now we’ll look at five depth forwards who the Canucks could target at the trade deadline, and we’ll rate them along according to a new super-scientific rating systems that we recently developed to evaluate the potential impact of depth forwards. We call it "the Pettinger-to-Higgns meter."

Read past the jump.

Matt Pettinger was acquired in a deadline deal for Matt Cooke way back in 2008. He wasn’t really that bad, but that Canucks team withered down the stretch and Pettinger was mostly forgettable in his twenty games with the team. Ironically his being so forgettable qualifies him as a memorably feckless trade deadline pickup. 

Chris Higgins on the other hand was acquired to play on Vancouver’s fourth line and ended up logging major minutes on Kesler’s wing during the team’s run the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. Now that’s a sick depth forward addition, and it earns Higgins the right to be named "standard bearer" in this series. 

Boyd Gordon (Cap hit: 1.325M) – PHOENIX COYOTES

Ho hum, Boyd Gordon winning a defensive zone draw against a quality offensive player.


Boyd Gordon is something of a Don Maloney/Dave Tippett special. Discarded by the Washington Capitals following the 2010-11 season, Gordon has been reborn in the desert as a defensive ace and a top-nine centreman. 

He’s absolute nails in the faceoff circle, having taken one thousand seven hundred and forty-three draws over the past two seasons, winning exactly a thousand of them. For those keeping score at home that gives him a faceoff winning percentage well over 57% over the past two campaigns.

More importantly is that he wins those draws in the defensive end of the ice: he took over 350 defensive zone faceoffs a year ago, and is on pace for a Manny Malhotra-like 457 defensive zone draws over an 82 game season this year.

Despite facing extremely tough competition (second among all Coyotes centres in each of the past two seasons) Gordon has come out ahead in terms of both goal differential and the underlying data. He’s also led all Coyotes forwards in short-handed ice-time over that same span.

Boyd Gordon is on an expiring contract and even if the Canucks don’t get him at the deadline, he’s close to a picture perfect fit as a medium-term Manny Malhotra replacement. 

Why Not?

Unless the price is a first round pick a la Paul Gaustad a year ago, Boyd Gordon is precisely what this Canucks team needs. The only downside is that he doesn’t really have the offensive capabilities to provide the Canucks with Ryan Kesler insurance.

The Matt Pettinger-to-Chris Higgins meter:

Boyd Gordon would be a fantastic addition, but probably doesn’t have top-six upside.

Eric Fehr (Cap hit: 600k) – WASHINGTON CAPiTALS


Eric Fehr is a big (6,4 and 212 lbs) bottom-six forward who consistently helps his team outscore the opposition – at least when he’s healthy. He’s had a bounce back campaign this year after injuries limited his minutes and some tough bounces strangled his production during the 2011-12 season. He’s potted six goals and six assists playing in a depth role with the Washington Capitals this season, while pitching in occassionally on both the power-play and penalty-kill.

In addition to being a capable two-way player and a big honking dude, Eric Fehr has some offensive value. Yes his twenty goal season in 2009-10 was percentage driven, but he strikes me as a guy who can give you 7-to-12 goals a season playing in a depth role (alternating between the third and fourth lines) while helping to drive play. There’s certainly value in that.

Why Not?

Eric Fehr’s on an expiring deal that will only take up 600k in cap-space this season and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Because he’s bounced back somewhat this season and is enjoying a 12% on-ice shooting clip, his value might be a bit inflated especially in a sellers market. He’s also not a third-line centreman so that’s a knock against him, though it’s not really his fault.

As a risk free addition who brings size and some offensive pop to the lineup, adding Eric Fehr for a mid-round pick and a C+ prospect would be all upside I reckon.

The Matt Pettinger-to-Chris Higgins meter:

The only real knock on Eric Fehr is that he’d be more of a luxury acquisition for the Canucks.


Chuck Kobasew (Cap hit: 1.25M) – COLORADO AVALANCHE



Over the past couple of seasons in Colorado, former Flames speedster Chuck Kobasew has been mostly relegated to a fourth line role. He has generally had his teeth kicked in by the possession data even in limited minutes.

That might not sound good, but realistically the Avs don’t have much depth (especially on the backend) so it’s not like Kobasew has been "the problem." Still, his track record suggests that he might be over the hill.

On the other hand, he’s a veteran player with experience who has underwhelmed over the past couple of seasons and is on an expiring contract. He’s still an alright penalty-killer, and he still has wheels and defensive instcints. Pretty much he’d be a gamble, but at least you’d be gambling on a "hungry guy" with an awful lot to play for down the stretch and into the postseason. At the cost of a mid-round pick it might be worth a shot.

Why Not?

Like Eric Fehr, the big knock on Chuck Kobasew is that he’s not a center which is what the Canucks really need. As mentioned previously, he’s also been pretty much awful over the past couple of seasons and at a glance doesn’t seem like a particularly helpful option. He’d bring experience, upside and versatility to the Canucks lineup, but in terms of being "for sure a useful piece" he’s a bit of a gamble.

The Matt Pettinger-to-Chris Higgins meter:

Kobasew would is a boom or bust veteran pickup with modestly more Pettinger potential than Higgins potential.

Antoine Vermette (Cap hit: 3.75M, Signed Through 2014-15) – PHOENIX COYOTES

In this photo, Vancouver’s skaters are thinking "damn management should’ve got this guy at last year’s deadline…"


Antoine Vermette is a hellacious checking center with enough offensive skill to play in a good team’s top-six without hurting them. With normalized percentages he’s good for roughly 20 goals per season, and he can handle tough minutes and come out ahead in terms of puck possession. Oh, and he’s also an absurdly fast skater and draws a lot of penalties as a result, in addition to being one of the league’s premiere face-off men.

While Vermette hasn’t played a "heavy lifting" role in several seasons – he’s deployed as more of a two-way forward at this point – it stands to reason that his skill set would be well suited to playing a Malhotra-type roll for the Canucks on the third-line. He’s also talented enough in the offensive end of the rink to provide the Canucks with some Ryan Kesler insurance should their often fragile centreman be sidelined during the postseason (or at anytime over the next couple of seasons).

Why Not?

He’s signed for two seasons after this one, Vancouver doesn’t have a lot of cap-space this summer and he won’t be cheap to pry out of Phoenix. That’s really it. From a hockey perspective, Antoine Vermette is a slam dunk. 

The Matt Pettinger-to-Chris Higgins meter:


If Mike Gillis manages to add Antoine Vermette at the deadline, next season we’ll be calling this the Pettinger-to-Vermette scale.

Marcel Goc (Cap hit: 1.7M, Signed Through 2013-14) – FLORIDA PANTHERS


Here’s another player who would be more than just a rental, as he’s signed for the season after this one at a reasonable clip. Marcel Goc has been a quality top-nine centreman for years, has started more than 300 shifts in the defensive zone in two of the past three seasons (and in the third of those seasons, he only played 51 games) and has consistently come out of that meat grinder with positive possession stats. In other words Goc is a very capable defensive forward.

He’s having a bit of a tough go of it in Florida this season – along with pretty much all of his teammates – but I think you can overlook that, even should overlook that. First off, while Goc is a very capable third-line centreman, he’s playing first line minutes for the Panthers this season. Goc is overmatched as a first line centre and it’s not surprising that his underlying numbers have cratered. Secondly, he’s getting murdered by the percentages so his -9 and 12 points in 30 games has zero analytical value. Those numbers just don’t reflect his talent level.

Goc can soak up defensive zone starts and drive play. If he’s acquired he would make life a lot easier for the likes of Kesler (assuming he’s healthy) and he probably won’t cost you all that much to acquire. Goc can also fill in, in a top-six role if required.

Why Not?

Goc doesn’t have as much offensive value as an Antoine Vermette. Though he’s capable in the face-off circle and solid defensively, he’s not elite on draws (which is something the Canucks need at the moment). He’d be a very helpful addition at the right price, but he’s not really a game changer for a Canucks team that probably needs one.

The Matt Pettinger-to-Chris Higgins meter:

Marcel Goc would help stabilize Vancouver’s centre depth, but he’s no Antoine Vermette.

  • Fred-65

    I didn’t know Gordon does so well in Phoenix!
    Maybe Gillis should try and get Vermette and Gordon in a package deal! (One can dream…)

    Honestly though Vermette would be great, what would you say someone like him goes for at the deadline?

  • Fred-65

    If the Canucks could add Gordon and Vermette, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more solid forward group in the NHL when everyone is healthy.

    Another option I’d look at is Matt Hendricks as 4th line left-handed centre option. His possession numbers aren’t the greatest, and he hasn’t been tasked with the toughest competition. Still, he’s a pending UFA on a sub-$1m/yr contract and a very good faceoff guy, operating at nearly a 60% clip this season (his lowest year with WSH was 53%). In a specialist role, I think he could be reasonably effective.

    Jay Beagle is also a 4th line possibility from the Caps. Good faceoff guy, can play the wing, has an OZone start% of around 40%, but again, possession numbers aren’t the best.

  • Fred-65

    Vermett would be a great option but he eats up a lot of Space next season so unless they intend to buy out some dudes I can’t see it happening. But a good choice, him and Ott stand out

  • Fred-65

    Good analysis. Vermette would be an amazing addition, but I wonder what it would take to pry him out of Phoenix. I’m partial to Ott though. I love his play style and FO numbers. Penalty killer and can chip in on points. An added bonus would be that we would undeniably go down in the record books as one of the most hated teams ever to exist.