Trade Targets for Defensive Depth

Should the Canucks bring B.C. native and VANCOUVER GIANTS LEGEND Cody Franson home?

If there is anything we can glean from these first two games, it’s that the Vancouver Canucks are short on defensive depth. As much as the change around town is relished and providing solid early returns, this is an area of concern all the same.

This franchise could sit on its heels and watch the wheels spin without so much as batting an eye, but they’ve every intention of making the playoffs this season and standing pat would bode poorly for their chances. Injuries are a nasty occurrence, and they’ve always a knack for striking Canucks defencemen at the worst of moments. 

Before you know it one injury to the blue line has turned to three and having a good sixth or seventh defenceman won’t be enough. Yann Sauve should never enter an NHL arena as anything more than a fan, let alone the three games he did last season as a Canuck.

Lets look at one of the Canucks biggest issues with their roster and what they can do about fixing it.

On Defensive Depth

Despite having a comparable top-six to any in the league for the latter parts of the Mike Gillis era, defence has quickly become an area of major concern. We’ve already seen this group’s paper thin depth and what happens when it’s tested. The early returns are unsettling.

Just two games into this young season, Kevin Bieksa is ailing from a shoulder injury. It’s not necessarily bad enough to keep him out of the lineup, but it is clearly hampering his ability to play. Bieksa is a borderline top-pair defenceman when healthy and those are in short supply. It’s no surprise that the Canucks are struggling to replace his production and minutes in the lineup.

For posterity’s sake, we’ll call this injury to Bieksa that allows him to play in a lessened role a half-injury. The Canucks are one half-injury into their top-four and Luca Sbisa is seeing replacement time there. This replacement time is played to the tune of an average 19-minutes a game. That works against Edmonton and Calgary, but I’ve concerns over how that holds up against actual NHL teams.

Here’s some options for the Canucks, should they be looking to add to their depth:

Cody Franson – Toronto Maple Leafs

Contract: $3.3 million through 2014-15 (UFA)

Age GP ToI/60 G/60 A/60 Corsi Rel. Corsi Competition Offensive Zone Start Rel.
27 79 15.55 0.18 1.00 6.67% 50.51% 9.03%

Few teams devalue their talent to the extent of the Toronto Maple Leafs. A prime example of this is their handling of Cody Franson. An argument could be made for Franson being the Maple Leafs second-best defenceman, yet somehow, the club and Franson are seemingly always at each others throats. Repeated contract disputes and endless trade rumours stand as testament to this. 

Franson can be relied upon to provide a right-handed offensive touch from a top-six role with significant powerplay upside. His head is regularly above water when compared to teammates in similar situations at 5v5 too. I can’t help but wonder how effective Franson would be for an even remotely competent bench boss, seeing as he hasn’t had one since Barry Trotz.

Tyson Strachan – Washington Capitals

Contract: $650,000 through 2014-15 (UFA)

Age GP ToI/60 G/60 A/60 Corsi Rel. Corsi Competition Offensive Zone Start Rel.
29 18 15.64 0 0.40 -6.54 50.8% -8.49%

Tyson Strachan’s last season does little to flatter. Strachan wasn’t a great possession player and his offensive value is nil. These observations should be tempered though based on his low Zone Start Rel. and tough assignments. I prefer to look at Strachan’s larger body of work though, which paints the picture of a moderately useful defenceman in a depth role.

Strachan wouldn’t fix any of the Canucks immediate needs and likely couldn’t draw into their lineup when totally healthy. However, Vancouver has seen it’s fair share of injuries to their blue line in the past and I imagine it’s likely that bell will toll for the Canucks this season as well – it almost always does. The Canucks have a seventh defenceman in Yannick Weber, but they lack a great option in the eight hole. Frankie Corrado springs to mind, but little from his training camp or pre-season indicates he’s ready for the NHL yet. Strachan could fill the role that Andrew Alberts so admirably tried to for years past. 

David Schlemko – Phoenix Coyotes

Contract: $1,187,500 through 2014-15 (UFA)

Age GP ToI/60 G/60 A/60 Corsi Rel. Corsi Competition Offensive Zone Start Rel.
27 48 13.23 0.08 0.61 0.97% 49.4% -5.07%

Of returning Arizona Coyotes players from last season, none have a higher Corsi rating than David Schlemko. His deployments weren’t overly favorable, but his competition wasn’t exactly earth shattering either. In essence, he performed to a level that most teams would love to get out of a bottom-pairing defenceman.

Despite all this, the Coyotes have yet to use him once this season. Schlemko is currently their seventh-defenceman, but I’d imagine his grip on that role is tenuous at best. The Coyotes have a young defenceman in Brandon Gormley to consider and he’s well past due for NHL action. Schlemko would probably be one of the more available players on this list, if not for the fact that the Coyotes and Canucks share a division. If the price was right, though, he’s definitely a consideration.

Jeff Petry – Edmonton Oilers

Contract: $3.075 million through 2014-15 (UFA)

Age GP ToI/60 G/60 A/60 Corsi Rel. Corsi Competition Offensive Zone Start Rel.
26 80 15.99 0.24 0.35 -1.93% 51.2% -11.76%

The same reason I want Jeff Petry on the Canucks is probably one of the same reasons the Canucks can’t have him. In the days of old – before the blogger arms race – Tyler Dellow had argued at length either on Twitter or posted in his blog that Jeff Petry was the Oilers best defenceman. I can’t remember exactly where or when he made his point heard, but I remember the gist of it. And as is often the case, I remember he made a very convincing argument. That same blogger is now a member of the Edmonton Oilers organization. Not sure how much sway he has over these types of decisions, but if he has any it’s being exercised on retaining Petry.

Whether you agree with Dellow or not, the numbers reflect very well on Petry’s last season. Through grueling deployments and difficult competition, Petry had himself a solid year. It is rumoured that the old guard in Edmonton doesn’t see things that way, though. Petry is frequently mentioned in trade rumours and was recently a healthy scratch is favor of Darnell Nurse. Do they overlook the Canucks status as divisional rivals and send Petry across the Rockies? I doubt it. Sure would be nice though.

Chad Ruhwedel – Buffalo Sabres (RFA)

Contract: $650,000 at the NHL level through 2015-16 

Age GP ToI/60 G/60 A/60 Corsi Rel. Corsi Competition Offensive Zone Start Rel.
24 21 15.49 0 0.17 5.59% 50.2% 11.11%

An often forgotten story from the latter parts of the 2013-14 campaign was the emergence of Chad Ruhwedel in Buffalo. The un-drafted defenceman was forced into service by injuries and roster vacancies, and performed admirably. Sample size is the likely culprit here, but there’s something to be said for Ruhwedel having a better Corsi Rel. than Christian Ehrhoff in Buffalo, right? 

Ruhwedel is currently plying his trade in the AHL and will likely stay Buffalo’s position in the standings forces the annual exodus of talent come trade deadline. I have to imagine this has more to do with his waiver ineligibility than ability. The Sabres haven’t many players on their blue line quantitatively better than Ruhwedel.

Jakub Kindl – Detroit Red Wings

Contract: $2.4 million through 2015-16 (UFA)

Age GP ToI/60 G/60 A/60 Corsi Rel. Corsi Competition Offensive Zone Start Rel.
27 66 14.58 0.12 0.62 1% 49% 7.18

Nobody bats 1,000. Even the lauded history of successful prospect development in Detroit has it’s series of blemishes. Jakub Kindl is one that the Red Wings would love to rid themselves of. Drafted 19th overall, it’s safe to say Kindl hasn’t lived up to expectations. 

Detroit has had to shelter Kindl to the tune of a positive discrepancy of 3% between his Corsi competition and teammates. That’s kind of massive. Even that has yielded what I would describe as middling results. The clock is ticking on Kindl’s chances to become a top-four defenceman. Seeing as how the Wings are trying to divest themselves of Kindl to make room for younger bodies and right-handed shots, I can’t help but wonder how a change of scenery would affect his game. That said, Mike Babcock is as good a coach as the league has to offer and if he’s giving up on Kindl. That can’t bode well for his future.

And there you have it. Six guys who conceivably could help the Canucks defense, either in place of Luca Sbisa or Yannick Weber, or as a part-time fill-in when the injury bug eventually bites. Of course, there’s also the matter of acquiring these guys that has to be considered. What would you trade to pick up a bottom-pair D? Are there any other useful depth guys out there that you’d like to see in a Canucks jersey too? Let us know in the comments below!

  • bossram

    Giving up anything of value for a depth defenceman who can’t clear waivers is just silly. There’s this thing called the roster limit; you can’t just add depth without losing what you already have. In order to create legitimate depth you need to either:

    a) overpay a good player to sit in the press box
    d) take on someone’s bad contract to play in the minors
    c) waive a forward and carry 8 d-men on the roster
    d) have legitimately good prospects in the minors

    • Spiel

      This. All of it.

      Depth d is the least of the Canucks problems right now. Secondary (or potentially primary) scoring is, or at least it will be when we don’t play glorified minor league teams. Corrado, Weber or Sbisa are fine for the 5-7 slots and arguably if you really need emergency callups Sanguinetti, Huskins or Andersson will do in a pinch. None of them are Sauve bad. You could easily make the argument that Bieksa shouldn’t be playing at all based on him obviously laboring through the injury and if we weren’t playing the AJHL teams I’m sure we probably would sit him. But that’s not an argument for making trades for terrible has-been defensemen to flesh out our bottom pairings.

      Far higher on the list if we did need to make a trade (which I don’t think we should or can do based on our system depth and assets) would be a 2 or 3c who can actually win a face-off or a top-six scorer.

    • Spiel

      @dj is correct. Weber/Sbisa/Corrado can step in for some short term injuries. If we get a longer term injury, then explore a deal.

      Unless we are getting someone who can push for top-4 minutes, hold off.

  • Still kind of choked Benning missed the boat on bringing back Ehrhoff.

    Another Oilers defenceman who should be on the Canucks’ radar is Martin Marincin – he was the best or second best defenceman for the Oilers in the second half of last season, and they inexplicably sent him back to the AHL this year. The Oilers seem to think that Klefbom and Nurse are their better D prospects, and might be willing to part with Marincin.

  • Canuck4Life20

    The Oilers would actually make sense as a trading partner, as much as I would hate to see the Canucks help them in any way. They are ‘deep’ in 6/7 defencemen and desperate for NHL centermen and the Canucks will have a log jam in the middle of their bottom six if Horvat sticks with the team. Would Matthias for either Marincin or Petry make sense? I couldn’t see them moving a any forwards out until they make a final decision on Horvat though.

      • Canuck4Life20

        What makes you say that? Petry and Marincin can barely crack the Oilers lineup while Matthias is a useful bottom six forward who would be an upgrade over at least two of their centermen right now. What do you suggest either of those defencemen are worth or do you just have a condescending response to everything?

        • Mantastic

          how are they barely cracking the line up? Marincin is still on his ELC and sending him down to play in the AHL is better than sit him while they see how Nurse looks in the NHL and now he’s recalled now that Nurse has been re-assigned. Petry was banged up in the pre-season, was scratched just once and you’re saying he’s barely cracking the line-up? seriously? man of small sample sizes.

          Name me the 2 centres, Matthias is better than. Matthias doesn’t have the same value or is even close to the value of a top 4 D-man. they are easily worth a least a 2nd round pick which Matthias doesn’t not cover at all.

          • Canuck4Life20

            The two centres obviously are Arcobello and Draisaitl. And I’m not talking about Draisaitl in three or four years. I’m talking about right now. He should be back in Juniors.

            If they are top four defencemen then why can’t they crack the top six let alone the top four of one of the worst defences in the league? Are the Oilers really that poorly run that they would leave better options out of the lineup against the Stanley Cup Champs while their team goes into a tailspin? Wait, don’t answer that, we both know that they are that poorly run. No where else have I seen anything about Petry being banged up and there has been a lot of talk lately about him being scratched.

            I agree with you that Petry is worth a second round pick but a legitimate top-four defenceman is worth more than that. See Boychuk. I would think that a serviceable bottom six centre should be worth more than a future pick with a one-in-three chance of making it to the NHL and I wouldn’t want to see Benning give up much more for a depth defencemen from a team that is much more desperate.

          • Mantastic

            If/when Horvat gets into the lineup Matthias is the most obvious candidate to sit out. I keep waiting/hoping that Matthias is the player his size and skills suggest he could be. In his time here I have seen no evidence of it so far. How Marincin gets thrown into the trade fantasy mix I have no idea other than some people continuing to believe that running an NHL team in reality is like GM mode in EA with the AI set at the lowest level. But at any rate this whole thread is absurd — why in god’s name would you want to devote this much energy to bottom pairings which would make the most sense for declining vets or developing prospects?

  • bossram

    I would rather give Sami Salo a call since he actually had a pretty good year last year.

    3 mil is way too much to pay for a player that will be a bottom pairing Dman. I believe Corado will be in a position to step in when needed, so there is no immediate need to make moves. Hopefully the week off has given Bieksa enough time to get his shoulder back close to 100%.

    No reason to panic until there is a reason to panic.

  • Franson for Hansen!

    As for Petry I think it could be done, why? mostly because gillis isn’t here anymore and we got a new gun slinger in Benning.

    Why does that matter?

    MacT didn’t seem to like Gillis.

    Plus Benning has no affiliation at all with the oilers org mgm, we could do a mutually beneficial trade for both teams in the right deal.

    Eastern teams always trade amongst each other like nothing, don’t see why it should be a big deal anymore in the Western conference.

  • bossram

    Franson or Petry would be fantastic additions. They can both reasonably play top-four minutes and bring some extra value as well. Franson would be the #1 RHD option for our PP. He’s a real PP weapon. And Petry is actually a pretty serviceable all-around guy. And they’re better than Sbisa.

    I find Ruhwedel pretty interesting as a guy we could look at for the #6/7 spot. I don’t know if he bring more than Weber right now, but I think he has more upside and ability to play at ES.

  • Spiel

    The Canucks need to be patient here. There are a lot of unanswered questions with the bottom 6 group of forwards. Let’s wait it out and see how the dust settles. Chances are there will be an extra forward available to trade, we just have to give it 20 games to see who it is. By then the trade landscape for a depth defenceman might be completely different.

  • Mantastic

    Franson would be cool obviously. But as a Canucks fan from Des Moines, Iowa; Jeff Petry is high on my list. He was back-to-back USHL defenseman of the year for the Des Moines Buccaneers and played on the championship team with Kyle Okposo and Trevor Lewis in 05-06. Great memories. I’m itching to have a former Bucs player in vancouver!

  • Mantastic

    I am of the opinion that none of these is superior to what we have. Franson has been in Toronto too long and it would take too long for him to recover and I think we have some guys coming. I also feel that Weber tends to be underestimated, as does Sbisa (do I detect an anti Swiss bias). I am content with the current set up despite danger of injuries. If I were to do anything, I think I would bring back Sami Salo on the understanding that he is part-time in the line up and part-time helping train the younger guys. For those who think we missed out on re-signing Ehrhoff, you are dreaming, he was going to Pitt from day 1 and salivating on playing on the PP with that lineup.