Canucks Trade Deadline 2015: Inventory

The 2015 NHL Trade Deadline is now only a week away.

What do the Vancouver Canucks need, what chips do they have to play with and how much cap space is available to them? Let’s launch our 2015 Canucks Trade Deadline preview series by conducting a thorough inventory.

Areas of Need

Long-term this club’s biggest need – by far – is high-end young talent. They’re not getting that at the trade deadline though. It’s important to note and keep in mind for context: for the Canucks, their long-term needs should take precedence over filling any short-term holes. 

The short-term needs that really stand out for the Canucks are blue-line depth and additional scoring punch. The club’s defensive depth wasn’t anything to write home about, and its been exacerbated recently by injuries to Chris Tanev, Frankie Corrado, Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa. The club could also use some additional scoring punch, something management has reportedly been focused on in recent weeks. 

Let’s begin with the scoring issue. The Canucks are nowhere near the offensive train wreck that they appeared to be a year ago. Scoring 2.79 goals per game this season, the Canucks are actually an above average offensive team. 

Above average doesn’t equate with a “potent” or “dangerous” offensive attack though, and it’s not at all surprising that the Canucks have reportedly been on the lookout for a scoring forward who can slot into their top-six.

For most of February, the Canucks have been rolling with a Radim Vrbata, Chris Higgins and Linden Vey second forward-line. Obviously once Nick Bonino returns, he’ll supplant Vey and return to his usual slot in the lineup.

If we assume the Canucks aren’t going to be able to find a top-six centreman, which seems like a very safe bet, then they’re likely looking at a scoring winger of some sort – perhaps an upgrade on Chris Higgins, a solid player who has been MIA offensively for a while now.

Higgins is one of Vancouver’s most efficient even-strength point producers and he’s also not exactly paid like a scoring forward, so counting on him to do more than put up the 37 points he’s on pace for is a bit unreasonable. Higgins is an under-rated playmaker and a solid two-way piece that can fill a second-line role credibly without hurting your team, but he’d be thoroughly excellent if he were a regular third-liner. 

If the Canucks could land a piece that would push Higgins further down the lineup, that would be ideal.

As for the defensive issue, the Canucks could absolutely use some some blue-line help, especially on the left side. They’ve reportedly kicked the tires on under-rated Boston Bruins defender Matt Bartkowski this season, but are sensibly unwilling to part with any major future assets in a deal to bolster their blue-line in the short-term. 

We’ll see if that changes should the respective timelines for the return of Edler and Tanev become extended further in the coming week. 

The Market

We don’t really know what the market at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline will look like, and it’s particularly hard to judge because there’s been so few trades this season. So let’s proceed with caution by making a few reasonable assumptions.

It seems likely, for example, and the falling Canadian dollar and escrow-related salary cap uncertainty will have a chilling effect on trades, particularly trades that include long-term salary commitments. Whether or not that trickles down and increases the demand for rental players remains to be seen, but it’s possible.

Will the top available forwards net first-round picks this season? At the trade deadline last year, players like Marian Gaborik, David Legwand, Matt Moulson, and Thomas Vanek moved without a first-round pick changing hands. If the Canucks are really shopping for a top-six forward, they’ll be hoping the deals look more like those trades, and less like the transaction that sent David Perron (and his non-expiring contract) to the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this year in exchange for a first-round pick and Rob Klinkhammer.

As for depth defensemen, we saw players like Mike Weaver and Andrej Meszaros move at last year’s NHL trade deadline for mid-round draft picks – prices which seem unlikely to be significantly different this time around. 

Earlier this month the Toronto Maple Leafs netted a first-round pick in a deal that included rental defender Cody Franson – though Franson came in a package along with a very good rental forward in Mike Santorelli – but it’s becoming increasingly rare for blue-liners to net top-30 draft picks on the trade market (not even Johnny Boychuk or Nick Leddy netted their respective clubs a first-rounder this past fall).

It seems conceivable that Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Andrej Sekera – the top rental blue-liner available – could net a first-round pick in a deadline day deal. Aside from that, we should probably expect serviceable NHL depth defenders like Bartkowski, Buffalo Sabres defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Andre Benoit, or Columbus Blue Jackets defender Jordan Leopold to be available at the cost of a mid-round draft selection at the deadline. 

Cap Space

The Canucks have less than $1 million in available cap-space, according to NHLNumbers.com. The situation is actually somewhat more complicated than that though, because of LTIR and the way the salary cap is calculated daily. 

So while $1 million in cap-space makes it seem like the Canucks don’t have a tonne of room to maneuver, in fact, they have a fair bit of space to play with – as much as $3 million without factoring in LTIR, according to Pierre LeBrun.

“The Canucks have about $950,000 of cap space, but because they’ve managed it well most of the season, they have accrued about $3 million of available space, and that’s what really matters come March 2,” LeBrun wrote last week in a piece for ESPN.com. “The cap shouldn’t be an impediment to a deal.”

If it becomes apparent that one or both of Bieksa and Edler will be unable to return before the conclusion of the regular season, then the Canucks could have ever more cap space to play with. Remember: the salary cap isn’t a factor in the NHL playoffs, so if – hypothetically speaking – Edler goes on LTIR from the deadline on, and is activated immediately prior to game one of the Stanley Cup playoffs, then the Canucks can roll with a roster that exceeds the cap come playoff time.

Draft Picks and Future Assets

The Vancouver Canucks own most of their own draft picks for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, with two exceptions. The Canucks don’t own their third-round pick, which they sent to the Anaheim Ducks as part of the Ryan Kesler trade, nor do they own their seventh-round pick which they sent to Tampa Bay as part of the Jason Garrison deal (the Minnesota Wild now own the rights to that seventh-round pick). 

The Canucks also have an extra draft pick in the fifth-round, courtesy the New York Rangers, who sent the pick Vancouver’s way as part of the 11th hour Raphael Diaz trade at the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline. 

So that’s six draft picks for the Canucks, and realistically, they should be doing everything they can to keep them or even add some more. Jim Benning has talked at length about building through the draft, and having a decent quantity of middle and late-round picks is key. You have a better chance of winning the lottery with four or five tickets than you do with one. 

“We need to draft well, we need to develop well, and it’s important that I get out there in the field and see the players play so when we’re talking about the players at the meetings I can give (Canucks scouts) my perspective,” Benning said in a radio interview earlier this month. “I think it’s important.”

In terms of Vancouver’s prospects, they weren’t willing to part with any of Jake Virtanen, Bo Horvat, or Jared McCann in a possible Evander Kane trade – and Kane is a 23-year-old power forward and local boy, so if Vancouver’s posture in that exchange tells us anything, and it probably does, it’s that Benning intends on stockpiling the majority of his future assets. 

There are a few other low-end trade chips that the Canucks may try to cash in, most notably in goal. With Jacob Markstrom and Eddie Lack both in the system, the club could dangle one of their depth netminders in trade talks. Actually, we should probably expect them to. 

Considering how weak the trade market for goaltenders is though, it seems unlikely that the club will be able to recoup more than a mid-to-late round draft selection for the services of either Lack or Markstrom.

Conclusion

When you dive into Vancouver’s inventory and their organizational fundamentals heading into the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline, it seems likely that this club isn’t perched to go all-in, or make waves with a surprise move. 

We might reasonably expect the club to behave conservatively in the first trade deadline of the Benning era. If anything, the Canucks seem like they will look to make player-for-player type hockey deals rather than moving a high draft pick or a significant prospect for a splashy rental piece. 

  • Steampuck

    Depending on updates to Edler and Bieksa not prolonging their absences markedly, I’m okay with holding at the deadline. If we can get a decent draft pick return out of one of twenty-seven third liners, then fine. But I’m having a hard time imagining any trade that makes this team significantly better in the short and long term.

  • FredNinh

    “Long-term this club’s biggest need – by far – is high-end young talent.”

    Sorry to be annoying, but this is redundant. It appears everywhere at trade deadline time. Every single team has the same “long-term need”. What other possibilities are there on your list of long term needs? Off-ice things maybe, like a new rink, season-ticket growth, TV contract, etc. But on-ice? Isn’t this literally the only long-term need for any team, anywhere, in any season?

    • peterl

      I can certainly see where you’re coming from with that, but I would also point out that the Edmonton Oilers don’t seem to be short on “high-end young talent”, yet still struggle to find success with regularity.

      Admittedly, having a substantial number of elite assets will probably always be beneficial to a club’s long term success, and it might indeed be reasonable to say that at no point is there ever a greater priority for a club than the accumulation of top-end players.

      On the other hand though, I suppose there’s an argument to be made that on-ice complementing elements like improved managerial foresight, coaching strategies, or locker-room cohesiveness/leadership (if one believes in those kind of intangibles) could be equally crucial for prolonged success.

      As much as correlation doesn’t imply causation, incidents like the Kings’ eventual inaugural championship and current run of success following the change from Murray to Sutter, or even the difference between Tortorella and Desjardins for the Canucks this season, seem to say that long-run success may not always be solely about the players.

  • Steampuck

    The easiest way for us to ice a good 2nd line is to find an alternative to Burrows/Vrbata on the Sedin line. We’d struggle to add a better winger than either of those and Kassian and Hansen have both had success with the Sedins in the past.

    If we could shift Dorsett and Sbisa to teams looking for depth for anything, that would be a plus

  • wojohowitz

    Bonino and Vey are both borderline talents. Neither has a future playing center in the NHL. In comparison Richardson is an excellent example of what a center iceman should be – but he is not a long term solution. A couple more Horvats would solve the problem but both McCann and Cassels are still a couple of years away. Find a young natural centerman whose cheap. Markstrom for Scott Laughton would make sense for both teams.

  • peterl

    I think the Canucks should be very minor sellers. They can move a depth forward (i.e. Burrows, Higgins, Hansen, Richardson, Matthias, Dorsett) for a tangible return. The team seems to have a glut of middle-six forwards. Richardson, Dorsett, and Matthias are scheduled to be UFAs this summer and it is doubtful they can all be retained (unless Hansen/Higgins/Burrows are moved).

    The cost of adding is always high, particularly a defenceman, which is what the team needs in light of injuries. Remember when Andrew Alberts cost a third round pick?

    Even after moving out a forward, there is plenty of competition and injury relief from the current glut of depth forwards.

  • wojohowitz

    “…it’s becoming increasingly rare for blue-liners to net top-30 draft picks on the trade market (not even Johnny Boychuk or Nick Leddy netted their respective clubs a first-rounder this past fall).”

    I think this statement needs to be qualified. Boston had/has a cap crunch and needed to move salary. Chicago had/has a logjam of NHL ready defencemen. In those cases, the GM’s were dealing from a position of relative weakness because of roster limitations. Garth Snow was smart and able to get them cheap.

        • Steampuck

          Leddy’s 24 and NHL ready. That seems worth a mid-round first, no? I get all the prospect talk, but I’d still take the sure thing over the maybe-coulda-shoulda been. We can’t accurately assess how a 17-year-old is going to turn out (in a year or two, even Sbisa could turn out to be a pleasant surprise), so why not take an older-but-still-developing and already NHL-tested D?

          • allsportsfan

            I believe the best example we have of how talent can be cultivated in Chris Tanev, he took 4 years to fully develop until he became full time in Van.

            He was undrafted but would have been in the 2008 draft year so in that draft year check out the D-men picked in round 1:

            LAK Drew Doughty
            ATL Zach Bogosian
            STL Alex Pietrangelo
            TOR Luke Schenn
            BUF Tyler Myers
            LAK Colten Teubert
            OTT Erik Karlsson
            ANA Jake Gardiner
            PHI Luca Sbisa
            NYR Michael Del Zotto
            MIN Tyler Cuma
            WSH John Carlson

            So using this draft year look how many are stud d-men, and how many of you would have drafted Tanev in Round1, none.

            Point is that’s why those good teams with young talent draft and develop and you don’t know if that player you drafted is going to work out but you improve your chances if you’ve got a good development organization.

          • allsportsfan

            What you are saying is totally consistent with Benning’s “speed up development” philosophy so Leddy could very possibly be worth a current 1st round pick. I can’t comment because I really haven’t watched him play.

          • Steampuck

            I haven’t seen enough of him either, but I can’t help thinking the blue line upgrade has provided valuable heft in the Islanders’ turnaround. Without actually bothering to count, I suspect I’d also take Leddy (site unseen, but he’s in the NHL) over 50% of Canuck first-round picks over the past decade…

  • RandomScrub

    Safe to assume the bit about moving a goaltender was written before Miller’s injury? Looks like they’ll need both Lack and Markstrom and previous threads here on CA show at least the fans who read this blog wouldn’t want to trade either and would rather we didn’t have 2 more years of Miller at $6M.

    The Canucks want to make the playoffs and want to stockpile assets. This strikes me as meaning unless we see something along the lines of the Forsling/Clendening deal, it’ll be a quiet deadline in Canuckland.

  • allsportsfan

    It’s always easy to say that if we had young talent. When Gillis was here he regularly gave up our 2nd and 3rd round draft picks to get the rental players who he thought might help us bring the Cup. Those are lost assets that you could either trade to another team for a draft pick, young player, that supposed “hockey trade” or players on your roster who would be the nucleus of the players right behind the Sedins in succeeding them as first line players or have a 2nd line.

    Look at all the teams who have lots of good young developed talent ie. DET, PIT, CHI they actually spend time developing talent in their farm systems with their drafted players.

    As much as we’d like to have that talent right now, we don’t and realistically the Evander Kane trade rumours just proved that we don’t have enough assets that WIN wanted in order to make that trade work. Those people saying let’s trade McCann, Shinkaruk, Cassels, etc. to get Kane. So who would we play with Kane then next year, Bonino and Higgins, or Hansen, or Jensen, or any number of 3rd liners we have? That’s not going to buy us much more in points and a playoff round win, I doubt it, its my opinion but the lack of talent is hurting us now and until the Horvats, Virtanen, Gaunce, Shinkaruk, Cassels, Chemko, of the world either become first and 2nd liners or they get traded for other NHL assets.

  • Steampuck

    I’m not as “chicken little” as this blog seems to be about the top end talent. Horvat has out played expectations and there have been 3 other first round picks the last two years.. Each a different type of player. I digress

    I don’t think the Canucks will do much at the trade deadline. If anything the rash of injuries have forced younger depth players into prime roles which can only deepen a team.

    If Kassian can stay with the twins, the. A second line of Bonino/Burrows/Vrbata could be an improvement 3 rd line Mattias/Higgins/Richardson and Horvat/Kenins/Hansen…

    The team has played a tougher brand of hockey and has beaten Chicago/Pitt/NYR and Isle…. All with a depleted roster. This team has more toughness than it is given credit for. May not be a Presidents trophy winner in a bad Division, but scrappy!