Canucks Trade Deadline 2015: 9 defensemen for the Canucks to target

With the NHL trade deadline but a few days away, anxious general managers have become increasingly active with the hope of adding that final piece or two for a playoff push, or a Stanley Cup chase. On the opposite end of that spectrum, young or otherwise hopeless clubs are eschewing expiring contracts and stockpiling draft picks to build for the future.

Somewhere in the middle are the Vancouver Canucks. So long as the Sedins can carry a first-line offensively, the Canucks will always be relatively competitive. By that same token, Vancouver lacks premier offensive talent behind them and as such can’t realistically be expected to compete for a Cup in the near future.

In his first season with Vancouver, Jim Benning will have to balance this dichotomy with shrewd management that accommodates both the short term goals of ownership (who have expressed in no uncertain terms that they want this team to compete for the playoffs) and long term goals of management. 

Can the Canucks do both? And if they do plan to be active in this year’s trade market, who exactly should they be targeting? What do you say we take a look at that on the other side of the jump?

Defencemen

Short three of their top-four defencemen, it’s a miracle this season hasn’t slipped from the Canucks fingers. Picking up the slack for Vancouver have been career seventh-defencemen Ryan Stanton and Yannick Weber. Behind them are career AHL D-men (at least so far) Adam Clendening and Alex Biega. While the short-term returns have been nothing short of amazing, this isn’t a recipe for prolonged success. If the Canucks are to go much longer without Chris Tanev, Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa, reinforcements will be needed to hold the fort. 

In hypothesizing which players the Canucks might be interested in, there are several factors to consider. Will the Canucks go all-in and try to extend this year’s run by a round or two at any expense? The Sedins won’t be first-liners for ever. Or does Trader Jim go the route of traditional hockey trades, a la Clendening acquisition? Another of these kind of moves might make sense, but they become increasingly difficult to facilitate as the season wears on. The most logical move would be a soft sell, sending away expiring contracts to make room for some of the Canucks younger players in the not-so-distant future. Then again, this could put that valued playoff revenue at peril and history tells us we can’t be too confident in Vancouver’s ability to maximize value on mid-round picks anyways.

Decisions, decisions.

The Rentals

This is a route I’m not overly fond of for most teams, let alone one in the Canucks current position. For those less versed in the language of deadline pundits, a rental player is one that is acquired at the deadline, with an expiring contract, that will likely not figure into the long-term future of the team acquiring his services. Lets examine some defenders the Canucks might be honed in on.

Jeff Petry – Edmonton Oilers

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $3.075 million

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel QoC
27 R 17.4 0.6 48.8% 0.554

At first glance, I love the idea of acquiring Jeff Petry. Unlike most rental players, Petry is still relatively young at just 27-years old. What little concerns remained about Petry’s ability to hang in there with the bigger bodies of the West, in an increased role, have been summarily eased. While Petry is more of a defensive defenceman, he’s not completely inept from beyond his own blue line. Petry can make an excellent first pass and his 15-points on the season would be tied with Tanev for second on the Canucks blue line.

Realistically, I wouldn’t hold my breath on Petry. Firstly, the rumoured price on Petry – before Andrej Sekera and Cody Franson were taken off the market – is a second-round pick. I doubt the Canucks have any desire to part with that high of a pick. I’m equally skeptical that the price tag hasn’t changed with less defencemen available. Petry is also a right-handed D, and the Canucks have no shortage of those. Not a likely pick-up.

Jan Hejda – Colorado Avalanche

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $3.25 million

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel QoC
36 L 17.7 0.4 44.5% 1.441

If the Canucks like Luca Sbisa, then they will love Jan Hejda. Hejda is the kind of big, minute munching stay-at-home defeceman that general managers seem to drool over and nerds bemoan. There is some value in having a Hejda-type player in your lineup, but I’m just not entirely sure it lines up with his contract or what it might cost to acquire him. 

At 36-years old, Hejda would be the consummate rental. There’s less than zero chance he’d return with the Canucks were he acquired, and this would probably be for the best. His type of D-men are a dying breed and with good reason. He’s ranked 9th on TSN’s trade bait list and I haven’t heard his name linked to any serious contenders. It could sneak up on us, I tells ya. 

Zbynek Michalek – Arizona Coyotes

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $4 million

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel QoC
32 R 16.7 0.5 51.8% 1.491

Michalek is in a rare breed of defenceman. He’s a stay-at-home D-man, who’s value isn’t completely gauged in size and “intangibles”. Make no mistake about it, Michalek can actually defend. It’s no wonder that teams in hot pursuit of Stanley’s chalice have been linked to this bulky Czech defender. 

If Petry is expected to go for a second, I can’t help but figure that’s the going price on Michalek. The latter of those two has a better reputation among hockey’s brain trust, but that is mitigated by his age. It all adds up to a roughly similar price, if you ask me. If the cost doesn’t back Vancouver off, the age of Michalek and cap squeeze will. Don’t see this one happening.

The Hockey Acquisitions

A hockey trade would be the exact opposite of a rental acquisition. Just recently we saw one between the Anaheim Ducks and Montreal Canadiens, who exchanged young wingers Jiri Sekac and Devante Smith-Pelly. Usually, these trades are player for player and don’t involve expiring contracts.

Patrick Wiercioch – Ottawa Senators

Contract: One-year after this one at a cap-hit of $2 million

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel QoC
24 L 13.9 0.5 56.2% -0.126

There’s been plenty of speculation around these parts about the Wiercioch to Vancouver connection. From radio to Twitter, people everywhere are connecting the 6’5 defender to his hometown Canucks. For whatever reason, Wiercioch hasn’t been able to endear himself to consecutive coaching regimes in Ottawa. 

This is the kind of trade I could get down with. If the Zack Kassian saga in Vancouver teaches us anything, it’s that coaches sometimes struggle with the separation between bad and disappointing. It’s a marketing inefficiency that rears its head with greater frequency as the players in question grow in stature. Wiercioch is a plus possession player, with a great first pass and overall offensive upside. Where Wiercioch struggles is in capitalizing on his size to be more physical in his own end. He’s young at just 23-years old and a Burnaby boy… Paging Trader Jim. 

Matt Bartkowski – Boston Bruins

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $1.25 million

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel QoC
26 L 15.8 0.6 52.7% -0.621

Stop me if you’ve heard Bartkowski linked to Vancouver before… During the height of the Kassian press box stint, it was speculated that the lumbering winger would be shipped Boston’s way for this exact defenceman. It seems less likely now, since Kassian is proving himself a useful addition to the first line and Kevan Miller (who had supplanted Bartkowksi in the Bruins top-six) getting hurt. 

Bartkowski is still the borderline top-four d-man he was when we last speculated on him. I wouldn’t discount Bartkowski entirely. Humans are creatures of habit and Benning has already proven himself suspect to decisions based on known quantities from his own experience. Don’t write this one off just yet, even if Bartkowski does have an expiring contract. Jim Benning would surely bend over backwards to get a deal done with one of his long-time guys.

Players on my radar

If you’re a regular on this website, you know all too well that we don’t necessarily see eye to eye with Canucks management on the odd decision… or two… or three… Anyways, different strokes for different folks. From where I’m sitting, a team in the Canucks position should immediately cross anyone over the age of 30 off their list of potential acquisitions. Then, they should delve a few steps deeper to see if they can find some criminally undervalued players that won’t cost much to acquire. Think a lot more Wiercioch and a lot less Michalek. Here’s who I’m keen on:

David Schlemko – Dallas Stars

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $1.25 million

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel QoC
27 L 14.4 0.3 47.3% -0.210

For whatever reason, Schlemko has been on the losing end of a battle with two separate coaches for playing time. Originally, Schlemko had worked his way into Dave Tippett’s doghouse in Arizona, before being placed on waivers multiple times. The defense-needy Dallas Stars eventually scooped up Schlemko, but haven’t used him much since.

Schlemko is a relatively young, adequate possession player renowned for his mobility. I can’t for the life of me see what other teams don’t like about Schlemko. I’d wager the Canucks can get Schlemko for a minor league contract if Dallas is looking to shed salary, or even those ever popular “future considerations” seeing as he’s been waived at different points this season.

Brett Bellemore – Carolina Hurricanes

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $600,000

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel QoC
26 R 14.4 0.5 43.3% 0.733

Bellemore’s case is a peculiar one. Last season, the late blooming defensive defenceman proved himself a valuable addition to the penalty kill and a relatively efficient possession player. Bellemore’s name floated in free agency this off-season, before the Canes decided to re-up with the depth defender late last summer.

Bellemore has struggled to earn the trust of the Canes new coaching regime, often finding himself the odd man out. As a sixth or seventh defender, I think Bellemore has plenty to offer. Especially in the short term. Worth checking out, perhaps?

Michael Stone – Arizona Coyotes

Contract: One-year after this one at a cap-hit of $1.150 million

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel QoC
24 R 16.8 0.7 48.7% -0.017

The Coyotes are headed for a fire sale. All signs indicate as much. The only player that isn’t available from the desert is probably Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and even his name has surfaced in trade rumours. That is oddly enough, not Michael Stone’s name. Stone is your prototypical young defender with size. He is lauded for his offensive upside and first pass, while scouts and coaches want more of a physical presence from him. Nothing new here. 

In limited action over the last three seasons, Stone has proven a just below even possession player, relative to his teammates. That said, his offensive production is relatively high given his position and environment. I don’t think it’s a stretch to wonder whether Stone might have more to offer in a more offensively inclined situation. 

Martin Marincin – Edmonton Oilers

Contract: Expiring with a cap-hit of $500,000 (RFA)

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel QoC
23 L 15.7 0.2 50.2% 0.976

It would appear as though the Oilers and Martin Marincin are at somewhat of an impasse. Despite the young Slovak’s impressive first outing with the big club last season, he’s struggled to gain ice-time under consecutive coaches and has spent extended stays in the AHL. Marincin has appeared in just 21-games this season, with a modest boxcar total of one assist.

Marincin is young enough to figure into the Canucks long-term plans. As the Canucks blue line gets healthier, Benning wouldn’t have to worry about losing Marincin to waivers, either. He’s a plus possession player on a fairly weak Oilers team with solid defensive upside. 

Conclusion

What do you think? Are any of these players worth targeting? Should the Canucks be looking at defensive help anyways? Get the discussion going below in the comments section. Besides, who doesn’t love playing armchair GM?

  • Ruprecht

    None of the above. Out of necessity, I say we wait until Summer when the market settles. At least then we know what some of the UFA’s will be asking without parting with anything drastic.

    Rentals are kind of out of the question with what I’ve seen payment wise. A decent RFA is going to cost a decent asset in return, and we’re still kinda thin to be making moves like that. Unless we are willing to part with Kass, are you?

    I still think not much happens here but a couple of utilitarian moves. Unless that top 6 forward that Benning, and everyone’s dog/cat, covets falls from the sky.

  • Ruprecht

    Wiercoch and Stone would be nice adds but at what price? If the price is right then go get them.

    I think the focus should be on top 6 forwards. That should be the priority.

    • Ruprecht

      Agree but I think the focus should be on making a good deal regardless of position. With the upcoming cap pinch in the summer some decent players will have to hit the market. I’m of the opinion that more long term solutions would be available then, so why spend big now unless it’s a killer deal?

      It would be great if we could shed a NTC or some salary. That would put us in a good position to land quality later…with more options on the market and more GM’s to deal with in the summer, when buyers become sellers.

  • Ruprecht

    Schlemko LOL

    u still going off about this guy?!?! If u had ur way Benning woulda claimed him months ago and woulda been pumping him with ice time and never had space for Clendening haha. Brutal

    Canucks would do better flying Sulzer back from Germany… or digging Cam Barker out of whatever beer league he’s playing in. Maybe Andrew AHLberts wants to make a comeback?

    This EA sports brah! Turn off the xbox

  • Ruprecht

    Marincin seems like a stretch! Would be a great pick up though.

    And this was a great line:

    “coaches sometimes struggle with the separation between bad and disappointing”

    applies to fans too

  • peterl

    Your comments about Martin Marcinin are interesting. I think Edmonton will play conservative (as they always do) and hang onto him. Moving Marcinin is too bold a move for the Oilers and they see a high ceiling on him and other defensive prospects.

    I think acquiring Matt Bartkowski at the deadline is a mistake. I don’t see the Canucks going deep in the playoffs and if they think highly of Bartkowski, it is better to sign him in the off-season. I don’t think giving up an asset for him now and possibly seeing him walk in the summer is good asset management.

    I like the comments about Patrick Wiercioch. It is something JB could explore, but I would be loathe to give up a young asset or decent draft pick for him. The price would have to be on the low side of fair.

    In any of these trades, I would not give up Kassian just yet. There is a ceiling there that the Canucks haven’t yet found. Kassian still has another year left on his contract to prove his hockey sense matches his skill level.

  • Ruprecht

    Young top 6 scorer is the #1 goal.
    (Skinner, JVR, Brayden Schenn)

    Secondary – Dman
    (Wiercioch)

    And a Right shot / faceoff specialist centerman.
    (Mark Letestu)

  • Fred-65

    Has the last week + shown us nothing of our defensive depth with Biega and Weber have done very well in a desperate time. Surely we don’t rid oursleves of picks or prospect to get players….maybe….maybe marginally better