Canucks waive Brandon McMillan, have opportunity to address blue-line depth on the wire

Brandon McMillan’s tenure with the Vancouver Canucks was fleeting indeed.

The depth forward, a native of the Lower Mainland, was placed on waivers on Saturday. McMillan spent less than a month and appeared in only three games with the Canucks after being claimed on waivers from the Arizona Coyotes earlier in February. He didn’t make much of an impression, not that much was expected

Read past the jump for more on McMillan and a couple of intriguing names on the weekend waiver wire. 

By placing McMillan on waivers on Saturday the Canucks have created some flexibility for themselves ahead of the deadline, in terms of space on their 23-man roster. 

Because the fourth-line forward didn’t appear in 10 games or spend 30 days on the NHL roster, the Coyotes can reclaim McMillan and his relatively high American Hockey League salary on waivers and assign him directly to their top minor-league affiliate. 

Though the Coyotes haven’t been heard from ahead of the trade deadline – yet – re-claiming McMillan and their need to maintain flexibility ahead of the trade deadline probably aren’t in conflict, since they can claim and reassign him without filling a spot on their 23-man roster. 

If the Coyotes don’t elect to bring McMillan back, it seems likely that he’ll make it through waivers and be reassigned. This would only impact the Canucks at the margins, though McMillan would certainly be useful depth for a Utica Comets team that seems to have a realistic shot of making a Calder Cup trophy run this spring. 

Beyond McMillan there are a couple of somewhat intriguing names on the waive wire this weekend, most notably young Chicago Blackhawks defender Tim Erixon and Canucks Army favourite David Schlemko, most recently of the Dallas Stars. Both defenders are left-handed shooting defenders, which would seem to fill a potential need for Vancouver, particularly if Alex Edler’s injury is a long-term situation – something which seems increasingly likely. 

The 24-year-old Erixon find himself on waivers largely as a result of Chicago’s acquisition of Kimmo Timonen on Friday evening. Though he’s been passed around like a hot potato in his NHL career, Erixon very impressively played in the SHL at 17. He was part of Skellefteå’s much ballyhooed championship trifecta of highly-rated teenage blue-line prospects – along with David Rundblad, and Adam Larsson – all of whom have disappointed in North American play.

Erixon’s development hasn’t come along as hoped, but the talent is there and his AHL numbers are still spectacular. He’s young enough that you might still reasonably imagine him having some untapped upside. At the very least he could represent useful and affordable depth for a club that’s dealing with a cataclysmic mess of injuries on the back-end. 

As for Schlemko, we’ve covered him at length in the past. Here’s what Rhys Jessop thinks of Schlemko’s abilities

Over the past 3 seasons, Schlemko hasn’t really seen full-time duty with the Phoenix Coyotes, playing in a career high 48 games last season, but also appeared in over 60% of Phoenix’s games in the lockout shortened 2012-2013. He averaged about 14 minutes of even strength time on ice per game between 2011-12 and 2013-14, and also had the fourth highest points/60 rate of Coyotes defenders who appeared in 100 or more NHL games over that span at 0.75 pts/60 – a similar rate to Alex Edler and Yannick Weber.

Schlemko is generally a possession-neutral player, but he plays in a role that’s generally filled by guys who don’t push the play in the right direction, despite more favourable zone deployments. Guys who play a similar amount of games and ice time as Schlemko usually see around a 49% Corsi with 52% zone starts, and score at a rate of 0.56 pts/60. Schlemko does slightly better in terms of possession with slightly more defensive deployments, and he also hasn’t sheltered by quality teammates.

In terms of breaking down his play into offense and defense, Schlemko has been a very high-event defender when he’s on the ice. The Coyotes were able to generate shot attempts at a higher rate with only Keith Yandle on the ice, but Schlemko gives up quite a few shot attempts relative to his team too. His defense definitely leaves something to be desired, but his on-ice 58.1 CorsiFor/60 is a top-50 rate in the entire league.

There’s a reason Erixon and Schlemko are on waivers, of course. They’re not potential game changers for the Canucks. They could be useful depth though, and they both play a position where Vancouver’s ability to ice warm bodies was already weak and has been challenged significantly over the past month. 

Admittedly Vancouver’s once urgent need for players like Schlemko and Erixon has been reduced somewhat by Dan Hamhuis’ return to form and Ryan Stanton’s capable play in recent weeks. Still, if the Canucks were hoping to add defensive depth at the deadline anyway, they now may have the option of accomplishing that free of charge on the waiver wire. 

  • Larionov18

    Waiver wire claims are usually like crap toys at Xmas. You play with them for a minute, then realize what they are and move on.

    The Canucks have enough depth guys contributing right now. Weber was actually one of the few bright spots in Buffalo game. If the Canucks don’t see potential in any waiver guys, then call up Utica DMen and see what they can do.

    Kennings proves that sometimes guys can play better in the NHL, because they are generally playing with better players!

  • Larionov18

    Canucks should put in a claim for Erixon. He’s earning only $600k on an RFA contract that expires this year. If he pans out, you can qualify him. If he doesn’t, you can let him walk. Chicago’s acquisition of him was just to get some value out of a player who was gonna walk anyways (Morin), Chicago doesn’t have the roster space and will to give him a shot. Stanton and Clendening have been decent so far, might as well keep taking defence from Chicago.

    • Vanoxy

      Oh Capgeek where art thou?

      I believe they are currently at 49, including McMillan.

      *edit*
      That would also include Sestito, who I assume could still be bought out or included in a trade as a roster-dump. He’s just in limbo right now.