Canucks Trade Deadline 2015: 10 Forwards the Canucks Could Target

With the NHL trade deadline just around the corner, general managers across the league are upping the ante in 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. Then there’s the Clarkson-for-Hortons of the world, but I digress.

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? Yesterday, we looked at 9 defenders the Canucks could target. What say you we check out some forwards for today?

Forwards

With the recent run of scoring from the unlikeliest of sources, Vancouver looks to have all the pieces in place on offense to continue their push towards the post-season. The return of Nick Bonino from injury can only help the Canucks in that regard. Based on Vancouver’s performance without two of their top three centres, their returns from injury will stand as found money for a club that proved competent without their services. In a way, the Canucks are acquiring a second and third line center for free. When they get the latter of those two remains to be seen though. 

By that same token, much of the Canucks offensive surge from the bottom-six is percentage driven and not likely to last. If the Canucks are looking to take that next step, they will need some help in the secondary scoring department. Fortunately for Trader Jim, there will be considerably more forwards on the market than defenceman, and they usually come with a cheaper price tag. Let’s look at some options.

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 forwards the Canucks might be honed in on.

C, Antoine Vermette – Arizona Coyotes

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $3.75 million

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel. QoC
32 L 13.6 1.4 47.5% 1.106

With the Sedins still in the prime of their careers and the Canucks looking ripe for a lengthy playoff run in the 2011-12 season, the acquisition of Antoine Vermette from a fire selling Columbus Blue Jackets would have made all the sense in the world. By the time the dust settled, Vancouver had opted for Sami Pahlsson at the cost of two fourth-rounders and let the Coyotes swoop in for Vermette with one second. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Three seasons later and this same opportunity has presented itself. The going price on Vermette is believed to be a first-round pick and a high end prospect. If the Evander Kane non-deal has taught us anything, it’s that Benning is likely unwilling to part with either. It’s also worth noting that the 2014-15 version of Vermette is considerably less useful than the 2011-12 version Vancouver passed up on. That his price has gone up to this extent is almost laughable. 

His offensive production has taken a hit, but sporting a 96.4 PDO can have that effect. Besides, it’s Vermette’s defensive play which has long made him a highly sought after commodity. With Vermette off the ice, Arizona is doing better in nearly every underlying metric at our disposal this season. The Coyotes and Vermette are cashing in on reputation, not reality. Don’t see the Canucks making a play.

LW, Erik Cole – Dallas Stars

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $4.5 million

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel. QoC
36 L 11.7 2.2 50.1 0.262

I’ve heard the connection drawn between Erik Cole and the Canucks more than once in the lead-up to the deadline, so it’s an avenue worth exploring. While Cole lacks the requisite youth to be a part of the Canucks future, his 33-points on the season would rank him fourth on the Canucks. Standing at 6’2 and renowned for power forward style of play, Cole is built for playoff hockey in the West to boot. 

I just don’t necessarily see the point in acquiring a player like Cole. It’s not like he’ll push the Canucks over the top this season. It’s a virtual certainty he wouldn’t be a part of the plans by the time Vancouver is competitive again, too. A player like Cole would surely cost futures, like a prospect or a draft pick. I’d rather stockpile lottery tickets than posture as a playoff threat. 

W, Chris Stewart – Buffalo Sabres

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $4.1 million

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel. QoC
27 R 13.6 1.1 35.1% -0.215

While Chris Stewart’s name has spent almost the entirety of this season being bandied about in trade rumours, we are just days away from the March 2nd deadline and he remains a Buffalo Sabre. Tim Murray has apparently been holding out for a Kings ransom, which would explain much of this. With Stewart’s offensive production picking up of late, this tactic might work for the rebuilding Sabres. 

Stewart’s production would indicate he’s a low end second-liner. I have to imagine it’s his banging style of play and 6’2 frame which is driving the cost up. That, or people are banking on his potential to shine through in a more positive and competitive environment. The Buffalo excuse is always a valid one when explaining low boxcar totals. That doesn’t do anything to ease my concerns about Stewart’s two-way play though, as the Sabres are a 3% better possession team with Stewart on the bench. 

C, Jay McClement – Carolina Hurricanes

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $1 million

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel. QoC
31 L 10.8 1.5 43.2% -0.363

Contrary to his deployment under Randy Carlyle, Jay McClement is a serviceable fourth line center that can perform well in a shutdown role. Depending upon the extent to which Vancouver sends out its expiring contracts this deadline, McClement’s services might be of some use to the Canucks down the stretch. 

W/C, Torrey Mitchell – Buffalo Sabres

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $1.9 million

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel. QoC
30 R 12.7 1.1 40.2% 0.957

Offensively, Torrey Mitchell leaves much to be desired. Where Mitchell derives his value is from his own zone as a shutdown force, especially where shot suppression is concerned. Mitchell can play any forward position, and this could prove tremendously useful down the stretch if injuries strike at the Canucks offense again. A low-end third liner or a high-end fourth, Mitchell would be useful for any team in need of depth at forward.

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.

W/C, Jeff Skinner – Carolina Hurricanes

Contract: Four years after this one at a cap-hit of $5.75 million

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel. QoC
22 L 13.2 1.7 51.5% 0.441

If these last few days have proven anything, it’s that the Carolina Hurricanes are in full on fire sale mode. Andrej Sekera and Tim Gleason have already been shipped out of town for draft picks and I expect more Canes will follow. We’ve heard Jordan Staal’s name linked to the Penguins (lol) already and it’s rumoured his brother, Eric, might be available as well. Flying under the radar is Jeff Skinner.

The Fourth Period has suggested that the Canucks would be in on Skinner’s services, were the young, concussion riddled forward available. While nothing is imminent, these situations are incredibly fluid and constantly subject to change. 

Skinner makes all the sense in the world as a Canucks acquisition. While the re-tooling has yielded impressive results in the form of a formidable prospect pool, none of what Vancouver currently possesses has a first-line ceiling, similar to Skinner. A 23-year old with an injury history like Skinner’s is always going to be a risk, but it’s a worthwhile one for a team that lacks first-line talent behind the Sedins. 

RW, Cam Atkinson – Columbus Blue Jackets

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $1.15 million (RFA)

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel. QoC
25 R 12.9 1.5 49% 0.870

For a young, rebuilding franchise like the Columbus Blue Jackets, one would think a 25-year old of Cam Atkinson’s ilk would be a valued commodity. Instead, his name is being linked to countless teams in the lead-up to the trade deadline.

While many are considering this campaign a step back for Atkinson, that’s not necessarily based in reality. His rate production is at almost the exact same level it was last campaign, while banking on a lower sh%. Atkinson has also proven a valuable possession player, posting a 4% Rel Corsi. If the Blue Jackets are selling, they’re not doing it right. Here’s one that Trader Jim should definitely hone in on. 

LW, Matt Calvert – Columbus Blue Jackets

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $1 million (RFA)

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel. QoC
25 L 12.6 1.6 46.9% 1.007

Call me lazy, but nearly everything I just said about Cam Atkinson applies to Matt Calvert. Of the two, I’d say that Calvert is probably the lesser of the two. Calvert’s two-way game is comparable to Atkinson, but his offensive ceiling is much lower. 

If the Canucks can’t land Atkinson, I’d be more than happy with the addition of Calvert. That said, his injury status might prove a huge impediment to any deal. Calvert is currently on injured reserve with a nasty concussion.

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 Skinner and a lot less Stewart. Here’s who I’m keen on:

C/W, Joakim Andersson – Detroit Red Wings

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $700,000 (RFA)

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel. QoC
26 L 9.6 0.7 43.7% -0.455

Buying low on young players mired in poor seasons should be the Canucks M.O.. Look no further than Detroit’s Joakim Andersson as one example. In the three seasons prior to this one, Andersson proved himself a useful checking forward, with rate-scoring I’d generally associate with third-liners.

Currently, Andersson finds himself mired in deployment hell, posting a -20% Rel. Zone Start. His offense and possession totals have cratered as a result . I have to imagine that in a much less grueling, defensively oriented role, Andersson could shine on any team’s third-line and penalty kill. For a team with as many bottom-six pieces headed towards free agency as the Canucks, acquiring a young third-liner with a cheap contract this season and team control at season’s end would be a smart proposition. 

LW, Magnus Paajarvi – St. Louis Blues

Contract: Expiring at a cap-hit of $1.2 million (RFA)

Age Shoots ToI/60 P/60 Corsi Corsi Rel. QoC
23 L 8.8 0 53.4% 1.002

Still not sure I’m ready to forgive Benning for letting Magnus Paajarvi slip through the waiver wire cracks. For a team that needs an infusion of youth and skill from its bottom-six, Paajarvi represented a worthwhile gamble. Here’s Rhys on why the Canucks should have picked him up: 

At 23, Paajarvi is still young enough to have upside left, and at 6’3 with fantastic straight-ahead speed, he has a great toolkit too. But unfulfilled expectations can make otherwise good decision makers to mistake “disappointing” for “bad,” and questionable results can provide an easy justification for making such moves. Paajarvi has been mired in absolute PDO hell for his Blues career. He has a 942 PDO this season after an equally brutal 958 last season, and a 2013-14 Alex Edler-ian on-ice shooting percentage of 5.88% and 2.33% the past two years.

I have to imagine the Blues would love nothing more at this point than for a cap team to take Paajarvi off their hands. They might even retain salary to accommodate it. Definitely worth kicking the tires on. 

Conclusion:

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

  • WTF2

    I wish the Canucks picked up Paajarvi. That would have allowed them to trade someone like Higgins. Although Paajarvi hasn’t lived up to scoring expectations so far, he would have been a younger, cheaper, still-defensive minded LW like Higgins. At 23, I think it would be worth rolling the dice to see if he could increase his scoring with a “change of scenery”.

      • WTF2

        I have disagree. I think the Oilers management has proven that they can botch any player’s development so I’m not surprised that when he was there, that he underachieved. Look at Yakupov, I think he would be producing a heck of a lot more on a contender like Anaheim, Chicago or Tampa Bay. Look at how they messed up Draisatyl and the WJC this year. Look at Marincin, Oiler fans were wondering why he went to the minors. They suck so bad, get a top 10 pick and mess up that player – such is the downward spiral.

      • Dirty30

        That’s like saying someone didn’t make the shuffle board team on the Titanic.

        I don’t think you can use the Oilers as a metric for anything but disasters. The Oilers have wasted more talent than Shane O’Brian at the No. 5 Orange and that shouldn’t reflect on the talent.

        Paarjavi seems like a low risk up-grade on some of the current players.

  • Larionov18

    Count me in on the no moves unless its selling Bonino or Mathias. Skinner hear’s foot steps now and rightly so. Virtanen makes this team next year and possibly Cole as the new nasty 4th line centre. Canucks need to move contracts so they can sign Miles Liberati and Subban. Miles may well be the next Corrado. He has had a great season.

    • Fortitude00

      Virtanen is a couple years away and Cassels I assume you mean is too slow for the NHL.
      Nick Jensen is the only prospects who might be NHL ready next year.

      Gaunce and Cassels are pretty slow by NHL standards I wouldn’t be surprised if they play in the AHL until 26-27 working on it.

  • Fortitude00

    Looks to be a quiet trade deadline for us this year. Very much not in GMJB to give up draft picks for this year’s draft for rentals. GMJB is handcuffed by current owner ships mandate to maximize profits (ie not missing playoffs) so I would very much doubt that any of our pending UFAs will be moved (even though I think that Mathias as an asset needs to be moved… Contract year and I don’t see him being as engaged next year with the padded bank account). Would love to resign Richardson and Dorsett. Like to see Higgins go to make room for our youth movement. Even with the recent success with the twins, I don’t see anyone offering us fair value for Kassian right now. I’d keep him there and move him at the draft (if so inclined), or better yet keep him in our top 6 and drop the power forward label on him.

  • Dirty30

    Feeling more love for JB this morning as I read that Anaheim just … um … okay ‘mom looking over my shoulder …’ um … “violated Florida’s netherlands” in the Dany Heatly for Fleishman and a pick trade.

    I can see Jagr but Heatly? How many times will he score on Luongo before he figures out which team he’s playing for?

    What does this have to do with the Canucks? Well, we didn’t wake up to the news our netherlands have been invaded … just thank god JB isn’t a notorious drunk-dialler.