What if I told you that the Vancouver Canucks could make an improvement to their roster, both now and moving forward, without having to give up a single player? Without having to give up any draft picks that are currently their property? Without giving up anything that, if prior situations played out today, that they’d even be able to get in the present? You’re probably looking at at me like I’m crazy right now, but hear me out.
The trade is simple; John Tortorella for Kerby Rychel.
To be honest, my highlight of the season so far came on October 21st, when the Columbus Blue Jackets did the unthinkable and hired Tortorella as their new head coach. It was already hilarious because, well, Torts was a massive failure here and few expected him to do much better in Columbus. So far, our suspicions have been confirmed. They’re winning a few more games, but that’s more about the goaltending moving from “historically awful” to “slightly below average”. Their possession numbers are down, the team remains undisciplined, and he’s doing a spectacular job of running Ryan Johansen out of town.
Which makes it all the more hilarious that the Blue Jackets are being forced to give the Canucks compensation for the move, in the form of a second-round draft pick. The league has actually gotten rid of hiring compensation as of last week, as it was mostly being used to hire people who had been fired but still had contracts to pay out. Previous hires weren’t reversed with the rule change, though, so the Blue Jackets owe the Canucks their pick in a draft year of Columbus’ choice; 2016, 2017, or 2018.
So, where does Rychel come into this?
Rychel, a 21-year-old rookie winger from Torrance, California, is on the trade block at the moment. Unhappy with his playing situation, Rychel requested a trade from the Blue Jackets at the beginning of the year and has been playing with the Lake Erie Monsters. At the moment, he has 20 points in 21 games, good for a nice 69th place ranking in league scoring. This is despite having played fewer than two-thirds as many games of most of the players ahead of him. In the NHL, he’s yet to get to get his first goal but has six assists in his first 16 games despite averaging fewer than nine minutes per appearance.
Rychel exhibits many of the qualities that the Canucks are looking for in younger players at the moment. He’s decently sized at 6’1, 205lbs, and he’s not afraid to use his body for good or evil. He’s not a mindblowing skater, but he can make his way up and down the ice with decent pace. He’s got an eye for setting up plays, as evidenced by his abundance of (typically primary) assists at multiple levels.
The question becomes simple; can he be acquired for just a second round pick? Players with his pedigree tend to fetch a bit more than that in optimal situations, but seeing as the player has made it publicly known that he wants out, the shift in negotiating power has likely led to lowball offers. Now that the team hasn’t improved much after a coaching shift, the Blue Jackets might not be confident that they’ll be out of the woods by 2018, meaning that retaining a high second round pick might be the “close-enough” value they’re looking for.
As for the Canucks, this works out to be a now and later improvement. It’s not unreasonable to expect Rychel to outperform the likes of Derek Dorsett, Chris Higgins, or Brandon Prust; moving one of them down the lineup to add a much younger player with more talent and similar edge to his game seems like a solid move. You could even send back one of those players if Columbus is adamant about getting immediate help; if nothing else, it might force Willie Desjardins to play somebody else when the team is down a goal.
Canucks fans are likely fed up with the “lets trade a second-round pick for an early-20’s player”, but making these moves greatly boosts your chances of getting an NHL-capable talent out of that pick. Linden Vey wasn’t anything special last year, but he played more games for the Canucks last year than over half of the second rounders from his draft class of 2009 have in their career so far. Sven Baertschi, after some early struggles, is starting to show why he was selected 13th overall in 2011. Rychel appears to be better than both of them; it’s just matter of him finding a team that will play him.
The Canucks could be that team, and all it would take would be for them to take him as compensation they shouldn’t be getting for a coach that they should’ve never hired. That’s a risk I’d be willing to take.