Pierre LeBrun sent ripples through Canucks twitter yesterday when he reported that The Canucks are seeking to acquire a 20-goal scorer.
— Grady Sas (@GradySas) November 1, 2016
— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) November 1, 2016
This development shouldn’t be a shock, considering secondary scoring has been a topic of conversation since early in the offseason. It’s perhaps a little surprising that it took them less than a month into the regular season to decide their lineup isn’t working for them.
Then again, it’s not as if this is really news. Management has been on the record about looking to add goal scoring for almost a year, and I think that’s important perspective to maintain for anyone expecting immediate changes.
Benning last november: “If we could add a goal scorer or something, we’ll look to do that.”
— Jason Botchford (@botchford) November 1, 2016
I’m sure Jim Benning is making calls, but at this moment, I wouldn’t hold my breath. 20-goal scorers aren’t exactly in abundance right now, and the Canucks are certainly not in a position to be acquiring one at this juncture.
THE RARITY OF 20-GOAL SCORERS
20-goal scorers: pic.twitter.com/n4nAosnihT
— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) November 1, 2016
The list of players that scored 20 or more goals last season is 105 names long. If you subscribe to the notion that you have to be in the top 90 forwards to be considered a 1st line player, then 20 goals is enough to put you near the low end of that spectrum. Even if 20 goals isn’t strictly enough to put you in that conversation, it’s at the very least very good second-line scoring. Elite, even.
That means the list of players the Canucks are looking at right now is short one, just by virtue of the fact that there are only so many players capable of putting up 20 goals in the first place. The list of players that can do so consistently is even shorter.
Perhaps just as importantly, teams aren’t usually looking to part with consistent offensive producers, and when they do, the price is often quite high, which brings us to…
THE COST OF ACQUISITION
Since the start of the 2014-15 season, 38 trades have been made involving one or more players with at least one 20+ goal season.
|Mika Zibanejad, 2nd round pick||Derick Brassard, 7th round pick|
|Shea Weber||PK Subban|
|Taylor Hall||Adam Larsson|
|Andrew Shaw||2 2nd round picks|
|David Jones||Niklas Backstrom, 6th round pick|
|Lee Stempniak||2nd round pick, 4th round pick|
|Brandon Pirri||6th round pick|
|Alex Tanguay, Connor Bleackley, Kyle Wood||Mikkel Boedker|
|Kris Versteeg||Valentin Zykov, Conditional 5th round pick|
|Erik Staal||Aleksi Saarela, 2nd round pick|
|Teddy Purcell||conditional 3rd round pick|
|Tomas Fleischmann, Dale Weise||2018 2nd round pick, Phillip Danault|
|Andrew Ladd, Jay Harrison, Matt Fraser||Marko Dano, 1st round pick, conditional 3rd round pick|
|Raffi Torres, 2 2nd round picks||Roman Polak, Nick Spaling|
|Dion Phaneuf, Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert, Cody Donaghey||Milan Michalek, Jared Cowen, Colin Greening, Tobias Lindberg, 2nd round pick|
|David Perron, Adam Clendening||Carl Hagelin|
|Ryan Johansen||Seth Jones|
|Michael Grabner||Taylor Beck, Christopher Gibson, Matt Finn, Tom Nilsson, Carter Verhaeghe|
|Kris Versteeg, Joakim Nordstrom, 3rd round pick||Dennis Robertson, Jake Massie, 5th round pick|
|Brandon Sutter, 3rd round pick||Nick Bonino, 2nd round pick, Adam Clendening|
|Patrick Sharp, Stephen Johns||Trevor Daley, Ryan Garbutt|
|TJ Oshie||Troy Brouwer, Phoenix Copley, 3rd round pick|
|Reilly Smith, Marc Savard||Jimmy Hayes|
|Phil Kessel, Tim Erixon, Tyler Biggs, conditional 2nd round pick||Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Spaling, Scott Harrington, conditional 1st round pick, 3rd round pick|
|Brandon Saad, Alex Broadhurst, Michael Paliotta||Marko Dano, Artem Anisimov, Corey Tropp, Jeremy Morin, 4th round pick|
|Ryan O’Reilly, Jamie McGinn,||Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher, 2015 2nd round pick|
|Milan Lucic||Martin Jones, Colin Miller, 1st round pick|
|David Legwand, Robin Lehner||1st round pick|
|Olli Jokinen||Joakim Lidstrom, conditional 6th round pick|
|Lee Stempniak||Carl Klingberg|
|Curtis Glencross||2nd round pick, 3rd round pick|
|Antoine Vermette||1st round pick, Klas Dahlbeck|
|Tomas Fleischmann||Dany Heatley, 3rd round pick|
|Jaromir Jagr||2nd round pick, conditional 3rd|
|Jiri Tlusty||3rd round pick, conditional 6th round pick|
|1st round pick, Olli Jokinen, Brendan Leipsic||Mike Santorelli, Cody Franson|
|Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Jason Kasdorf||Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, 1st round pick|
|David Perron||Rob Klinkhammer, 1st round pick|
Thirty-eight trades probably seems like a lot over the span of just two years, but it’s important to remember that the vast majority of these players were dealt many seasons after hitting the 20-goal plateau. The list of consistent goal-scorers, or the players just coming off their 20+ goal season that were traded over this span is much shorter. There were also a few cases where players with similar production were traded to fit a need, and we can assume based on the Canucks’ direction that they aren’t looking to make that type of deal
Historically, the market hasn’t been kind to teams looking to buy high-scoring forwards. Even if you’re just looking for a rental, it’s likely going to cost you at least a high draft pick or a prospect, if not both. That’s a deal you can afford to make if you’re contending, but you have to think the Canucks probably won’t bite given their desire to embark on a pseudo-rebuild.
THEY DON’T WANT JUST ANY 20-GOAL SCORER
If you look at the opportunities the Canucks have had in front of them over the past season and a half, this should be readily apparent.
The Canucks could’ve had their pick of: Parenteau, Pirri, Versteeg, Marchessault, Stempniak and countless others asset free for cheap.
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) November 1, 2016
If this management group was desperate for goal scoring, there wasn’t exactly a shortage of options. Between the waiver wire and free agency, the Canucks could have easily added 25-40 goals to their lineup by taking a flyer on a couple of undervalued depth scorers. Even right at this moment, there are some intriguing names in the free agent pool like Tomas Fleischmann, Alex Tanguay, or even David Jones that have shown the ability to produce offense in the past and would present minimal cost.
Based on the fact that they didn’t elect to secure some additional scoring via any of these avenues, we can assume that the Canucks have some specific criteria that extends beyond “has scored 20 goals at some point in the past” that they are looking for in whatever player they choose to acquire. Based on what’s been said in the media over the past year, we can piece together that they’re most likely looking for a winger that’s relatively young and has some grit to his game. Size probably wouldn’t hurt, either. Unfortunately, as we saw earlier, those players don’t exactly come cheap.
THEY LACK TRADEABLE ASSETS
This is something Ryan covered in depth back in September: the Canucks simply do not have pieces to make any sort of significant move. If the goal is to add offense, then you can assume most of the players in the Canucks’ top-nine are off the table. That means all that’s left to work with are prospects, picks, defencemen, and young tweeners like Brendan Gaunce and Jake Virtanen. The Canucks don’t exactly have an abundance of any of these things, and they certainly aren’t in a position to be moving any of them. Any conversation about acquiring a bona-fide goal scoring winger probably begins with one of Boeser, Juolevi, Demko, or the Canucks’ first round pick in next year’s draft, and trading any of those for short-term help should likely be grounds for dismissal. Chris Tanev is likely the only movable piece with any real sort of value, but unless there’s some unforeseen Hall-for-Larsson trade waiting in the wings, I’d imagine the organization will be extremely reluctant to trade him.
The Canucks appear to be after a player that I’m not sure even exists. They want a young, gritty, scoring forward, preferably a winger, that isn’t going to cost them one of their prime assets. I can think of precisely one NHL player that fits that bill. His name is Evander Kane, and the Canucks would be advised not to go anywhere near him for a number of reasons I won’t revisit here.
Players that can consistently put up around 20 goals don’t exactly grow on trees, and I’d bet that the offers the Canucks are trying to make right now simply aren’t going to bear fruit. You’re not getting a star player without dealing Boeser, Juolevi, Demko, or Tanev, and the Canucks simply shouldn’t be looking to do do that.
They’ve been looking for this elusive goal-scoring winger for almost a year now. Expect the search to continue for some time.