The Canucks Have an Incoming Roster Decision

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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski – USA TODAY Sports

As Jannik Hansen returned to the Canucks’ lineup Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild, Vancouver’s roster was pushed to 23 men.

When the Canucks activate Ben Hutton from the injured reserve, that will force a decision upon them as they cull the roster to fit league regulations. Luckily, the salary cap won’t be a concern, as the Canucks placed Derek Dorsett on Long Term Injured Reserve. 

What should — or rather, what will — the Canucks do to make the grade?

Here is the Canucks current roster, listed by average TOI:

  • Forwards: Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter, Loui Eriksson, Daniel Sedin, Bo Horvat, Markus Granlund, Jannik Hansen, Sven Baertschi, Alex Burrows, Jayson Megna, Jack Skille, Brendan Gaunce, Michael Chaput, Reid Boucher
  • Defence: Alex Edler, Ben Hutton, Troy Stecher, Chris Tanev, Luca Sbisa, Philip Larsen, Nikita Tryamkin, Alex Biega
  • Goaltenders: Ryan Miller, Jacob Markstrom
The first nine forwards (up to Burrows) aren’t going anywhere; we can assume the same of the first five on the back end, including Tryamkin.

With the obvious out of the way, we can focus on the five forwards, Biega and Larsen.

Since Hutton is a defenceman himself, the logical conclusion is to send a defenceman down. That could happen, but I find it unlikely. Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins is admittedly a Larsen fan, so he’s likely to continue getting his shots.

Biega is just one game from meeting the requirements for expansion draft exposure eligibility. I would suspect the Canucks would rather not lose him so close to that threshold, as it would hamper their ability to move a defenceman in the next month.

With that, we’ll turn our attention to the forwards.

Of the five forwards I alluded to earlier, only Gaunce isn’t waiver eligible and can pass onto the Utica Comets of the AHL unimpeded. 

Gaunce has been a consistent fixture on the fourth line for the Canucks this season. Although you would like more offence from him, Gaunce is a smart player who isn’t getting scored on. 

The Canucks signed Skille after he made an impact on a professional tryout. Like Gaunce, Skille’s been a fixture on the Canucks sneakily effective fourth line for much of the season. Skille offers size while keeping up with the pace of play. Like Gaunce, you’d hope for more offence, but he’s a key cog in a fourth line that’s rarely scored on.

Michael Chaput wasn’t on the Canucks opening night roster but has quietly secured himself the fourth line centre spot. Posting a 51.6% winning percentage in the dot, while averaging a shade under 10 minutes a game.

With Hansen’s return to the lineup last night, those three remained together. So it’s a fair assumption that those three would stay in the lineup.

That leaves us with Megna and Boucher.

Megna has been a bit of a lightning rod for Canucks fans criticism, as Desjardins has used him throughout his entire lineup. He has 6 points in 33 games this season, which is more than Skille, Gaunce and Chaput. 

But he hasn’t scored since December 8th, and four of those six points came in two contests. Desjardins healthy scratched Megna once Hansen returned to the lineup. Megna was placed on waivers on October 7th, cleared, and was assigned to the AHL. He was recalled on October 24th and has remained on the roster since.

Article 13.5 of the NHL CBA explains waiver expiration:

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Since Megna’s been on the Canucks roster for more than 30 days and 10 games, he requires waivers for reassignment. 

The Canucks claimed Boucher on waivers January 4th, but he’s played in just the one game since.

Based on all of this, waiving Boucher seems the most logical option, but the Canucks shouldn’t do that. They should be waiving Megna, and assigning him to Utica.

The Canucks obviously saw something that they liked in Boucher, and although he hasn’t appeared in the lineup, that admiration likely hasn’t waned. While Megna was given a multitude of chances to make an impact and never did.

The New Jersey Devils placed Boucher on waivers; then the Nashville Predators claimed him and waived him themselves; the Devils then reclaimed Boucher, before assigning him to their AHL club in Albany and losing him on waivers to the Canucks. Jeremy Davis covered the details associated with a player going through this kind of waiver frequent flyer’s situation. I’ve highlighted the important parts.

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If Vancouver waives Boucher, and New Jersey is the only team to place a claim, then they could assign him directly to the AHL. They moved Vernon Fiddler yesterday, so they may just take the risk and place a claim. If they are the only team to put a claim, then they can assign him to the AHL; if there are a few claims, then either they get him, or another team snaps him up.

The Devils can navigate this situation with almost no risk.

Canucks management clearly saw something in Boucher, so waiving him again because of roster limits seems an imprudent way of handling a player they’ve barely just played themselves.

Keeping Biega around makes sense to keep their options open when looking at possibly trading someone like Luca Sbisa. Larsen will likely still get chances to prove that he belongs in the NHL, although based on his recent play – I would lean towards waiving him.

Lastly, that fourth line isn’t going to get broken up UNLESS the Canucks want to avoid waiving anyone and send Gaunce down until someone gets injured. Which is almost inevitable.

Don’t be surprised to see Megna waived in the next couple of days.


NHL CBA information can be found here.

All transaction and roster information is from www.capfriendly.com.

  • Vanoxy

    Megna has to be the odd man out.
    He’s more likely to clear waivers than Boucher, and if he was claimed he can be replaced easily enough via future waiver claim or by calling up Rendulic or Zalewski in case of injuries down the road.

    Gaunce is obviously the safest bet, but I feel like he has paid his dues and deserves to be here. A demotion at this point could set back his development.

    • Killer Marmot

      Sending Gaunce down would, I think, be a terrible idea. Granted he’s no offensive juggernaut, but he is an excellent defensive player with one of the best plus/minuses on the team. He plays the sort of disciplined game that Desjardins appears to prefer.

      Further, he’s a young forward, something the Canucks desperately need more of.

  • Killer Marmot

    Why do you say that Benning is a Larsen fan? Presumably and hopefully, Benning is a fan of every player in the organization.

    Granted that sending Larsen down might suggest Benning made a poor decision in dealing for him last year, but Benning has made explicit decisions in favour of most players on his roster at one time or another. That shouldn’t make a difference.

  • Dirty30

    Why not send Hutton down for conditioning? He is coming off an injury, hasn’t played in weeks, and could use some time at a different pace to get his head back into the game.

    By that point there may be a clearer picture of where the Canucks are in the standings, and perhaps a trade for Hansen is in the works.

    Given the upcoming schedule, there is a likelihood of one D needing some injury time and then Hutton can be called back up.

    I’d prefer having Hutton coming back in fully ready to play with his head straight, then toss Megna under the bus because it’s convenient to do it.

    • Chris the Curmudgeon

      Conditioning is probably a good idea, but Megna isn’t being tossed under the bus. He has played a regular shift for months, and with quality linemates, and he hasn’t done anything but reduce the production of any line he’s been on. He should have been in the pressbox weeks ago, and in my view is lucky not to be back in Utica already.

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    Sending Gaunce down wouldn’t be that big of a deal, because he could come back up any time they wanted. People talk about getting sent to the AHL as some sort of banishment, but now that they’ve gotten rid of re-entry waivers, it really isn’t that big of a deal for guys who are on the bubble already. (It’s a big deal for their paycheck, to be sure, but the wall between the Comets and the Canucks isn’t as high as could be thought, especially for a guy who is just being sent down for roster flexibility).

    Having said that, I agree that Gaunce shouldn’t be the one. Larsen would likely clear waivers, and his play hasn’t really done that much to earn his spot in the lineup, but it seems like they are not interested in removing him. Biega has been decent when called upon (better than Larsen this year, IMO) and fits that 7th D spot well (plus, the expansion draft thing). That leaves Megna, who hasn’t really shown me anything to make me think he’s more than an AHL player. I wouldn’t be at all upset if we lost him to waivers, but realistically, he’s a shoo-in to clear. I would like to get a better look at Boucher before we give up on him, he’s a guy that has plainly been of interest to several teams, and I think it’s wise to find out what we have in him before risking losing him, and that means having him see some game action. This last month, with Hansen out and Megna clearly not up to snuff, would have been a great opportunity but, you know, Willie’s in charge and all, so yeah…

    • TheRealPB

      Megna also signed (as did Chaput) for AHL depth. The fact that both have gotten the time they have in the bigs is really a bonus. I think waiving him makes the most sense; they were both, after all, injury call-ups. Had Dorsett and Hansen not been injured most of the season it’s unlikely either would have been here. I also agree that it’s not the end of the world to send down Gaunce as he would likely pick up more meaningful shifts in Utica given the trust that Green has in him. My own slight reservation about Gaunce here is that he’s been consigned to a defense-only role; last year in Utica with more time and more opportunity he showed some decent offensive upside. Sometimes if you come up only into one role (enforcer, grinder, energy player) then you never really develop into something more.

      My actual preference based on merit would still be to demote Larsen. Megna for all the hate he gets here has shown to be a more capable player than him.

  • Jabs

    Hopefully the Canucks keep Gaunce up and take a calculated risk of waiving a player instead.

    It should be Larsen being the odd man out and sent down. I would be very surprised if he was claimed but otherwise I guess either of Boucher or Megna could be thought of as expendable.

  • TD

    I like the idea of sending Hutton on a conditioning stint. It makes sense, but is only a temporary fix. It might buy some time for a trade of one of the other d men.

    You can’t compare Megna’s 6 points to anyone on the 4th line. He was gifted time on both pp’s and on the three offensive lines. I was one of the people who was critical of Megan, but I like him better on the 3rd line. Of our forwards, he still should be the one exposed.

    The smart play would be to expose Larsen. Hutton is a d man. If we go with 3 extra D in the lineup and no forwards, the Nucks would have to play a D man out of position if they have a game day illness or injury and that doesn’t make sense.

    I don’t understand why Larsen failing would be a bad thing for Benning. Not every gamble works out. How many 5th round picks even play a single game in the NHL? It was a gamble worth taking that didn’t work out.

    • Chris the Curmudgeon

      Yeah, this administration has a weird standard when it comes to admitting their errors (by their actions more than by their words). Nick Bonino seems to be thought of as a mistake (though the Penguins seemed to be pretty happy with him), and was shipped out pretty rapidly. They soured on Etem really quickly too, probably rightly so. Acknowledging what everyone else can see, that a 5th rounder was a reasonable enough gamble on this guy and that it didn’t pan out in the end, seems like such a small leap that won’t really move the needle much, especially in light of the much larger criticisms they are constantly being hit with (Virtanen, Gudbranson, etc etc). Either they are more stubborn than even the most cynical of us thought, or else they actually think Larsen’s been as advertised.

  • EddyC

    Reid Boucher.
    Lets keep this kid and nurture him for a top forward job.
    This is what they said about Boucher when he topped Stamkos’s goal record for the Sarnia sting.”It’s great to see him achieve what he did tonight,” Beaulieu told the Sting’s official website. “What did it take, five or six years to break Stamkos’ record? It could take 10 years to break the new record. This is a credit to Reid. He worked hard over the summer, shed 20 pounds and got stronger. His hard work has paid off.”