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
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:
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.
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.