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8 Players The Canucks Could Sign As Reclamation Projects (Part 1)

Ever since the salary cap was implemented several years ago, the NHL has been as level a playing field as you’ll find in the world of pro sports. As the differences between haves and have-nots have decreased, teams have needed to find new and creative ways to retain a competitive advantage, which has led to an increased emphasis on effectively managing salary and contract slots. As a result, we’re seeing more teams cut bait with their restricted free agents, even those with considerable upside.

Last season, I profiled a few unusually young UFAs the Canucks ought to have looked at, and it appears those players have started a trend, as there’s another bevy of interesting names on the market this year. Here are a few that may interest the Canucks:

Mikhail Grigorenko

How the mighty have fallen. There was once a time when Grigorenko was considered enough of a blue-chip prospect to be the centerpiece of the trade that sent Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo. Now, just two short years later, he can’t get a qualifying offer from the worst NHL team in recent memory.

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That probably says more about the Avalanche’s inept management team than it does about Grigorenko’s play, however. Since joining the Avalanche two seasons ago, Grigorenko has performed at roughly the level of an average fourth-line forward, which, while obviously disappointing, still made him one of the better players on a team that absolutely could not score.

It’s easy to see why an old-school team like the Avs might pass on qualifying a player like Grigorenko. If he’s only capable of producing at a bottom-six rate, there are more traditional grinding forwards available in free agency every year.

The Canucks can afford to take chances, though, and Grigorenko has shown he’s at worst a replacement-level forward, and at 23, signing him would essentially amount to adding a B-prospect for nothing but money and a contract slot. Given the Canucks’ need to infuse their lineup with young talent, it’s a move that makes sense.

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Brandon Pirri

For the second year in a row, Brandon Pirri is on the market, and looks to be a fantastic buy-low option for any team currently in the midst of rebuilding their roster.

Pirri originally made a name for himself due to his Cy Young-worthy season with the Panthers in 2014-15 in which he scored an astounding 22 goals and two assists. Since then, Pirri’s goal/assist ratio has evened out, and he’s been a quietly effective depth scorer.

Pirri had an up-and-down season with the Rangers in 2016-17, scoring ten points in his first 17 games before fizzling out mid-season en route to a lengthy stint in the press box. Consistency has long been an issue for Pirri, but the Canucks would be wise to take a flyer on him in the hopes that he catches fire at the right time. If he can finally stick in a lineup for a full season, he might be able to carve out a niche as a P.A. Parenteau or Lee Stempniak-style player that can be signed on the cheap every summer and flipped at the deadline for an asset.

Pirri’s versatility would also make him an attractive option. With the ability to play at center or on the wing, Pirri could play up and down the lineup, and in the right circumstances he could finish with a 35-40 point season.

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Alex Chiasson

One of the greatest mistakes talent evaluators make about NHL players is to equate “disappointing” with “bad”. You can place Alex Chiasson firmly in the former camp.

Chiasson has never really been able to live up to the potential he flashed in his 35-point rookie campaign, and has seen his offense stagnate since being traded first to the Ottawa Senators and then to the Calgary Flames. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful NHL forward. Offensively, Chiasson’s underlying numbers point to an average fourth-line forward, but he’s been a well above-average shot suppressor in each of his last three seasons.

At this juncture it’s hard to believe Chiasson is going to develop into the power winger Stars fans envisioned a few years ago, but he could provide a team with a cost-controlled depth winger who can flank a defensive shutdown line. In Vancouver, he could help insulate some of the team’s young forwards and still provide more youth and potential upside than your average defense-first UFA.

Eric Gelinas

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Eric Gelinas is another victim of the Colorado Avalanche’s questionable front-office moves. Just 33 NHL games after being flipped to the Avs in exchange for a third-round pick, he was not tendered a qualifying offer.

Gelinas is another “bad vs. disappointing” case study who hasn’t quite lived up to the potential he flashed in his younger days. I hesitate to even describe him as a reclamation project, because he’s performed at an above-average third-pairing level since entering the league.

Over the past three seasons, Gelinas has crushed it in limited minutes but for whatever reason he just can’t seem to get more ice-time. In Colorado, on one of the worst bluelines in recent memory, he couldn’t even crack the lineup on a number of occasions, and was miscast from the beginning, even at the AHL level.

The Canucks should be interested for a number of reasons.

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He had respectable underlying numbers on an abysmal Avalanche blueline last season that even the Canucks would represent a significant upgrade on. With Nikitra Tryamkin returning to the KHL, there’s a hole on the left side that Gelinas could fill, and at a much cheaper price than some of the defenders the team has been linked to. With the space Vancouver has on the left side, they could provide Gelinas with the environment to really grow into his own and perhaps even become an everyday player with the Canucks.

That’s it for the time being, stay tuned for part two, where I’ll take a look at another four possible reclamation projects that might pique the team’s interest.



  • Killer Marmot

    The Canucks do not need more bottom-six forwards right now.

    There are eight forwards who are pretty much assured of a spot on the starting roster this fall (I include Boeser in this list).

    That leaves Gaunce, Boucher, Goldobin, Molino, Virtanen, Dorsett, Chaput, Megna, Dahlen, LaBate, maybe Rodin, and who knows what other current prospects, fighting over those final four spots. Dragging home lost puppies will only complicate things further, and make it more difficult to get current prospects into the lineup.

        • Psych Major

          Fascinating, two more fake ‘bud poile’ accounts, one brand new. what a sad b*astard thisultimate loser is. Never talks hockey, personal insults galore, ocd behaviour towards decent hockey posters like PQW, Braindead and Freud – and getting more angry and abusive by the day whilst JD and Jackson does sit there doing nothing.

          This is what we call letting the lunatics overrun the asylum. Shame really, CA used to be a good hockey site, now laughing stock across the Nation Network.

    • Dirty30

      Yes to Gaunce, Boucher and Goldobin but only if they are showing progress. Virtanen, and Dahlen are Utica bound and can use the development time wisely. Dorset should retire or be used sparingly, if at all. Megna should never leave Utica … Chaput can be a call up, Rodin should go back to Europe before someone cripples him for life.

      A couple of the FA’s mentioned could be upgrades, and give depth, and be trade bait in the future. Find the balance between giving young guys experience and having support or even the ability to shelter them. Some competition never hurt either.

      If you have a fourth line that can take on a shutdown role and be effective, then upgrade your other lines to start scoring.

      I’m not sure about Yak — I’d rather invest a season on seeing what Goldobin can do — but spending some cash on guys who are hungry to save their career and will take a cheap and short contract? You’ve got to offset the $10 million you’re paying Eriksson and Sutter to not score.

  • Peachy

    Cool. The key consideration for me is, which of these would be worth something at the deadline?

    In other words, it’s not enough for one of these players to have a “quietly” effective season… Who is going to have a season that other GMs will notice, and pay for?

    Of these four, I think only Pirri and Gelinas fall into that category, and even then, just barely.

    • Puck Viking

      I agree with signing guys for the sole purpose of flipping them at the deadline. If you look at what JB did at the previous deadline and then this draft, lets get him as many picks as possible.

      Aim to have the kids in Utica another season and use them for injury call ups unless they absolutely catch fire, in which case moves can be made during the season.

      To me the only prospect that should be given a spot is Boeser. Hopefully sign a forward or two(id like to take a chance on yakupov) and I like the idea of Gelinas or perhaps a veteran Dman who might tend to have more value at the deadline.

  • 51Geezer

    Grigorenko and (the soon to be named) Yakupov for sure, especially when compared to Megna, Chaput and a few others. Gelinas looks good too. What’s to lose?

  • Fred-65

    Eric Gelinas, a big guy that doesn’t play big, I’d rather see Pedan add a missing need on the roster. As to the forwards I’d be happier with Rodin or even Chaput ( pretty good F/O player for a 4th liner)

    • Killer Marmot

      I’m partial to Molino as a fourth liner. He has exceptional speed, works hard defensively, and might make an excellent penalty killer (a huge attribute for a fourth liner, as it lets the coach reduce ice time for the top liners without hurting offensive production).

  • Jabs

    I have no doubt that the Canucks still need a depth d-man (Gelinas?) and at least one character bottom 6 forward who plays with a bit of sandpaper (Thorburn, Peluso?).
    Saying this, a guy like Grigs may be too promising to give up on, if given a short contract and low dollars, just waive him if he doesn’t work out. Not a lot of risk involved here if done right.

  • Curto

    Bringing in an additional 3rd pairing D-Man to camp is the right thing to do. It would be great if one of Juolevi, Pedan or Subban makes the team but as it stands right now, one of them will be gifted a spot as Biega sits #6 on the depth chart.

    If they were to bring in Gelinas, it at lease gives the team a 6/7 that is close to NHL calibre. If the reason that one of the young guys mentioned above doesn’t make the team is because they couldn’t beat out Biega or Gelinas, maybe they just aren’t ready to play at this level yet. Further development isn’t a bad thing, not like the team is competing for a cup anyways; and who knows, they might be able to fetch another pick at the deadline.