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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports - John E. Sokolowski

3 Players the Canucks Could Sign to a Professional Tryout

Speaking with TSN 1040 AM’s Matt Sekeres and Blake Price last week, Canucks President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden revealed that the Canucks have agreed to invite two players to training camp on professional tryouts.

There’s no word yet as to which players the Canucks have extended this opportunity. Last year, the Canucks signed Jack Skille, Tuomo Ruutu, Kevin Carr and Jason Sheppard to PTO contracts ahead of training camp.

Of the four, only Skille made the Canucks. To Skille’s credit, he was a modestly effective piece of the Canucks fourth line most of the time with highlight reel goals (just five of them, to be exact) that flashed top of the lineup skill. As far as PTOs go, chalk that up as a win for the Canucks.

Can they replicate or perhaps improve on that success rate this season? There’s a bounty of credible, NHL talent laying by the wayside in free agency, so the one thing they’re not short on is options. Let’s handicap three of them for the club that just might yield results for them this time around.

Teddy Purcell

There wasn’t a big market for Teddy Purcell last summer after the veteran winger scored 43 points split between the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers. The Los Angels Kings, Purcell’s first NHL home, were able to arrange a reunion for just $1.6-million.

However savvy a decision that might’ve seemed at the time, Purcell never found his footing in Los Angeles. After a goalless 12 games to start the season, the Kings demoted Purcell to the Ontario Reign of the AHL where he stayed for the remainder of the season, producing at a point per game pace.

I’m willing to bet Purcell has plenty left in the tank, though. If you prorate Purcell’s production over the three seasons prior to his brief LA stint, he’s produced at a rate of about 41 points per 82 games. That’s a good rate for a second line forward, so I have a hard time believing he regressed to replacement level seemingly overnight. It’s more likely that a combination of bad bounces and worse luck conspired to make his stay in Southern California so unpleasant.

Purcell can play on either wing and take on a secondary role on a team’s power play. It might not be reasonable to expect Purcell to bounce back to the 40 point mark he was at in his last three non-Los Angeles NHL seasons, but I wouldn’t rule out a 30 point year in the right scenario. As a two-way player, I’d describe Purcell as someone who’s possession neutral; he’s not going to hurt you, but he sure as hell can’t carry a line at even strength either.

Brandon Pirri

The New York Rangers were the third team to give up on Brandon Pirri since the 2016 trade deadline, opting not to qualify the 26-year-old utility forward. The Anaheim Ducks did the same last summer after acquiring Pirri from the Florida Panthers for a sixth-round draft pick.

We wrote about whether Pirri made sense for the Canucks at the time of his move from Florida to Anaheim, and then again when the Ducks opted not to qualify Pirri, making him an unrestricted free agent. Even this off-season, Jackson McDonald wrote about why Pirri made sense as a reclamation project in free agency. This is a player we’re fairly familiar with, and one we’ve pursued in our imaginations as armchair general managers.

Much of what we’ve said previously still applies. He’s unusually young for a player on the open market and has proven himself a reasonably effective middle-six forward who can play every forward position and keep his head above water at even strength. There must be something going on behind the scenes to keep pushing Pirri to this point, but it’s also playing a key role in driving his market value below what his production and effectiveness suggest it probably should be.

Pirri’s last deal with the Rangers cost just $1.1-million, and one would have to imagine he’s in a less advantageous negotiation position this year. He probably shouldn’t be available for a PTO, but something tells me that’s his only route to an NHL job this season.

Daniel Winnik

It’s hard to believe we’re back to a point where Daniel Winnik can’t find an NHL job. If you want a player who’s going to help control the flow of play at even strength, kill penalties and produce offence at a third line clip, look no further. Winnik is everything you could want in a third line centre.

Winnik’s spent the last season-plus with the Washington Capitals filling just that role. In 72 games with the Capitals last season, Winnik added 25 points to the cause (12 goals and 13 assists) with sterling underlying metrics to boot.

Adding Winnik wouldn’t contribute to the Canucks youth movement. He’s 32-years-old. If the Canucks give Winnik a PTO and eventually sign him to an NHL contract, his contribution to the youth movement will be the draft pick they inevitably rake in for his services at the trade deadline. Just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs, who’ve dealt him twice. There’s always a market.

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  • Laxbruh15

    Winnik and purcell would be good, especially winnik. I expected pittsburgh to go after him but I guess not. Adding purcell to the second line with gagne would give a good skilled line and help with the powerplay. The younger wingers can use the year in utica to develop. The ahl is the best place to develop their underlying games. Don’t just want players that can produce points.

    • Forward Thinker

      I do not think any will be added. The Canucks are already close to the maximum contracts. The may get PTOs but at the end of the day, none will be signed.

  • All of these players could be solid value, but given the Canucks seem to have an excess of mid-lineup players, where would they slot in? If you’re wanting to pump-and-dump these players, whose ice time are you going to cut?

    To put it another way, is Purcell an upgrade over Baertschi, Granlund, Boeser, or Eriksson? Should Winnick bump Gaunce or Burmistrov out of the lineup?

    If this was a few years ago and the Canucks were looking to fill out their third and fourth line with talented players so they could make a deep playoff push, I’d be down with signing any of these guys. But with the current team heavy on third liners and light on high-end talent, loading up on more depth players doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

    • Betty

      The idea is that, even with Gagner, we only have 9 players who could be considered locks for the top 9 (sedins, Bo, Bae, Granlund, Eriksson, Sutter, Gagner and Boeser) and in an ideal world, Gagner is on the 4th but first PP doing exactly what he did in CB.

      If we get 2 injuries to the top 9, we’re back to last season, potentially hoping Megna and Chaput can hold the line.

      Signing a veteran means that we have depth when the injuries hit, we can still call up kids (Goldy, Rodin, Boucher) and if one of those guys outplays a PTO player in camp, well, it cost us nothing. I think the Canucks are most concerned about providing a competitive environment for Boeser to develop in as he is their most exciting prospect in years. Having effective vets like Purcell or Vanek help facilitate that process.

      • Problem with this is that Rodin, at 27, is not a kid, and Boucher and Goldobin, as PPG guys in the AHL, have probably peaked at that level. So you’ve actually got around 15 NHL-ready players for 12 roster spots, plus players like Virtanen and Dahlen who could make the team if they impress at camp.

        As I said, if this was a team desperate to deepen its roster in anticipation of a long playoff run, by all means sign these players. But this is a team that at the moment is all depth and no surface.

      • Forward Thinker

        Both Rodin and Boucher must clear waivers, I believe, and sending them down means losing at least one. I doubt either will be in Utica helping develope young talent.

    • Forward Thinker

      I agree. Even if given a PTO, the Canucks are already plump with this level of player. The unknown for Purcell is why others dumped him. Is he a problem you do not want in the room?

      • More likely he’s just that kind of player that most teams have an excess of. “Trouble in the room” gets thrown around a lot by lazy newspaper writers and sports radio hosts because it’s an unfalsifiable, easy way to stir up drama, but I think it’s probably pretty uncommon. These guys are all highly-competitive professionals. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be in the NHL.

  • Friendlyjosh

    James, not Jason Sheppard
    Some good ideas here, but Winnik’s good value as a deadline trade-piece will probably run out when the Canucks try to deal him.

  • Missing Kes

    On July 17, 2017, Pirri was signed to a one-year contract by the ZSC Lions of the Swiss National League. – wikipedia

    Wow, you have had 11 days to do a 30 second google check on Pirri. Embarrassing for both yourself and the integrity of the site.

  • wojohowitz

    There is a complication with free agent signings. Speculation says Chicago will bring in Franson but only after the season starts and they can free up cap space by putting Hossa on LTIR. How many other free agents are actually not on the market even thou unsigned.

  • RoCkFaThEr

    Thanks J.D.
    Some good food for thought….
    Even though I don’t always agree with some of your opinions, I just want you to know I appreciate all the hard work you do for this site for Canuck fans like myself!
    Now if you could just allow us the option to block certain posters that would be great!!

  • Correction regarding Perri. The Zurich Lions website does not list Perri on their roster. CapFriendly shows him available under the free agent section. However, Larry Brooks from the New York post, July 17, claims he signed with the Zurich Lions to play with a former team mate Kevin Klein. According to Brooks, Perri leaves much to be desired regarding the defensive side of his game, but he could possibly help on our power play.

  • Bettie

    I see the vile Bud Poile is still lurking, despite numerous commenters asking for him to be banned JD. With respect, could you possibly tear yourself away from twitter to even comment or update us on this Mr Burke?

    • Bud Poile

      I don’t know how you’re going to top yesterday’s act,Dud,but your numerous personality act could use polish:
      “Bud Poile fu0k off back to Thailand.”
      “”hahaha tw&t… YOU move on back to Ban-co*k you sad little man with 20 fu-kin accounts.”
      “I’m gonna make your life hell here until you are banned you sad pos ba$tard.”

  • Gregthehockeynut

    The pk was erratic last year perhaps one more utility forward to push for that role makes sense. These players are unlikely to take a top six scoring role even on the Canucks. Pirri might fit best i that regard if he can post a bit of offence as well and then flip him for a draft pick at the deadline.