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.
#Canucks have discussed Thomas Vanek and other forwards. May not be done with free-agent signings and have extended two PTOs.
— Matthew Sekeres (@mattsekeres) August 25, 2017
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.
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.
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) December 4, 2016
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.
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.
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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