Now that the Canucks have taken Erik Gudbranson off the trade market, Thomas Vanek is their premier trade chip going into the February 26th deadline. They have bigger names that can bring in far more significant hauls, but when trying to divine the Canucks plans it’s Vanek’s name that comes into focus.
That’s not by coincidence either. The Canucks signed Vanek in the dog days of summer to a one year deal for $2-million, meaning he’s a pending unrestricted free agent. That Vanek has more than held up his end of the bargain with 40 points (16 goals and 24 assists) in 60 games has reassured the league there is gas left in the tank, and there’s leaguewide interest in seeing if there’s enough left to help a Stanley Cup hopeful capture the ultimate prize.
When TSN’s Frank Seravalli last updated his Trade Bait board, an annual list of the league’s hottest commodities at the deadline, Vanek checked in as the 12th ranked asset. That might seem high at first glance, especially when one considers the players behind Vanek (Max Domi, Max Pacioretty, Jeff Skinner, Alex Galchenyuk, J.G. Pageau, etc.). Then again, if the Canucks don’t retain any salary on Vanek, any prospective trade partner still only needs about $400,000 in deadline cap space to make him fit. Vanek’s also tied for second in points among the players on that list.
Here's a list of some of the higher profile players who are rumored to be available in trade, & the cap space required should a club want to acquire either of those players at the Trade Deadline: pic.twitter.com/NlX19ZelV9
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) February 19, 2018
While Vanek might not be a better asset than a lot of the players behind him (his two-way profile is some kind of ugly), he can still provide secondary scoring in a sheltered role, and you can never have too much of that in the playoffs. Vanek’s also going to cost considerably less to acquire than a lot of those players.
With that, let’s look into the five teams that seem like a good fit for the Canucks’ premier deadline asset.
Right now, it seems like the Boston Bruins — second to only the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference standings –, are the frontrunners for Vanek’s services. And why not? The Bruins look every bit the part of a contending team; their goaltending, scoring and underlying metrics all check out.
The Bruins have shown this week that they’re willing to shake things up to take a serious run in the post-season. They acquired Nick Holden from the New York Rangers the other day for Rob O’Gara and a third-round pick and parted with Frank Vatrano yesterday for a third-round pick.
According to NBC Sports Joe Haggerty, Vanek remains on the Bruins priority list too, though not at the top of it, for whatever that’s worth. It sounds like the Canucks have told the Bruins they’ll have to part with a draft pick and a mid-level prospect for the price of admission.
If the Canucks can get even a B-level prospect the likes of a Jack Studnicka or Zach Senyshyn along with a mid-round pick like a third or fourth-round selection, that would be a decisive win for the Canucks. Hell, given the Bruins need for secondary scoring, this feels like a situation where everyone could win.
The Anaheim Ducks are an interesting team to follow at the trade deadline period. They’ve been wildly inconsistent all season, though much of that can be attributed to suffering injuries to some of their star players. They’re getting healthy, and the wins are starting to follow. The Ducks are firmly in a playoff position and could be a stealthy pick to make some noise in the West.
All the same, in an exclusive interview with The Athletic’s Craig Custance, Ducks general manager Bob Murray didn’t seem that enthused with the notion of making a big move ahead of the trade deadline.
When asked by Custance how he aims to approach the deadline, Murray had this to say on February 14th…
We’re not the only team in this situation. There’s a whole bunch of us that are, as I call it, stuck in the middle of nowhere. We’re not in. We’re not out. We’re just there. I can’t see, unless something drastic happens in the next two weeks or they play a lot better than we’ve been playing, I don’t see much happening. It’s not as if it’s one of these teams where I feel like, last year when we went out and got (Patrick) Eaves, where I had lots of confidence. I’m still kind of waiting for them to show me something and they’re not. We’re very inconsistent. We’re very up and down. So far when it’s come to real, critical big games — we’ve basically shit the bed in the big games. Right now I sit and watch. I’m not really talking to anybody, not really doing anything.
Custance’s Athletic colleague Pierre LeBrun echoed those sentiments in a piece looking at the Western Conference, trying to determine its buyers and sellers.
I think GM Bob Murray wishes he had a better idea of his team’s playoff standing by now in terms of figuring out his trade deadline plans. More speed in his lineup is one thing I believe he might look at, which is why I love Michael Grabner as a potential fit, but then again, Anaheim can’t really add a pending UFA if it isn’t sure of making the post-season. Tough call for the Ducks right now.
It would be easy enough to read into that that the Ducks might not be a legitimate suitor for Vanek, but frankly, I read it the exact opposite way. It doesn’t sound like the Ducks don’t want to add anything so much as Murray is leery of parting with significant assets to bolster a team that doesn’t look poised for a run. I could definitely see a scenario where someone on the secondary market that would come a bit cheaper, like Vanek, would make sense.
Hearing the Ducks could have interest in Thomas Vanek, they were 1 of the teams that looked at signing him last summer. Vanek's agent will check in gm Jim Benning tomorrow for an update on his client. #Canucks
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) February 19, 2018
News 1130’s Rick Dhaliwal connected the Ducks to Vanek a couple of days ago, and he’s credible and connected as they get. This theory might have legs.
The Ducks have depth in their prospect pool and picks in every round save the seventh. They can make this trade work if they want to. And the Canucks can get something worthwhile in return, certainly.
There are a lot of good teams in the Western Conference, but the Nashville Predators are just a cut above. If they have their way, they’ll be making a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final, and this time they’ll be leaving the victor.
In the acquisition of Kyle Turris in a three-way trade with the Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche, they’ve already made one major move to that end. Between that addition and Mike Fisher coming out of retirement to join Nashville for the home stretch, they’ve added much-needed depth down the middle of their lineup.
They’ve been set in goal and on the blue forever. That leaves one area of need: depth on the wing. As The Province’s Jason Botchford notes in the February 9th edition of The Provies, they’re looking to make a big addition but could settle for value. The Preds parted with a lot of prospects in the Turris acquisition and don’t own their second-round pick, so it checks out.
If you’re looking for potential suitors for Vanek, one place to circle is Nashville.
Even with Fisher coming back, the Preds could use a winger, a scoring winger.
In Sunrise, Vrbata was busy reminding me of the chemistry he had with Bonino and how much he loved playing with Bones as a C.
Don’t you think a Vanek-Bonino duo could work?
Maybe a Vanek, Bonino and Fisher third line for Nash.
It looks to me like an NHL third line that could give your team some secondary scoring in the playoffs.
The Preds are being aggressive. But I think, in the end, they could come around to looking for value.
I know they’ve been tied with Rick Nash and are considered the front runner, and maybe it happens. Poile has chased him before.
But Nash is likely to be pricey. NYR wants legit top-six prices for him, meaning the risk/reward balance may not tip Poile’s way and Poile generally doesn’t get fleeced.
If you’re looking for value, in terms of money and acquisition costs, you’ll be hard pressed to top Vanek on this list.
The Preds could make a lot of sense as a suitor for Vanek. They have depth in their prospect pool, and a couple intriguing B-level prospects. One player that sticks out as a potential return is Frederic Allard; that seems rich, but a year ago the Canucks pilfered Ottawa in an exchange that put Jonathan Dahlen in Vancouver for Alex Burrows.