The Vancouver Canucks have been without Sven Baertschi since an October 24 headshot from Tomas Hyka of the Vegas Golden Knights—a play that went unpenalized. Baertschi’s recovery from this concussion has been troubling at the very least. After spending nearly a month off the ice, Baertschi started skating again in late November, but he continued to suffer symptoms and dizzy spells. As it often is with head injuries, Baertschi’s return date remained in flux as November drew to a close.
In recent days, however, he’s been able to participate in some portions of practice—with a gray non-contact jersey—and had a hard skate by himself on Thursday morning. While his timetable is still unclear, it seems likely that Baertschi will make his return to the lineup sometime in the next week or so—and that will mean yet another roster move for the Canucks, who will have to send somebody down to make room.
Baertschi has a hard skate on his own this morning. #Canucks
— Farhan Lalji (@FarhanLaljiTSN) December 6, 2018
But who will it be?
As one of just three waivers-exempt players on the Vancouver roster—Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser are the others—it probably makes the most sense to return Gaudette to Utica. While Gaudette earned his first NHL goal on November 24 against the LA Kings and his overall play has improved steadily throughout the season, he’s still not receiving a ton of on-ice opportunity.
Thus far, Gaudette has been limited to an average icetime of 10:34 and just 15.7 shifts per game—by far the lowest totals of any Canucks regular. At just 22 years of age, Gaudette still has a bunch of developing left to do, and a top-line role for the Comets might just be the best place for him to develop at this juncture.
Traditionally, the Canucks roll with eight defensemen and 13 forwards on the roster, but they’ve got away from that this season. The excessive amount of travel that Vancouver must deal with each season is usually cited as the reason for carrying an extra defenseman, but the Canucks will also be beginning a lengthy homestand when Baertschi returns to the lineup—which makes an eighth defenseman an unnecessary precaution.
This could result in Biega hitting waivers and returning to Utica once again, which is something the Comets and their fans would certainly celebrate. Until injuries strike the blueline again, Biega will remain stuck in the pressbox, so he might serve the franchise better by leading the Utica D-corps for a while—especially with Olli Juolevi on the IR for the time being.
It’s certainly arguable that Schaller is the Vancouver forward that has performed the most poorly this season. With just five assists over 26 games—and a fairly dismal record on the penalty kill—Schaller just isn’t delivering what the Canucks expected him to when they signed him as a free agent.
That being said, Schaller’s status as a recent UFA signing—and a veteran one at that—likely makes him AHL-proof for at least this season. It’s a bad look when teams sign a player to play in the NHL and then send him to the minors shortly thereafter, and it can affect their ability to sign future UFAs. Still, his performance thus far would definitely justify it, so it’s not a total impossibility.
The numbers for Motte don’t look all that much better than those of Schaller, but the eye test says differently. Motte wasn’t even supposed to make the team this year, yet he’s kept himself in the lineup through sheer determination and force of will. It’s really hard to send down the hardest working player on the team, and that’s exactly what Motte has become.
Though his underlying stats are questionable, Motte’s boundless energy is often infectious, and he seems to consistently push the play in the right direction. At this point, to send Motte to Utica would send the wrong message to the rest of the roster—and there’s a better-than-zero chance that he wouldn’t make it through waivers.
Goldobin’s recent healthy scratch suggests that he at least merits mentioning on this list, but there’s absolutely no reason for Jim Benning to consider putting him on waivers. Though Bo Horvat recently passed him for the team lead in assists, Goldobin remains the team’s third-leading scorer and he’s the Canucks’ only legitimate option in the top-six aside from the Holy Trinity and Baertschi himself. That’s not to mention the high probability of someone else snagging him on waivers or the intensely negative reaction the fanbase would have to such a move.
In other words, don’t worry—Goldy is safe.