As the NHL approaches its February 24 Trade Deadline, the Vancouver Canucks find themselves in a couple of positions they haven’t been in for some time – meaning both a playoff position and a position to be a buyer, rather than a seller, in anticipation of a trip to the postseason.
Though Jim Benning and Co. do have a few big-ticket veterans that they likely wouldn’t mind shipping out, they’re not going to be offloading older players for futures-based returns at the 2020 Deadline.
Nor should the Canucks be expected to deal picks and prospects of their own in the hopes of landing a difference-making short-term rental.
Instead, Benning and the rest of the Vancouver front office will be trying to make the proverbial “hockey trade” – that elusive sort of transaction in which both teams somehow come out of it feeling good about themselves. “Hockey trades” – not to be confused with hockey trades – are meant to be swappings of players of roughly equal value that are thought to be better fits with their new teams; dealing from a position of strength to fill a weakness, “win-win,” that sort of thing.
To propose a “hockey trade” that improves the Canucks for the 2020 postseason without hampering their post-2020 seasons, we’re going to have to play Armchair GM – and to do that, we’re going to use the recently-launched myPuckPedia GM Mode app over at our partner PuckPedia.com.
Marvel at the corporate synergy!
Conceptualizing The Deal
To make any sort of headway here, we’re going to need a goal. And as Armchair GM of the Canucks, we should all have a few goals in mind – namely improving the current roster for upcoming playoff runs without mortgaging the future, and cutting salary beyond this season while we’re at it.
Ideally, we’d like to be able to deal from a position of strength – perhaps a player whose role on the team has recently been usurped – to fill one or more weak spots on the roster. It would also be ideal to part with a player who has an expensive contract that lasts beyond this year. If you can see where we’re going with this, we’re about to propose that the Canucks:
Trade Brandon Sutter
Sutter’s $4.375 million price-tag lasts through next season, when the Canucks will have to navigate extensions for Jacob Markstrom, Jake Virtanen, and other players not named Jake – to say nothing of deferred contract bonuses for Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes.
He’s also clearly lost his grip on the third line center slot to Adam Gaudette, and now Sutter looks a bit redundant in a lineup that is already obligated to contain Jay Beagle. If there’s one player that the Canucks can afford to get rid of and that someone else might feasibly want, it’s Brandon Sutter.
Now, we’ve got to find a willing trade partner.
Finding A Trade Partner
To find someone willing to take on Brandon Sutter, we’ve got to track down a franchise that is big on cap space and low on center depth. After flipping around for a while on PuckPedia’s main site, a clear contender emerged, with more than $5 million in projected deadline cap space and a dearth of pivots – the New York Islanders.
Though the Islanders have four centers on their NHL roster, Derrick Brassard has done his best work on the wing this season, and GM Lou Lamoriello has let it be known that he’s interested in an upgrade at the third line center position as his team jockeys for position in the Metropolitan. With a ton of cap flexibility this year and even more in 2020/21, the Islanders are one of the few teams that could both use and afford Sutter’s services.
Crafting The Swap
The Canucks might have an overstuffed forward corps, but the same cannot be said of their blueline. If they were to make a “hockey trade,” a simple forward-for-defense swap makes for a good basis – so it’s time to log on to myPuckPedia GM Mode and go shopping.
Conveniently enough, the Islanders are loaded up with defenders – particularly on their right side, where they boast Ryan Pulock and up-and-comers like Noah Dobson and Bode Wilde. That’s exactly where the Canucks need the most help.
Right away, Scott Mayfield looks like a tempting option. He’s signed for this season and three more at a bargain cap hit of $1.45 million, is currently slotted into the Isles’ second pairing – though he could easily be replaced by Dobson, and probably will be soon anyway.
Mayfield looks like an instant upgrade on Troy Stecher, and he comes at a cheaper price to boot. He’s also massive and plays a physical and defensively-responsible game, something both the Canucks’ bottom-pairing and their right side could benefit from.
Sutter For Mayfield?
A straight-up Sutter-for-Mayfield trade looks great from a Vancouver perspective – gaining $1 million in cap space this season and almost $3 million next – but significantly less so for New York. Mayfield is probably the more valuable player, given that he’s three years younger than Sutter, and they’d definitely want to be compensated for that extreme contract discrepancy.
The Canucks will somehow need to add more value. Hey, remember that guy we said Mayfield would be an improvement on?
Enter Troy Stecher
Reluctantly, we’re going to have to toss the Pride of Richmond onto the trading block.
The Islanders are going to want to maintain their blueline depth for the playoffs, and Troy Stecher is an adequate replacement for Mayfield – one who might be more suited for their bottom-pairing that he is Vancouver’s. He definitely represents an item of value for the Islanders, but probably not enough to balance the discrepancy between Sutter and Mayfield – plus he only adds to the amount of salary headed toward the Islanders. Something – or someone – is going to have to tip this trade in the other direction.
Enter Matt Martin
Matt Martin and his $2.5 million cap hit evens things out a bit salary wise – and his presence would not be without value for the Canucks.
Though he might not dress in a fully-healthy forward corps, Martin could knock Tim Schaller out of the lineup right now and provide an upgrade – and his value would only increase come playoff time.
From a New York perspective, they probably have the winger depth to do without Martin – they’ve voluntarily chosen to do so several times already this season.
Tweaking The Transaction
That’s definitely better, but something still isn’t quite right. As it stands now, this trade would save the Canucks $2.75 million on their cap for the crucial 2020/21 season. And that means that the trade still leans too heavily in Vancouver’s favour.
To tweak the transaction a bit more toward New York’s liking, we can both retain a chunk of salary on Brandon Sutter…
And add a compensatory draft pick, Vancouver’s third in 2021, to further sweeten the pot.
Overall, the Canucks upgrade on Troy Stecher, lose the superfluous Brandon Sutter, get a mercenary for the playoffs, and gain valuable cap space for next season. The Islanders fill a hole in their roster without sacrificing depth, and they get a bonus draft pick. Everyone’s a winner.
If that’s not enough to entice Lou Lamoriello and his henchmen, then it’s time to really get wild.
Really Getting Wild
To get this trade over the hump, we might have to resort to the classic “change-of-scenery” trope. Let’s swap one “problem child” for another.
Nikolay Goldobin and Josh Ho-Sang!
Utica gets another option at center, and Vancouver gets someone else to give a shot on Bo Horvat’s wing. The Islanders get someone who hasn’t burned their last bridge with Lamoriello. Win, win.
With that, our not-so-little trade is complete. Did it end up being a fair deal? Unfortunately, even the myPuckPedia GM Mode app can’t tell us that. But you can, on social media!
To #Canucks: Mayfield, Martin, Ho-Sang
To Islanders: Sutter, Stecher, 3rd Round Pick, Goldobin
Is this a fair trade for both teams? #NHL
— Stephan Roget (@StephanRoget) January 28, 2020
Do you have a better idea for a trade the Canucks could make? Head to PuckPedia.com and you can make your own trades and roster today.
Thanks for playing along.