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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: The calm before the storm, Rathbone’s options, and is Matt Benning good?

Another week, another mailbag.

It’s the week where we could see the first domino fall in what is expected to be a busy offseason for the Vancouver Canucks. So let’s see what you wonderful people asked this week.

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It’s an age-old question. Can the Canucks find a trade partner for Brandon Sutter?

The New York Rangers were able to offload Marc Staal’s contract, which has one year remaining on it and carries a cap hit of $5.7 million dollars.

What did it cost the Rangers? A second round pick.

And what did they get in return? “Future considerations”.

If that trade sets the precedent for what it’s taking for teams with cap space to take other team’s bad contracts, the chances of somebody taking Sutter at $4.375 million become a whole lot slimmer.

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Obviously the Canucks would have to attach a sweetener, but even then; is Jake Virtanen, who’s arbitration eligible and could even become a UFA if the Canucks choose not to qualify him, even carry much value? That’s the name that everybody seems to attach to Sutter in their trade proposals, but Virtanen certainly doesn’t carry the same trade value as a second round pick right now.

If the Canucks do manage to trade Sutter, expect them to be giving up something of serious value to do so, unless they’re taking another unfavourable contract back (see James Neal for Milan Lucic).

In conclusion, yes, the Canucks could trade Sutter, but don’t hold your breath on that return.

The moment Bobby Ryan was bought out, Canucks fans were leading the charge on the “Loui Eriksson to Ottawa” hype train. It makes sense, too. After all, the Senators have $43 million in cap space and need to reach the cap floor, or else they face massive fines.

And what would the Senators’ owner, Jack Maxwe — I mean, Eugene Melnyk — like more than saving money while also not being fined by the league?

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As outlined in the question, Eriksson’s deal would count as $6 million against the cap for the next two seasons for the Senators, helping them reach the cap floor, while the actual money owed to Eriksson is just $4 million. For an organization that’s trying to save money any way they can, that’s ideal.

However, it’s important to note that JP Barry, Eriksson’s agent and the former agent of the Sedin twins, was given permission by the Canucks to try to find Eriksson a new home.

When speaking with potential landing spots for Eriksson, all Barry could find were teams that said they’d only be willing to acquire Eriksson if the cap hit were lower, around $3 million. That means the Canucks would have to retain salary, which they don’t exactly seem keen on doing.

Make no mistake, if the Canucks trade Eriksson to Ottawa, it will be similar to the New York deal in that the Canucks will have to attach a worthwhile sweetener, especially if they’re not retaining any salary.

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The gals over at The Broadscast released “Motte Girl Summer” merch and some known buyers are Adam Gaudette’s wife Micaela, and Tyler Motte himself:

After the endorsement from Motte, the girls raised over $100 in the next hour, as all proceeds from the sweatshirts are being donated to mental health initiatives in BC and Motte’s home state of Michigan. You can cop yours here. I know I’m going to.

At this point you’ve seen a lot of Chris Faber’s coverage of Vasili Podkolzin’s season in the KHL up to this point. You’ve heard of the #FreePodz movement, and you know we’ll keep you updated all throughout the season. A few months back, I began talking to different scouts to get their opinions on Vasili Podkolzin. I took down what they said and began compiling video and analysis of Podkolzin’s season up to this point

Now, I’m going to watch more of his games this season, and continue to compile clips that showcase what the Canucks really have in Podkolzin, since it seems like many fans are getting discouraged by his stat line on hockeyDB. But more on that another day.

After what I saw from him at training camp and during his one playoff game, I’m fairly confident that Olli Juolevi can make the Canucks out of camp next year in a third pairing role.

That being said, a lot of people whos opinions I trust are very high on Jack Rathbone and are speculating that he could challenge Juolevi for that third pairing spot.

Both are exceptional at breaking the puck out of their own zone, but Rathbone’s skating ability allows him to wheel the puck out in transition if the opportunity presents itself. Rathbone has a cannon of a shot, but Juolevi’s defensive IQ and penalty killing ability, along with Jim Benning’s confidence in him, make him the early favourite to make the team next year.

As for Rafferty, that all depends on who the Canucks bring back this offseason, and if they bring in any new faces to lock down the right side of their blue line. Woo, on the other hand, is likely among the first group of cuts at training camp ahead of next season.

If the AHL isn’t able to play games next year, Rathbone will almost certainly have to go play in Europe if he doesn’t make the Canucks out of camp.

He will likely go to the SHL or KHL, but the best case scenario would be for him to make the Canucks out of camp.

I asked Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects about the possibility of Rathbone playing in another league, and he pointed out that it would be good for Rathbone’s development to play on a team that will give him lots of minutes but that he better hurry, as spots in the European leagues are filling up fast, and nothing would be worse for Rathbone’s development than sitting at home come January.

Thomas Drance has been beating the “offer-sheet Erik Cernak” drum to a pulp, and rightfully so.

This is a no-brainer, and an easy lay-up for whichever GM decides to take advantage of the offer sheet rule written in the CBA. Cernak is a 23-year-old right-handed defenceman with the Tampa Bay Lightning and is very good. He’s also an RFA this offseason, and the cap-strapped Lightning are going to have trouble signing him this offseason. If a team offers Cernak a deal at $4 million, they would be giving up a second-round pick to Tampa as compensation, should the Lightning decline to match the offer sheet.

For the Canucks, this would be a great idea. Instead of signing Chris Tanev for a similar amount, they should be gearing up to bring Cernak over to Vancouver.

And yes, they have the draft picks required to do so, because the 2020 NHL Draft will have already taken place when the offer sheet window opens.

As for Brandon Carlo, he isn’t an RFA this offseason, but he is signed through the 2020-21 season at a very palatable $2.85 million heading into next season. So yes, both of these players seem to be realistic options.

Admittedly, I haven’t seen a ton of Matt Benning, the nephew of Canucks GM Jim Benning. What I do know is that Benning was a third-pairing defenceman for the Oilers and that the Canucks’ biggest need is likely going to be in their top four, assuming Chris Tanev walks in free agency.

That being said, I’ve talked to people in Edmonton who believe that Benning was the most underrated player on the Oilers, full stop. He’s earned himself an opportunity to show he can play in a top four, but if I’m the Canucks, I’m targeting a more proven option to replace Tanev than Benning.

He’s got good foot speed, has a good first pass, but is prone to the occasional blunder. He holds his own in his own end, kills penalties, and can chip in offensively every now and then.

He’s certainly a capable third-pairing defenceman, but if the goal is to replace Tanev, the Canucks may need to set their sights higher.

Jalen Chatfield is an interesting player to me. When I saw him play in preseason contests, he didn’t really stand out or do anything to make me say “this guy could be an NHL player one day”.

That being said, after watching a few of his games in Utica, it’s clear to me that the way Chatfield will make his mark in the NHL is by being a physical shutdown defenceman.

He’s not afraid to play the body, but the last time I got to see him play in person was at scrimmages during training camp 2.0 in July. During that time, he seemed to be playing a watered-down version of his game, likely just doing his best not to hurt anybody right before the team was set to head to Edmonton.

That being said, I liked a few of the things I saw from him and will be keeping a close eye on him once again when training camp opens up for the 2020-21 season.

I don’t really think the Canucks have an overrated roster player or prospect. I guess maybe Jake Virtanen could fit this bill, but it seems most fans now rate him appropriately after his showing in the return to play. As for underrated, I’ve been saying for a long time it’s Josh Leivo, but I think word got out, cause I’m seeing more and more people rating Leivo fairly.

As for prospects, I’ve seen a lot of people really high on Jett Woo, and to be honest, I just haven’t seen enough of him play to share this same excitement. I think the majority of Canucks fans are pretty good at not overrating or underrating players but I do think there’s an expectation among some fans that all prospects will just work out.

It’s a result of seeing guys like Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes step in and dominate immediately, but it’s important fans remember not every prospect is like those guys.

For the sake of the game though, I’ll say the most underrated prospect is Michael DiPietro. He had a huge first season in Utica, and I think a lot of people don’t understand how big the jump from junior to the AHL is for a young goaltender. DiPietro managed to take the starting job and keep it for the majority of the season, and that’s a huge step for a young goaltender to make. Keep your eye on him.