Depth, like many things in the world of professional sports, is often a double-edged sword. While having talented extra players in the press box and in the farm system is undoubtedly good — and necessary for postseason success — it can also leave a team vulnerable to losing some of that talent via the waiver system.
For the past few seasons, this hasn’t really been a factor for the Vancouver Canucks. But it will be soon, and possibly as soon as the conclusion of Training Camp 2021.
The following players are all in some danger of being cut by the Canucks and demoted to Abbotsford, and each of them also stands a decent chance of being claimed by another organization when they hit waivers (save for the player at the end, who might just stand a good chance of being claimed by the Canucks).
The number one name on everyone’s mind when it comes to the upcoming waiver wire. Juolevi was already swimming uphill to crack the opening night roster, and strong camps from Jack Rathbone and Brad Hunt — along with Juolevi’s own ice-flailing antics — haven’t helped his cause in the slightest. At this point, Juolevi will have to turn things around, and quick, to have any hope of beating out either of them.
If Quinn Hughes holds out all the way through camp and preseason, Juolevi probably sticks around as an extra defender. If not, he’s likely waivers-bound, where he becomes an intriguing option for a number of teams. Despite his flaws, Juolevi has that draft pedigree and is still only 23 years old. Any team suffering through some preseason blueline injuries — or willing to make that time-honoured “I can change him!” gamble — will consider rolling the dice on Juolevi.
Gadjovich is pushing hard the make the Canucks, and he’s right in the thick of the running. But the final few forward spots are being hotly contested right now, and Gadjovich has about as much a chance of winding up on waivers as the rest of the competition.
Gadjovich, who won’t turn 23 until after the season starts, is an appealing pick-up for a number of reasons. He nearly went goal-per-game in the AHL last season and has continued to display that scoring touch in training camp. He’s also heavyweight tough, and that alone is enough to draw consideration from any team that might feel it isn’t quite pugnacious enough heading into 2021/22. If at all possible, the Canucks should avoid waiving Gadjovich, because he seems very unlikely to clear.
Though Rathbone has outshone him, Hunt has done more than enough in camp to leapfrog Juolevi and become the fourth-ranked defender on the left side. His versatility and wealth of NHL experience make him an ideal candidate as the Canucks’ seventh blueliner all season long.
That being said, all it might take to send Hunt to waivers is the return of Hughes and a desire to give Juolevi one final regular season chance.
If Hunt keeps on hustling, that would be a disappointing outcome for all involved, but stranger things have happened. And if it does, veteran D are always a hot commodity, and any team who suffered an unexpected blueline injury in camp would have to take a good look at him.
After being acquired in exchange for Adam Gaudette at the 2021 Trade Deadline, Highmore went on a moderate tear for the Canucks and seemingly earned himself a fourth line spot for 2021/22. Highmore’s ability to play center, and Brandon Sutter’s battle with fatigue, seems to have further solidified his chances.
Should Sutter return sooner rather than later, however, Highmore still faces better-than-decent odds of being waived. If not at center, he’s up against fellow would-be wingers like Gadjovich, Phil Di Giuseppe, Will Lockwood, and maybe even a returning Tyler Motte. Highmore hitting waivers — and another team deciding to claim him based on that short sample size last year — wouldn’t be terribly surprising.
Phil Di Giuseppe
The aforementioned Di Giuseppe has drawn attention with his puck skills in training camp, and he’s the most veteran of the bunch competing for fourth line spots. But his lack of penalty killing experience could be the deciding factor that prompts Travis Green and Co. to go in a different direction and send Di Giuseppe packing down to Abbotsford — or elsewhere.
Di Giuseppe has too much unique talent to truly count as “dime-a-dozen,” but he’s not far off of that distinction, either. He might get claimed, or he might pass through waivers as he’s done before. Really, it’s anyone’s guess.
MacEwen suffered through a disappointing campaign in 2021/22, and that’s put him a bit behind the rest of the pack when it comes to earning an opening night spot. Nothing he’s done in training camp has narrowed that gap — and if the Canucks desire an enforcer-type on the roster, Gadjovich currently looks like a better option than MacEwen.
MacEwen has enough skill, size, and youth on his side that he should make an interesting waiver pickup for a team low on depth. Perhaps a team stuck in a boisterous division will claim him as an added deterrent — or perhaps they might still see something more in him.
If there’s an unexpected name on this list, it’s Burroughs’. Unlike the rest of the names, he’s virtually guaranteed to hit waivers, with a slight chance of sticking around as the eighth defender should Travis Hamonic never make an appearance.
Either way, Burroughs — who has five career NHL games to his name — seems like a long-shot to be claimed. That being said, he is a feisty, defensively responsible right-handed defender, and such players are always highly valued when it comes to roster building. Seeing another team take a flyer on him wouldn’t be the most shocking occurrence in the world.
Possible Re-Claim: Kole Lind
That’s right. We’re still not (entirely) over Kole Lind.
For the second time in a row, the Canucks got off pretty easy in the Expansion Draft in giving up Lind, a player who would have been in tough to make the team in 2021/22.
But things have changed slightly since Seattle selected him, and there is a path wide open for him to return to the Vancouver organization.
An overabundance of depth selections by the Kraken and a rash of injuries on the Canucks have, strangely enough, left Seattle with more forward cuts to make than Vancouver. As such, Lind looks very likely to hit waivers in the next week or so.
If Sutter’s fatigue lasts into the regular season, it seems like a logical solution to pick up Lind —so long as no one else snags him first — and slide him into that 4C slot. His only competition for the job would be Highmore, who isn’t a natural center, and Justin Dowling. Unlike most waiver acquisitions, Lind already knows the organization well, and it would provide the Canucks with one last chance to cash in on the draft choice they once expended on him. Everyone likes a do-over.
If it works out? Fantastic. The Canucks get to steal back an asset of value from their brand-new next-door rivals.
If it doesn’t? Lind is back on waivers when Sutter returns, and we all pretend this never happened.