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Photo Credit: © Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

10 possible RHD trade options for the Vancouver Canucks to target in the new year

As we rapidly approach the dawning of the Year 2022, we here at CanucksArmy have chosen to look forward, not back. Forget New Year’s resolutions, we’ve got a New Year’s wishlist to share, and it starts with the number one thing most Canucks fans want their team to acquire in 2022: a top-four right-side defender.

Even after an exciting hot start to the Bruce Boudreau/Jim Rutherford Era — which came complete with a Tyler Myers renaissance — the Vancouver Canucks are still visibly lacking on their blueline, and especially when it comes to its right side. At some point, something is going to have to be done about it.

Free agency is an option, and we’ll have an article about that closer to the summer. The draft works fine for acquiring talent, too, but that’s more of a long-term proposition. If we want an immediate RHD addition, it’s probably going to have to come via a trade, so let’s look at some realistic targets.

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To get on this list, a RHD has to be:

  1. Feasibly available.
  2. Feasibly affordable (in terms of both cap hit and cost of acquisition.)
  3. A top-four defender capable of playing on the right side, and ideally right-handed.
  4. At least as good, if not better, than Myers.
  5. Significantly better than the other RHDs the Canucks have on hand.

Anything less just isn’t worth their while right now.

Let’s see who made the cut.

Josh Manson, Anaheim Ducks

  Age Contract Games Goals Assists Points +/- Avg. TOI EV Corsi
2021/22 30 $4.1 mil through ‘21/22 32 3 3 6 +2 19:52 51.2%

The Upside: After a couple of down seasons, Manson is playing like his old self in a contract year. And that old self is a big, surly shutdown defender who virtually guarantees that his opponents are in for a tough night. He plays against top lines, kills penalties, and defends his teammates like an enforcer. Manson has what the Vancouver blueline lacks in spades.

The Downside: With it being a contract year, Manson is just a few months away from UFA status, and he’ll be on the wrong side of 30 when he signs his next contract. Trading for him and then extending him would be risky, so he’d be a rental acquisition, and a pricy one at that. There’s also the possibility that the Ducks, who are currently in a playoff position, will just hang on to him — and maybe even extend him themselves.

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The Potential Cost: A pending UFA with an affordable cap hit who plays the right side and is built for playoff hockey? One that Anaheim is probably happy to keep if they don’t get a compelling offer? Expect Manson to be one of the priciest rentals at the 2022 Trade Deadline, and to cost at least a first-round pick. The Canucks have no business trading for rentals this year, and even less business trading high picks for them.

Connor Murphy, Chicago Blackhawks

  Age Contract Games Goals Assists Points +/- Avg. TOI EV Corsi
2021/22 28 $3.85 mil through ‘21/22, then $4.4 mil through ‘25/26 27 2 2 4 -13 22:09 41.8%

The Upside: Murphy has quietly advanced his career in Chicago, to the point that he’s probably now their most reliable all-around defender. His very reasonable extension doesn’t kick in until next season, and he’s young enough to probably be effective throughout its duration. The sizeable Murphy can play in all situations, even if he’s been a little overmatched in his deployment for 2021/22.

The Downside: A trade for Murphy is a long-term commitment, and the Canucks might not feel comfortable locking down that much cap for that long. Though he’s a big lad, Murphy doesn’t always play with the physicality one would expect from his frame. Consistency has been a general issue of his in the past.

The Potential Cost: On the one hand, Chicago is clearly comfortable keeping Murphy around, as they did just sign him to a big extension. On the other, they’re clearly “all-in” on Seth Jones on the right side of their blueline and somewhat contradictorily entering a rebuild phase, so they’ll need to clear room for their advancing prospects at some point. Murphy could be pried loose, but it would take a solid offer — think something along the lines of a late first or an early second, along with a notable prospect.

Andrew Peeke, Columbus Blue Jackets

  Age Contract Games Goals Assists Points +/- Avg. TOI EV Corsi
2021/22 23 $788K through ‘22/23 (RFA) 28 1 6 7 -3 18:32 45.9%

The Upside: A large, mobile right-handed defender with strong defensive acumen and a burgeoning physical game? One that’s also an expert penalty killer? That’s more or less exactly what the Canucks need moving forward. Peeke has one more year left on a very affordable contract, to boot. He’s an underrated gem in an unheralded market.

The Downside: All of those traits, combined with Peeke’s age, make him a fine candidate for the rebuilding Blue Jackets to just hang on to. He’s also struggled a little with increased responsibility in 2021/22, though not near enough to be a major concern. Peeke offers very little offensive contribution.

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The Potential Cost: Peeke is young enough to fit in with the youth movement in Columbus, but he’s not entirely indispensable with Jake Bean and Adam Boqvist likely taking up two long-term RHD slots for the BJs. Peeke could be dangled as a potential return for an NHL-ready offensive talent, and the Canucks do have some of those to spare, but none they’d offer straight-up for Peeke. If he comes to Vancouver, it’s probably as part of a larger deal.

John Klingberg, Dallas Stars

  Age Contract Games Goals Assists Points +/- Avg. TOI EV Corsi
2021/22 29 $4.25 mil through ‘21/22 24 1 13 14 -10 21:48 48.3%

The Upside: He’s been usurped by Miro Heiskanen on the Dallas blueline, but Klingberg is still very much a top-pairing defender. He’s just two years removed from fulfilling that role on a Stanley Cup finalist. He can play in all situations, haul down some immense minutes, and he’s only sporting a $4.25 million cap hit. As far as bang-for-buck goes, there simply isn’t a RHD available who can match Klingberg’s capabilities.

The Downside: As the top pending RHD UFA, Klingberg is absolutely going to test the free agent market this summer, and he’ll almost certainly double his salary when he does. That makes him a pure rental from Vancouver’s perspective. Combine that with the fact that his shutdown skills have waned over the past two seasons, and this one just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The Potential Cost: As a deadline rental, Klingberg will easily return a first-round pick and a notable prospect, if not more. If Dallas is willing to retain salary, the price tag could get downright silly. Klingberg would significantly upgrade the Vancouver blueline, but the Canucks should stay well, well away from this bidding war.

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Filip Hronek, Detroit Red Wings

  Age Contract Games Goals Assists Points +/- Avg. TOI EV Corsi
2021/22 24 $4.4 mil through ‘23/24 29 3 13 16 -6 22:54 45.4%

The Upside: At the age of 24, Hronek is already an elder statesman on the Detroit blueline. He’s your classic two-way stud, able to put up strong offensive numbers and face down opposing top lines on a nighty basis. Even with the emergence of Moritz Seider, Hronek is the Red Wings’ most trusted defensive option, and he’s handing that responsibility well, especially considering the supporting cast around him.

The Downside: Hronek’s lack of size can lead to him being physically overwhelmed at times, and that’s something that the Canucks already have an issue with on their existing blueline. Aside from that, the other major downside to Hronek is his presumably exorbitant cost.

The Potential Cost: The arrival of Seider, the continued advancement of Gustav Lindstrom, and the development of some key prospects means that the Red Wings could part with Hronek, but they certainly don’t need to. If he’s traded, it will be for a significant futures-based package. Playing on a questionable team may have depressed Hronek’s value a little bit, but if it’s not already at a first-round pick and then some, it’s in the neighbourhood. A second-rounder and a good prospect seems like the bare minimum.

David Savard, Montreal Canadiens

  Age Contract Games Goals Assists Points +/- Avg. TOI EV Corsi
2021/22 31 $3.5 mil through ‘24/25 31 0 7 7 -8 20:13 46.0%

The Upside: Savard is a well-known shutdown aficionado and is one year removed from playing a top-four role on a Stanley Cup winner, which is all very encouraging. He’s big, physical, and knows what his job is. Even in the midst of a tough season, Savard still lines up against top-six opponents on nearly every shift.

The Downside: The aforementioned toughness of his current season. Savard signed a big UFA contract with the Canadiens and then promptly saw the overall quality of his play tank. Already 31, the question becomes: is that on Savard, or the terrible team around him? The answer may be a little of both, and that should scare off some suitors.

The Potential Cost: It sure seems like the Canadiens are about to start selling off some pieces, and it sure seems like Savard has been a bad fit for the franchise. He’ll definitely be available, and it won’t cost anything like the first and third-round draft picks it took to trade for him last year. Savard’s long-term $3.5 million contract makes him a risk, but it also makes him affordable. He could probably be had for less than a second-round pick.

Scott Mayfield, New York Islanders

  Age Contract Games Goals Assists Points +/- Avg. TOI EV Corsi
2021/22 29 $1.45 mil through ‘22/23 26 1 4 5 -8 20:04 47.4%

The Upside: Mayfield is an enormous, ultra-physical shutdown defender with underrated offensive acumen. He’s also coming off a couple of truly excellent playoff runs. If he were a little younger, he’d be exactly what the Canucks needed to add to their blueline — and, at 29, he’s still a nice fit. Mayfield’s contract has provided nigh-legendary value, and still has another year left on it.

The Downside: Mayfield is definitely experiencing his worst year of performance in a while. But, then again, so are most of the Islanders. He’s never been the most fleet of foot, so the fact that he has slowed down a little this year is concerning, to be sure. Still, there’s not much of a risk at all to the acquisition of Mayfield, unless the cost is exorbitant.

The Potential Cost: If the Islanders decide to move on from Mayfield and focus on a right side of Ryan Pulock and Noah Dobson, they will definitely find suitors for him. Mayfield’s $1.45 million cap hit means that virtually every other NHL franchise could fit him into their cap structure, and so a bidding war would almost certainly commence. Mayfield isn’t worth a first-rounder to the Canucks, but that could be what he costs. If they can get him for anything less, they should leap at the opportunity.

Nils Lundkvist, New York Rangers

  Age Contract Games Goals Assists Points +/- Avg. TOI EV Corsi
2021/22 21 $925K through ‘23/24 (RFA) 21 1 3 4 +2 13:54 43.5%

The Upside: Lundkvist has advanced quickly through the clogged New York prospect pipeline, to the point that he’s occasionally holding down top-four NHL minutes at the age of 21. Lundkvist plays a simple and dependable game, and that allows him to be paired with just about any partner. His skating ability is considerable.

The Downside: Lundkvist has yet to prove himself a full-time top-four talent, and he might not get the chance anytime soon with Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba ahead of him. There’s also his size to consider. At 5’10” or shorter, Lundkvist faces some of the same (literal) shortcomings of Vancouver’s left-side defenders, making him a questionable fit for the blueline.

The Potential Cost: Lundkvist only moves if the Rangers want to get Braden Schneider on their roster as soon as next season, but that could very well be their plan. The mobile and physical Schneider is quite honestly a far better fit for the Canucks than Lundkvist, but that’s also why the Rangers will want to keep him around. If Schneider bumps Lundkvist out of the picture, expect Lundkvist to be available for something like a second-round pick.

John Marino, Pittsburgh Penguins

  Age Contract Games Goals Assists Points +/- Avg. TOI EV Corsi
2021/22 24 $4.4 mil through ‘26/27 30 1 11 12 -2 22:00 50.8%

The Upside: His statline might not support the notion right now, but Marino is a talented offensive blueliner who is more than capable of holding his own in the defensive end. Since his rookie season, he’s handled big minutes against tough opponents for the Penguins and always come out of it at least breaking even, if not better. The 2021/22 season has marked a bit of a bounceback for Marino after a down year.

The Downside: That aforementioned rookie campaign may have set expectations a tad too high for Marino, because he hasn’t approached that level of play since, and that’s not exactly encouraging. At 6’0” and about 180 lbs, Marino doesn’t bring much of the size that the Canucks are looking for, either, although he’s rarely outmuscled on the ice.

The Potential Cost: Who knows what direction the Penguins will be headed in as this season reaches its conclusion? If they decide to sell off parts like Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, then Marino may be dangled, as well — or, they could decide to hang on to him as a transition piece. If he is traded, he doesn’t have the numbers to demand a first-round pick or its equivalent. In fact, his very-lengthy contract might drive his price down as low as a third and a solid prospect, especially if Pittsburgh is looking to move on while he’s having a good year.       

Zach Whitecloud, Vegas Golden Knights

  Age Contract Games Goals Assists Points +/- Avg. TOI EV Corsi
2021/22 25 $725K through ‘21/22, then $2.75mil through ‘27/28 20 5 3 8 +8 18:37 49.6%

The Upside: Whitecloud is an excellent two-way defender who is just starting to tap that previously untapped offensive potential. He’s more than solid in his own end, and when he’s been asked to tackle tougher assignments in the wake of injuries, he’s handled them with aplomb. Whitecloud just signed a preposterously-long, incredibly-cheap contract extension that promises to offer great value for the next half-decade or so.

The Downside: Playing behind Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore, Whitecloud hasn’t exactly been sheltered, but he hasn’t been thrown into the fire, either. On the whole, he faces a league-average deployment and not-quite-top-four minutes, and while it certainly looks like he is capable of doing more, there’s no way to know for sure.

The Potential Cost: The Golden Knights are in perpetual cap trouble, and they’ve already committed to Pietrangelo on the right side. The emergence of Dylan Coghlan could end up making Whitecloud available as a consequence. Whitecloud’s cap hit isn’t much, but it is more expensive than Coghlan’s — and Vegas has the prospects available to cover Whitecloud if he moves. Unlike most teams selling defenders, Vegas would probably appreciate an NHL-ready prospect over a draft pick, but the Canucks are short on both. A second-round pick feels like the appropriate value range here.