The Quest for the Holy Grail.
The Hunt for Red October.
Thanos collecting the Infinity Stones.
The Vancouver Canucks looking for a top-pairing-quality right-handed defender.
Yes, history is chock full of lengthy and often fruitless searches, and it should be noted that the final one of that list is the only one that has yet to be completed. But the mission could finally be nearing its end, as there are not one, but two franchise-level RHDs available for selection in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
First up is David Jiricek, described by some as the Czechian Chris Pronger. Jiricek is a 6’3” imposing presence with a booming shot and a mean streak a mile wide, and yet he’s also been called one of the most explosive skaters in his draft class. He looks to be the sort of defender who could form a top pairing with Quinn Hughes and stay there for the next decade.
Right behind Jiricek in the rankings is Simon Nemec of Slovakia. He’s a couple inches shorter than Jiricek and not nearly as physical, but his all-around skill level might be a touch higher. He’s been complimented for his composure and on-ice intelligence, and is equally impressive at either end of the ice. He, too, looks like he could be a top pairing NHL RHD within a season or two.
There’s just one problem, as far as the Canucks are concerned. As it currently stands, they’re slotted to pick at 15th overall in the first round of the 2022 Entry Draft, and both Jiricek and Nemec are expected to go in the top-five, or close to it.
The Canucks could accept their fate, draft someone else there, and continue their quest for an RHD elsewhere.
OR, they could explore any one of the following five trade scenarios, each of which could feasibly get them into the top-five of the draft — and into possession of the kind of prospect who could truly change the course of the franchise.
(Note: For the purposes of this exercise, we are assuming that the picks held by the Montreal Canadiens, Arizona Coyotes, and Seattle Kraken are firmly off the table, as they should be.)
Scenario #1: Trade JT Miller+ to the New Jersey Devils for the 2nd Overall Selection.
There’s smoke on both sides of this first scenario.
It’s well-known by now that the Canucks have explored, and are continuing to explore, Miller’s value on the trade market.
At the same time, the Devils have let it be known that their 2nd overall selection is on the block, but only if they can land a truly high-end talent in return.
Is this a perfect match?
Not quite. The Devils are still a ways off from contending, and have no real business swapping out a future asset for a player one year away from unrestricted free agency.
The 2nd overall for an extended Miller would make a lot more sense, but Miller is not even eligible to sign an extension until July 13 — more than a week after the 2022 Entry Draft.
As such, the Canucks would either have to add an additional asset on top of Miller — think something somewhere between their own 15th overall selection and a second round pick — or find some way to bend the rules and ensure that the Devils are getting Miller for longer than a single season.
If they could pull it off, however, they’d get their choice of Jiricek or Nemec, with Shane Wright almost certainly going to Montreal at 1OA.
Scenario #2: Trade Brock Boeser/Conor Garland and the 15th Overall Selection to the New Jersey Devils for the 2nd Overall Selection.
The Devils and Canucks were apparently talking trade earlier in the year, and it might not have been about Miller. New Jersey is looking to build a long-term contender, and they’ve already got a strong center core in place, so younger top-six wingers might be more to their liking.
Enter Boeser and Garland.
Neither player is as talented as Miller, but both are under team control for longer. Garland is signed for an additional four years, and Boeser could freely negotiate an extension with the Devils before a trade were completed.
Neither is enough to land the 2nd overall on their own — not even close — but is either of them enough to move up from 15th to 2nd? That sounds a lot more feasible.
An additional sweetener may be needed on top of that, but it shouldn’t be a significant one. Of the two, Boeser seems like the better fit for the Devils.
Scenario #3: Trade Brock Boeser/Conor Garland+ to the Ottawa Senators for the 7th Overall Selection, and then trade up (or try their luck at 7th.)
The Devils are not the only team to have put their high pick on offer. The Ottawa Senators have also let it be known that the 7th overall selection is on the table, but only if the return is an already-developed long-term asset.
Again, depending on what they’re looking for specifically, either Boeser or Garland could be a fit. Both would become elder statesmen in a young, dynamic Ottawa top-six, where they’d mesh well with the likes of Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stutzle.
Is either on their own enough to land the 7OA? Probably not. Garland was kinda flipped for the 9OA last offseason, but there were enough moving parts around that to muddy the waters and obscure his true value.
We have a hunch that the Senators would ask for a little bit more added on top, but probably a future second round pick at the absolute most.
From there, the Canucks would have two options. They could either stay at 7th and hope that one of Jiricek or Nemec slides, or they could put together another package to trade up from 7th into the top-five.
The nice thing about this scenario is that the Canucks would get to keep their 15th overall pick, helping them restock their empty prospect cupboards.
Scenario #4: Trade Bo Horvat to the Philadelphia Flyers for the 5th Overall Selection.
As we said at the outset, we’re quite sure that the Montreal Canadiens, the Arizona Coyotes, and the Seattle Kraken will be hanging on to their own top-five picks. Each team is rebuilding, and desperately needs the sort of talent that the top-five of this draft offers.
The only other team in the top-five that could feasibly be convinced to move their pick is the Philadelphia Flyers, who hold the 5th overall selection.
The Flyers are in a bit of an in-between phase at the moment, which makes it difficult to imagine them going after Miller. Neither of Boeser or Garland seem like a great fit, either, as the Flyers are already loaded up with scoring wingers and future scoring wingers.
But Horvat? A two-way beast of a center in his prime, capable of leading a new core of Philly forwards into the future? One that just so happens to be the cousin of Travis Konecny, one of their existing young talents?
Now that could work.
Like the Miller-to-Jersey scenario, this one would require either Philadelphia to gamble or the Canucks to find some way of guaranteeing a Horvat extension — or it would require an additional asset.
We’re not exactly advocating for this particular scenario, and we’d be loath to see the captain moved, but one of Jiricek or Nemec would certainly go a long way toward easing the sting.
Scenario #5: Gamble multiple first round picks
If the Canucks don’t want to make a straight-up trade for a top-five pick, they could always gamble.
Right now, the Canucks own the 15th overall selection in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and all of their future, as-of-yet-unslotted first round picks in the drafts to come.
If GM Patrik Allvin and POHO Jim Rutherford were feeling particularly bold, they could offer up the 15OA and a future first round pick to one of the teams with a high pick.
The appeal is certainly there. At worst, you’ve swapped out one early first rounder for two later ones, which is acceptable. At best, the Canucks tank it next year and you’ve got your hands on another high pick, anyway, with the added bonus of the 2022 15OA.
We could see the Flyers and the Senators going for something like this. The Devils might take some additional convincing.
The downside of this scenario for the Canucks — on top of the risk — is that it would effectively swap out two prospects for one, and that’s no way to rebuild a parched prospect stable. Still, there’s something to be said about quality over quantity, and both Jiricek and Nemec represent some serious quality.
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