Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin were hired this season to build the Vancouver Canucks into a Stanley Cup contender. They were handed a semi-built roster, one that doesn’t need a full rebuild, but is short on assets to improve, and it might take some magic to turn this team into a true contender.
One of the first big tests for the organization was the trade deadline that just happened in March. The new regime had the chance to assess the current players on the team and decide on a direction for the organization.
This was a high-pressure situation as all eyes were on Rutherford and Allvin. Many of the decisions that they had to make — such as whether or not to trade away big contributors like J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser — were franchise-altering moves. These are the types of trades that completely change the trajectory of your organization, for better or for worse.
Once the dust had settled, Allvin and Rutherford had what most would consider a very successful trade deadline day. They managed to offload Travis Hamonic and his $3 million cap hit for an asset, a deal that is still shocking considering that he was on waivers earlier this season. They also acquired Travis Dermott from the Toronto Maple Leafs, offering him a chance to grow into a bigger role on the Canucks’ blueline.
Perhaps more noteworthy than the trades they did do, was the trades that they didn’t do. They held on to J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, and Conor Garland despite all those players constantly being in the rumour mill. The new management group has no connection to these players and it would’ve been easy to deal them for future assets, opening cap space in the process. However, the Canucks decided to hold onto these key contributors, not willing to trade them away for anything less than what they consider to be full value.
Now Allvin and Rutherford must prepare for what is sure to be a busy summer. For the Canucks offseason to be successful, management must continue to take the same approach that they did at the trade deadline. That starts with abiding by three key core values that should dictate every decision, something they did very well at the trade deadline.
Patience with the big moves
The fact that the Canucks exited the trade deadline with Miller, Garland, and Boeser still on the roster was a surprise to many. Trading one of those players would have gone a long way towards solving the salary cap issues that the team is staring down. However, Allvin and Rutherford showed that they refuse to trade any of those big names for anything less than full value.
There’s no reason that the Canucks should lower their asking price of any of those players. Just look at how Miller has continued to push his trade value upwards, potentially out of trade discussions altogether, with his exceptional play. Garland and Boeser have both struggled at times this season and trading either one of those players at a discount is a surefire way to create instant regret.
This summer, the trade rumours surrounding those players are sure to be brought back up. The new regime must continue to stick to the plan and be willing to hold on to key assets if they can’t find the value they expect in the trade market. Boeser especially has already shown the potential to be a top-tier sniper in the NHL and it’s not hard to imagine him blossoming into that star on another team. Trading him while he’s still developing for less than he’s worth could easily be a terrible mistake for the Canucks, like the infamous Cam Neely deal with the Boston Bruins.
Savvy risk assessment
The Canucks are severely lacking prospects with enough potential to get excited about. A look at their farm system right now doesn’t inspire much confidence and the trading away of draft picks done by Jim Benning in his final days, for example, the second-round pick the Canucks will be missing this summer, only makes the situation worse. To compensate for this, the Canucks will need to look to other channels of player acquisition.
One way to add exciting young players to the organization is to take risks on younger players in difficult situations around the league. No matter if it’s a player that is being restricted by a lack of opportunity or one that’s with a team where the fit hasn’t worked out, finding these reclamation projects for pennies on the dollar will be a good way for the Canucks to take well-calculated risks moving forward.
Travis Dermott is an example of a player that the team acquired because they felt he had untapped potential. The Canucks are not making the playoffs this year and therefore have plenty of ice-time and high leverage opportunities to give to players like this in an effort to see what they’re made of.
Ruthless trimming of the fat
Last but not least, the Canucks need to continue ruthlessly trimming the fat from this roster. Dealing Hamonic to the Senators was a good start but there is still so much work left to be done. The current Canucks roster looks like a wagyu steak with all the fat, bloated contracts attached to middling players, and Allvin needs to pull out his butcher knife.
If the team can move on from someone like Tyler Myers, they need to do that without a second thought. Clearing cap space for next season and beyond needs to be at the top of the list of priorities for the Canucks. While some of these players might not be able to fetch a whole lot in return, the real benefit comes in getting them off the books.
Trading Tyler Motte for a mid-round pick was a good example of an unpopular move that needs to happen for this team to improve. Rutherford and Allvin didn’t bring any of the players on the roster to Vancouver (except Dermott) and thus there’s a chance that anyone can get traded.
If you were running the Canucks, what would your priorities be this offseason? What values would rule your decision-making?