A couple of weeks ago, we explored different ways in which the Canucks can get out of their upcoming salary-cap crunch, and one option was to make money in, money out trades. These types of deals are essentially a swap of inefficient contracts like the 2020 Mike Matheson-Patric Hornqvist trade that worked out for both the Penguins and Panthers — which was facilitated by current Canucks president Jim Rutherford.
Looking at the Canucks’ cap sheet, it seems like the team will need to wait at least two more seasons before they can contend since the summer of 2024 is when bloated deals to Tyler Myers ($6 million) and Jason Dickinson ($2.65 million) are set to expire.
However, the Canucks can push up their contention window to 2023 by trading players signed for longer such as Tanner Pearson and Dickinson to cap-strapped clubs that need to clear cash now, in exchange for players with more expensive deals, but ones that expire a year earlier. Meanwhile, Myers’ contract could be traded at the end of the 2022-23 campaign since he’ll only be due $1 million in actual salary in his final season, and such a deal could have real value to teams looking to hit the cap floor like the Coyotes.
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Such a scenario could help the Canucks clear close to $12 million in cap commitments by the summer of 2023 instead of waiting an additional year for all three contracts to expire. The players they receive in return for Pearson and Dickinson could even be dealt at the next trade deadline for more assets by retaining salary, and we found three such skaters who fit the bill.
So, here are a few trades that the team could make to expedite their path to contention.

1. Tanner Pearson to the Flyers for James van Riemsdyk and a 2022 4th round-pick

The Flyers are one of the more interesting teams to monitor this offseason since they’re far from contenders but might still want to try and land a big free agent. As a result, they’d likely want to shed van Riemsdyk’s $7 million deal, and Pearson could be a player that their management has an interest in, especially considering his history with Dean Lombardi.
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As for JVR, the Philly winger isn’t the 30-goal scorer that he used to be and has become a one-dimensional player who struggles defensively and doesn’t drive play. That being said, he’s still very much so a threat with the man-advantage.
The Canucks could potentially put van Riemsdyk on the first power-play unit to drive up his value before flipping him at the trade deadline while retaining 50% of his deal for another mid-round pick. The only downside, though, is that van Riemsdyk isn’t as useful a player as Pearson is at this point in their careers, so management needs to be willing to potentially take a step back next season for longer-term gain. If Rutherford and Patrik Allvin aren’t keen on that idea, they can instead explore the next two deals, both of which could help alleviate the Canucks’ cap issues without sacrificing the on-ice product as much.
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2. Jason Dickinson to the Penguins for Jason Zucker

It’s a Jason for Jason trade! Pittsburgh will definitely be looking to shed some money this offseason with Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang set to become UFAs, and Zucker seems like the most obvious player to be moved. He’s owed $5.5 million next year and is still a useful middle-six forward when healthy, but that price tag is definitely hard to swallow for a Penguins team in need of cap space.
Both teams would probably prefer to dump their respective player without taking any money back. Unfortunately, they’ll likely need to add a sweetener to incentivize opposing clubs to do so, which is why the two management groups might need to settle for swapping bloated contracts.
Pittsburgh will be on the hook for an additional year due to the length of Dickinson’s deal, but he also makes less than half of Zucker and helps them potentially keep their Big Three together for the remainder of Sidney Crosby’s contract. On the other hand, the Canucks can get a better all-around forward — albeit with a bigger cap hit — whose deal expires next summer.
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While Dickinson’s the superior defensive player, his non-existent offensive game still makes him a liability on the ice. For reference, the Canucks stifled their opposition last year by giving up just 1.8 goals against per hour at five on five with him playing, but the team also generated an anemic 1.55 goals per hour in those same situations, so their goals for percentage was still below-average at 46.15%.
Meanwhile, the Penguins let in 2.69 goals per 60 at five on five with Zucker on the ice but also generated the exact same amount, so they were break even during his minutes. Zucker’s also capable of playing both wings and his versatility allows him to either be a supporting piece alongside Elias Pettersson or Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ top two lines, or take on a larger role in the bottom-six.
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3. Jason Dickinson to the Avalanche for Erik Johnson

or

4. Tanner Pearson to the Avalanche for Erik Johnson and a 2022 5th round-pick

Like Pittsburgh, the Avalanche will be facing a tight cap crunch this summer with Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, Valeri Nichushkin, and Darcy Kuemper all set to become UFAs. Joe Sakic and his management group have obviously done an unbelievable job of allocating their cap space, but the one bloated contract on the team is undoubtedly Erik Johnson’s.
The veteran defenceman is going to make $6 million next year in the final year of his deal and largely occupied a third-pairing role in 2021-2022. As you can see on the graph below, he still drives offence at a good rate by generating lots of shots (CF/60) and scoring chances (xGF/60) while capitalizing on his opportunities too (GF/60).
However, he’s below average at preventing shots against (CA/60) and is only slightly above average at preventing good scoring chances (xGA60) against, and at 34, definitely isn’t the long-term right-handed blueliner that the Canucks are looking for to pair with Quinn Hughes.
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With that said, the Canucks need all the help they can get at the RHD position, especially considering Tucker Poolman’s lingering migraine issues. If Poolman misses an extended amount of time, Tyler Myers would be the only bonafide top-six defender left on the team who’s right-handed, and no one knows if he can replicate his impressive performance from last season, either.
On a Canucks team with such limited defensive options, Johnson could play almost every role conceivable: soft minutes on the third-pairing, matchup minutes alongside Oliver Ekman-Larsson, or even spend some time as Hughes’ caddy. So although Johnson isn’t a long-term fit for the team, the Canucks can’t get picky when trying to acquire right-handed defenders — especially for a player on an expiring contract and one who might also net them additional assets at the deadline.
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