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11 potential UFA replacements at RHD if the Canucks decide to move on from Filip Hronek

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Photo credit:© Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
11 days ago
If there is one name that has come to dominate all discussion of the Vancouver Canucks and their 2024 offseason, it’s that of Filip Hronek.
 
And why not? In a summer that promises to be full to the brim with contract negotiations, Hronek’s situation reads as the stickiest. He’s a pending RFA coming off a career season alongside Quinn Hughes, but that same success may now have him seeking a new deal with a cap hit well in excess of $7 million.
And that’s a lot for a player who scored a grand total of nine points post-All-Star Break, playoffs included.
This has, naturally, led to plenty of talk about the possibility of trading Hronek, either prior to or after having signed him to an extension. Finding a trade partner should not be much of an issue; Hronek is a skilled RHD capable of eating big minutes, and if the Canucks don’t want to pay up for him, someone else will.
The issue is more in what happens afterward.
Trade Hronek now, and the Canucks’ new top priority immediately becomes securing a Hronek replacement.
As of this writing, the Canucks’ right side, minus Hronek, consists of…Noah Juulsen. Even with the presumed re-signing of Tyler Myers, that’s still a section of the roster in need of some work, and that work doubles if the Canucks move on from Hronek.
So, with that in mind, welcome to Part One of a multipart series in which we scan the rest of the league for any and every potential replacement. Our criteria is fairly simple: available, right-handed, and capable of reasonably playing a top-four role in Vancouver, preferably as a partner to Quinn Hughes.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Today, we start with the unrestricted free agent market, where there’s definitely some RHD talent to be found, but only in limited quantity.
Chris Tanev, Dallas Stars
RHD, 34, 6’2”, 193lb
2023/24 Cap HitGames (DAL)GoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$4.5 mil1914519:1362.12%
Let’s begin with the name that we all already know best: Tanev. There was some serious chatter about his returning to Vancouver at the Trade Deadline, but that didn’t materialize. Instead, Tanev went to the Western Conference Finals with Dallas, where he looked every bit the warrior he’s been his entire career.
At 34, Tanev is reaching the twilight of his playing days, but he hasn’t slowed down much, if at all. The Canucks can’t afford to pay Tanev what he’s really worth at this stage of his career, but if he’s still seeking a homecoming, and willing to take a discount in order to do so, at the very least we know he’s a partner that works well with Hughes.
The max term that the Canucks should be willing to hand Tanev is about three years, and even that carries with it some risk. But it might be worthwhile just for the “one who got away” factor of it all.
 
Brett Pesce, Carolina Hurricanes
RHD, 29, 6’3”, 206lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$4.025 mil703101320:1754.77%
Pesce is about as well-known a name as you’re ever going to find on the UFA blueline market, but that reputation comes with some serious danger. Pesce has long been lauded as a top two-way defender, and has often been noted as being criminally underpaid. This past season, however, was among his worst.
Thus, you get a player who will be looking for a payday to make up for all that lost income, and one who hasn’t exactly earned said payday with their recent play. If Vancouver thinks Pesce can return to form, he’s the best RHD they could possibly land this summer…but that’s a big bet to make, particularly away from the vaunted Carolina D-corps.
The Canucks might ultimately be better off avoiding such a name-brand player.
 
Brandon Montour, Florida Panthers
RHD, 30, 6’0”, 199lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$3.5 mil668253323:2653.76%
Montour, on the other hand, strikes us as someone who should be a bigger name. He’s been playing an eye-popping number of minutes for a Stanley Cup Finalist for two years running now, and although his offensive numbers dipped in a major way this year, that represents only a fraction of the value that Montour brings to the table.
There’s no doubt that Montour is capable of being the top RHD on a top team; he’s proving that again as we speak. The trouble comes in convincing him to leave Florida, which sounds like an expensive round of convincing.
Montour profiles similarly enough to Hronek to believe he’d make an excellent partner for Hughes. He’s just probably not on the Canucks can afford.
 
Matt Roy, Los Angeles Kings
RHD, 29, 6’2”, 210lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$3.15 mil815202520:5355.57%
Roy has been hidden in Drew Doughty’s shadow in LA for his entire career. But where others might wilt in such a situation, Roy has only developed and strengthened his game, to the point that he’s now a perfectly-capable two-way top-four RHD in his own right.
Steady, dependable play is the word on the street for Roy, and while he might not be the flashiest option available, he sure looks like what used to be assumed was the perfect sort of partner for Hughes – pre-Hronek, anyway.
Roy has no doubt earned a raise, but he may not have the cachet to demand a salary as high as some of the others on the list, and that’s where the Canucks could reasonably swoop in and steal a divisional rival.
 
Dylan DeMelo, Winnipeg Jets
RHD, 31, 6’1”, 194lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$3 mil823283121:4352.02%
This was a career year for DeMelo in many ways, including points and ice-time. More than that, he played a larger role than ever on a team that experienced a surprising amount of success.
DeMelo has offensive skill, but is typically more defensively-oriented in his play, and has proven capable of partnering with highly-talented blueliners on multiple occasions, including Josh Morrissey.
At 31, he’s definitely a little older than what the Canucks would like to target, but if a shorter-term is at all possible, he could still be worth the investment.
 
Alexandre Carrier, Nashville Predators
RHD, 27, 5’11”, 174lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$2.5 mil734162018:4851.14%
Here’s the first real drop-off in talent. Carrier is a fine defender, and has recently developed into a true top-four guy for Nashville. Against Vancouver in these past playoffs, Carrier played more minutes than any other Predator RHD.
He’s got a defensive focus, some physicality, and what sure seems like untapped offensive potential. At the same time, he’s not the biggest defender available, and that makes him less than ideal to partner with Hughes, especially come playoff time.
 
Sean Walker, Colorado Avalanche
RHD, 29, 5’11”, 191lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$2.65 mil8110192919:3552.02%
Walker was traded from Philadelphia to Colorado near the deadline, which obviously led to him playing a smaller role. But he was a revelation as a Flyer, and a strong contributor to an already strong blueline for the Avalanche.
Walker, like most on this list, contributes at both ends of the ice, and has learned to control the game surprisingly well from the back-end. Like Carrier, however, his size is hardly ideal, and the early word on the street is that Colorado liked him and would prefer to keep him anyway.
 
Jalen Chatfield, Carolina Hurricanes
RHD, 28, 6’1”, 188lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$763K728142215:1159.41%
Okay, now we’re firmly on the downslide with this list. Chatfield is another one who got away, and he’s spent the last couple of seasons being among the league’s most reliable bottom-pair defenders on one of the league’s top bluelines.
Could Chatfield be something more outside of Carolina? It’s possible, but it’s also a little doubtful. He might be worth a look if the Canucks strike out elsewhere on RHD, but as a Hronek replacement, he’d leave an awful lot to be desired.
We could see Chatfield working well with Hughes as an ultra-physical, defensively-oriented blueliner who can really skate, but he’s certainly not someone who can elevate Hughes’ game.
 
Jani Hakanpaa, Dallas Stars
RHD, 32, 6’7”, 222lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$1.5 mil642101218:3853.76%
The drop-off is really steep now. Hakanpaa played what amounts to an outsized bottom-pairing role for Dallas as they made it to the Western Conference Finals. He’s enormous, he’s physical, and he doesn’t offer all that much in the offensive end of the ice.
The Canucks have had recent success with large defenders, but expecting Hakanpaa to keep up with the likes of Hughes over the long-term might be a bridge too far. Hakanpaa makes more sense as a Myers replacement, not a Hronek one.
 
Vincent Desharnais, Edmonton Oilers
RHD, 28, 6’7”, 226lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$763K781101115:4353.91%
We’re in the dregs now. Desharnais is, and probably always will be, a bottom-pairing defender. We put him on the list because A) he’s big, B), he’s had fine success pairing with some of the Oilers’ more skilled LHDs, and C) he’s currently playing decent minutes for the Oilers on route to the Stanley Cup Finals.
But he’s not at all top-four material.
 
Potentially-Unqualified Bonus UFA:
Henri Jokiharju, Buffalo Sabres
RHD, 24, 6’0”, 200lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$2.5 mil743172018:5847.26%
Now we enter the realm of pure speculation.
As of now, Jokiharju is a pending RFA. But the Buffalo Sabres are loaded with young defenders on either side of the blueline, and Jokiharju hasn’t exactly been impressing of late. With a $2.5 million qualifying offer due, we see a distinct possibility that Jokiharju goes unqualified and hits UFA status at an early age.
If that happens, he’d make for an interesting refurbishment project for the Canucks, and one with a lot of upward potential. Jokiharju has that two-way game necessary to support Hughes, but has been prone to silly mistakes in past seasons. The Canucks’ defensive staff has a way of correcting such issues.

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