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2023 was the busiest year for Canucks trades in franchise history, and also one of the best ever

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
The NHL enters its annual holiday roster freeze from midnight on December 19 to 12:01AM on December 28.
That will leave just four days on the 2023 calendar year for GM Patrik Allvin and Co. to make any additional trades for the Vancouver Canucks.
Honestly, we wouldn’t be surprised. But even if no more transactions make it through the fax machines before we roll over to 2024, we feel confident in anointing 2023 as the busiest year for trades in Canucks’ franchise history.
As of now, the Canucks have made a whopping 13 trades in 2023, which is the most of any NHL team. The online records only go back so far, but all indications are that that is the franchise record, and we’d be real surprised if it wasn’t.
Prior to this year, the busiest year we could find was 2014, when they made ten trades in the calendar year. That just so happens to coincide with Mike Gillis’s last season, and Jim Benning’s first, with the organization.
Yes, 13 trades is a lot. It’s one for every Ghost of Scooby-Doo. But while Allvin and “Trader” Jim Rutherford delivered transactions in quantity throughout 2023, they also delivered plenty of quality, too, and that’s undoubtedly more important and more impressive.
It’s difficult to look at the full spread of 13 trades and find any to complain about, or any that didn’t ultimately come down in the Canucks’ favour.
 
Trade #1 (January 30, 2023): Bo Horvat (25% retained) to NYI for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty, and a 2023 First Round Pick
The first trade on the calendar year was almost certainly the most difficult decision faced by the Allvin Regime in 2023. Moving on from captain Bo Horvat was a monumental shift in franchise direction, but it’s one that most would already agree was the correct one.
Horvat has been nothing short of spectacular for the Islanders, but the enormous contract extension he signed with them is well short of spectacular, and will develop into an anchor as the years roll on. With JT Miller already under contract, a Horvat extension was something the Canucks simply could not afford…and one year later, it certainly looks like they made the right call in betting on Miller over Horvat.
Avoiding that Horvat extension was a win in and of itself, but the Canucks also got a half-season of solid play from Beauvillier (allowing him to be dumped for free later), a valuable prospect in Raty, and most importantly that first rounder, which will come into play shortly.
The 2023 trade year kicked off with Allvin and Co.’s hardest, and perhaps best, decision, and set the tone for the transactional season to come.
 
Trade #2 (February 25, 2023): William Lockwood and a 2026 Seventh Round Pick to NYR for Vitali Kravtsov
Not all of these trades are consequential, but at least those that aren’t are inconsequential in a positive sense.
Will Lockwood was a prospect who’d run out of road in the Vancouver organization. Whoever gets picked with that 2026 seventh round pick is still in Grade 9 or something. That’s a price-tag of basically nothing, which is ample justification for the Canucks having taken a shot at an intriguing talent in Vitali Kravtsov.
Sure, Kravtsov didn’t work out, and is now plying his trade back in Russia. The possibility of his having worked out, which was not insignificant at the time, was well worth the price paid, and there were no lingering costs to worry about.
 
Trade #3 (February 27, 2023): Riley Stillman to Buffalo for Josh Bloom
This might be a small trade, but it was hardly inconsequential. The trading of Jason Dickinson and a second round pick to Chicago for Riley Stillman (which came in October of 2022) is probably the worst on Allvin’s Vancouver resume, and this deal was a neat little course-correction.
Stillman was dreadful for the Canucks, and his $1.35 million salary was going to be a real issue for the 2023/24 books, which have already caused the organization enough headaches. Dumping him and replacing him with any number of extra defenders making closer to league minimum was a win. Getting a decent-enough prospect in Josh Bloom is just gravy.
 
Trade #4 (February 28, 2023): Luke Schenn to Toronto for a 2023 Third Round Pick
At the time, this was no doubt a disappointing return for Luke Schenn, who had become a heart-and-soul contributor for the Canucks. In retrospect, however, it’s hard to stay mad at what happened.
The flat-cap era made player movement far more difficult, and that had a suppressive effect on Trade Deadline value. Plenty of rentals went for far less than would normally be expected, and Schenn was one of them. A third round pick is ultimately better than walking away with nothing.
Plus, in terms of value exchanged, the Canucks can think of this as a few months of Schenn and then Beauvillier in return for Nikita Zadorov.
That’s not bad at all.
 
Trade #5 (March 1, 2023): NYI’s 2023 First Round Pick and a 2023 Second Round Pick to Detroit for Filip Hronek and a 2023 Fourth Round Pick
If the Horvat trade was the “big one,” this might prove to be the “bigger one” in the long-term. The decision to flip the first round pick acquired for Horvat was controversial at the time, but almost all of that controversy has melted away in the wake of Hronek’s strong, strong play ever since arriving in Vancouver.
The Canucks had been on the lookout for a top-pairing quality RHD for quite some time, and Hronek soon outpaced even the highest expectations laid down for his performance. He blew previous production rates out of the water, developed ample chemistry with Quinn Hughes, and seemingly elevated the entire team’s performance the moment he joined the blueline.
Axel Sandin-Pellikka, the player Detroit selected with this pick, is a talented prospect, no doubt, and one that the Canucks could use in their organization. But they still walked away from the year 2023 with both Hronek and a RHD prospect of similar value and potential in Tom Willander.
On top of all that, instead of a classic Benning-style second round sweetener, the Canucks instead traded down 62 spots. It’s wins all around on the Hronek trade, and it’s led to plenty of folks having to eat a little crow.
 
Trade #6 (March 3, 2023): Curtis Lazar to New Jersey for a 2024 Fourth Round Pick
Not every trade needs expert analysis.
Curtis Lazar had been pushed out of a regular fourth line role in Vancouver by the likes of Nils Åman, Dakota Joshua, and Phil di Giuseppe. With two-and-a-half years left on his contract, he might have proved difficult to move, but the Canucks found a suitor and got back a fine mid-round draft pick for their efforts.
With Lazar out of the way, other more effective players, like Sam Lafferty and Teddy Blueger, could be brought in.
 
Trade #7 (March 3, 2023): Wyatt Kalynuk to NYR for Future Considerations
Let’s just say that this trade no doubt maintained good relations between Allvin and Rangers GM Chris Drury and leave it at that.
 
Trade #8 (September 19, 2023): Tanner Pearson and a 2025 Third Round Pick to Montreal for Casey DeSmith
The Pearson situation was a difficult one for the Allvin Regime. They inherited a less-than-ideal contract on an aging player, and then saw that player undergo a hellstorm of hand surgeries until his very NHL future was in doubt.
It seems clear now that Allvin and Co. designed their 2023/24 roster around the strong possibility that Pearson’s career was over, and then had to readjust on the fly when he announced his intention to return for training camp. With that in mind, the pivot is incredibly impressive.
Not only did the Canucks get out of Pearson’s contract without having to retain any money, they did so while at the same time picking up a valuable piece to the team’s 2023/24 success. Thatcher Demko needed a capable backup in a bad way, and the Canucks picked their spot nicely with the acquisition of DeSmith, who has been among the league’s best second-stringers this season.
Sure, the Canucks had to give up a future third round pick, but both the cutting of salary and the picking up of a better backup goalie were absolute necessities heading into the season. A third seems a small price to pay for what has added up to an abundance of extra comfort in the organization.
 
Trade #9 (October 8, 2023): A 2024 Fifth Round Pick to Toronto for Sam Lafferty
This might have seemed a minor transaction at the time, but has proven anything but. With 15 points in 34 games and occasional spot-duty on the first line, Lafferty has been nothing short of  a revelation in Vancouver. In fact, we get the distinct feeling that we’d all be talking a lot more about Lafferty if only the rest of his teammates weren’t playing so good around him.
Not only has Lafferty outperformed all expectations, he’s done so with a hard-charging, energy-laden style that has proven a perfect fit for Tocchet’s system, and has done plenty to drag the rest of the Canucks into the fight on a nightly basis.
The Canucks underwent an identity shift in 2023, and Lafferty has played a bigger part in that shift than should ever be reasonably expected of a player acquired for a fifth.
 
Trade #10 (October 17, 2023): Jack Rathbone and Karel Plasek to Pittsburgh for Mark Friedman and Ty Glover
Jack Rathbone was clearly out of runway in Vancouver, and had already cleared waivers. The Canucks needed someone capable of playing minutes at RHD at the NHL level.
For a few weeks, anyway, Mark Friedman was that guy. He’s since lost his spot to Noah Juulsen, but remains on the roster and remains valuable depth in the long-run. At the very least, he’s someone that fans should feel a lot more comfortable being thrown into the NHL lineup than Rathbone ever was, or likely ever will be.
The exchange of Plasek for Glover is probably little more than a contract swap. This might only be a few steps ahead of a minor league trade, but it’s still one in which the Canucks came out ahead at the big league level.
 
Trade #11 (November 28, 2023): Anthony Beauvillier to Chicago for a Conditional 2024 Fifth Round Pick
On the one hand, being swapped out for a fifth round pick is an ignominious end for a player that was once considered a central piece in the Horvat trade. On the other hand, cap space is king here at the end of the flat-cap era, and in a world where it can cost upward of a first round pick to dump an unfortunate contract and Taylor Halls are available for free, getting anything back for Beauvillier at this point had to be considered a win.
Beauvillier was making $4.15 million and languishing on the Canucks’ fourth line, perhaps the only forward to be having a start to the 2023/24 season that could be called anything short of successful. The cap space gained by his departure was a win in and of itself, and the fifth round pick was just the icing on top, especially considering what it was spent on just days later.
 
Trade #12 (November 30, 2023): Chicago’s Conditional 2024 Fifth Round Pick and a 2026 Third Round Pick to Calgary for Nikita Zadorov
Look, if all the Canucks get out of this deal is a half-season of Zadorov playing solid, intimidating two-way hockey on the blueline, all the while making Tyler Myers look like a genuine NHL defenseman, it’ll be well worth the price spent.
If the Canucks can manage to re-sign Zadorov to a reasonable extension and have him go on to play a long-term role on their defense corps, then it becomes nothing short of a major coup.
The Canucks managed their cap extremely well here, taking advantage of a weird situation in Chicago to dump cap and then immediately turning around and becoming the one and only team to offer to take Zadorov without any retention. That drastically decreased the price paid for him, which has in turn left ample room for profit.
So far, the profits are high.
 
Trade #13 (December 15, 2023): Jack Studnicka to San Jose for Nick Cicek
The Canucks’ last (?) trade of the year 2023 was a quiet one, but even it featured the swapping of a superfluous forward for a little bit of that always-valuable defensive depth.
Hey, when you make 13 trades in a calendar year, they can’t all be blockbusters!

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