Photo credit:© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
3 free agents the Vancouver Canucks could sign to toughen up
By Noah Strang7 months ago
The Vegas Golden Knights just won the Stanley Cup thanks in part to an impressive forecheck that wore other teams down as well as a towering defence corps. The Golden Knights were one of the hardest teams to play against and this physical pressure helped them win their first Stanley Cup.
Being difficult to play against is not the same as fighting a lot. The Golden Knights ranked near the bottom of the league with only 14 fights last season yet would commonly be described as one of the toughest opponents league-wide. Part of the reason for that is because they’re one of the heaviest NHL teams, ranking third in the league by average weight, both when weighted and unweighted for ice-time per Leftwinlock.com.
While the Canucks were near the top of the league in fighting majors last season, few would describe them as a very difficult team to play against. Last season they were the second lightest team when adjusted for ice-time. This offseason, adding gritty and physical players to the bottom-six was clearly a priority for management as shown through the Soucy, Cole, and Blueger additions.
The Canucks have plenty of skill players but are short on bruisers that are talented enough to get significant minutes. The departures of Luke Schenn and Kyle Burroughs only add to this issue. Those two players were not only always the first to stand up for their teammates and make sure that opposing teams weren’t going to push around Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, they also made forecheckers think twice about chasing after pucks.
With more moves sure to come before the summer is over, the Canucks can pick up a player that fits this role in free agency. Here are three options the team could look at to get tougher before the start of next season.
Nick Ritchie, LW, 27 years old
6’3″, 236 lbs
Ritchie is a classic power forward that is still searching for his next home. He just finished a deal that carried an AAV of $2.5 million and will likely get less than that on this upcoming contract. He just finished a season in which he played for the Arizona Coyotes and Calgary Flames and had 26 points in 74 games.
Not only is Ritchie a big bruiser, the forward is also good for around 15 goals per season. This scoring touch means that he can be an effective fourth-liner for any team and even move up to the third in a pinch. While the Canucks have plenty of wingers, they don’t have many in the mold of Ritchie.
At 27-years-old, Ritchie still has good hockey in front of him. If the Canucks could come to terms with Ritchie on a one or two year contract worth about $1.5 million per season, they could add a bruiser into the bottom-six at a very affordable cost.
Maxime Comtois, LW, 24 years old
6’2″, 214 lbs
Maxime Comtois represents a great opportunity for the Canucks to add a big body to the bottom-six while also getting a multi-dimensional player. Comtois is 6’2″ and weighs 214 pounds, a large physical frame that he uses to create space for himself against NHL defencemen.
While Comtois’ play has fallen off over the past few years, resulting in the Ducks not offering him a qualifying offer, he’s exactly the type of reclaimation project that NHL teams should be looking to take on. He already has scored 86 points in 210 NHL games, a similar per-game pace as Nils Höglander, a player that many are still excited about.
Comtois has a nice blend of size and skill that makes him much more valuable than a traditional enforcer. Assuming they can move out one of their current wingers, he would be a great middle-six pickup for the Canucks with his physicality and soft hands.
Cal Foote, RD, 24 years old
6’3″, 209 lbs
Cal Foote is a player that has been linked to the Canucks a few times over the last few weeks. He ticks a lot of the boxes in what the Canucks should be looking for in a free agent acquisiton. He’s young, fills a position of need, and has that big body that will make the Canucks tougher to play against.
Foote blocks shots at a good rate and isn’t afraid to use his body to move forwards from in front of the crease. He split last season between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators, playing about 25 games for each team. One concern with Foote is that his foot speed can sometimes get him into trouble at the highest level.
One thing to note is that Foote’s father, NHL legend Adam Foote, is currently employed by the Vancouver Canucks as a coach. This makes it much less likely that the organization would decide to pursue the younger Foote and invite a host of issues surrounding the power dynamic between the two.
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