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7 ‘big swing’ trade targets for the Canucks that could really make a difference

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
5 months ago
It was the best of times (to make a trade), it was the worst of times (to make a trade).
It’s been a tale of two cities in Canuckland ever since news broke earlier in the week that GM Patrik Allvin was “working the phones” to make a deal, and we don’t just mean Vancouver and Richmond.
On this website alone, we published articles suggesting that making a trade as a reaction to the team’s hot start was a wrongheaded approach, and then we turned around and suggested that, on second thought, it might actually be the best time to ‘go for it.’
In other words, we’re of two minds on this topic, and so, it seems, are a lot of you. Perhaps part of the issue here is that we’re discussing the whys and the ifs before we’ve really discussed the what.
Based on the comments here and elsewhere on social media, most folks do seem to agree on something, and that’s that if the Canucks are going to make a trade in which they sacrifice future assets for the present moment, it had better be a ‘big swing.’ No more flipping away mid-round draft picks for depth additions. No more rearranging the deck chairs.
With the core playing as well as it ever will and at least one obvious hole on the roster, many see this as the time to go all-out to fill that gap right here and right now, so as to force open that contention window and keep it open as long as possible.
And at this point, we can stop beating around the bush. There’s only one ‘missing piece’-type acquisition that can truly make a difference on the 2023/24 Canucks roster, and that’s the addition of another top-four-quality RHD. Same as it ever was.
A top-four of Quinn Hughes, Filip Hronek, one of Ian Cole or Carson Soucy, and a new RHD that’s significantly better than the options they currently have on hand would be something worth pursuing. And with the team currently playing as well as it is, it’s not difficult to imagine such an acquisition putting the team ‘over the top’ and transforming them into a genuine postseason threat.
But what is difficult is finding just such a player to target via trade. Any prospective difference-making RHD would have to be all three of available, affordable, and young enough to align with the Canucks’ core.
With RHDs already in short supply leaguewide, this is a daunting task. But not an impossible one. Below, you’ll find Part One of our list of potential ‘big swings,’ tiered by both potential impact and plausibility. Today, we tackle the top two tiers.

The ‘Pipe Dream’ Tier

These players would undoubtedly make a major difference, but will probably prove either inaccessible or unaffordable.
Shea Theodore, Vegas Golden Knights
LHD, 28, 6’2”, 197lb
$5.2 million AAV until 2025 (UFA)
SeasonGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi %
2022/235583341+1621:2651.0%
2023/24113710+623:3550.9%
Starting our list with a left-hander is bold, but not so bold when you consider that this left-hander was just one of (if not the) best defenders on a Stanley Cup champion. It also helps that Theodore has played a majority of his career on the right side.
Not only did Theodore lift the Cup last year, he’s now off to his best start yet with ten points through his first 11 games. Theodore offers a true 200-foot game and positive impacts in all situations, and he happens to be one of the best-skating defenders this side of Quinn Hughes.
So why on Arakko would Theodore be available? The short and easy answer is that he probably wouldn’t be.
Then again, this is the Vegas Golden Knights we’re talking about, and they are a notoriously ruthless franchise when it comes to player movement. With Theodore just two seasons away from a presumably sizeable pay raise and the age of 30, it wouldn’t be all that surprising for them to sell high on Theodore, especially with prospects like Kaedan Korczak and Brayden Pachal ready to take more minutes.
That said, the cost would be Enormous, and we meant that capital ‘E.’ Think starting with Tom Willander just to get the conversation started, and then adding from there. Theodore might be the one D available that might actually be worth it. That he’s a local is just a fun added bonus.
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
RHD, 27, 6’4”, 215lb
$7.5 million AAV until 2025 (UFA)
SeasonGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi %
2022/2371142438-1423:2454.2%
2023/2400000N/AN/A
Speaking of recent Stanley Cup finalists…
The former first overall pick has had an inconsistent career, brought on mainly by injuries like the one that has kept him out thus far in 2023/24. When he’s healthy and ‘on,’ however, Ekblad is still very much a multi-functional top pairing defender, and potentially a major difference-maker on a playoff roster.
There’s major risk in acquiring Ekblad. There’s his health, his impending UFA status in 2025, and the occasional gaffes. Unfortunately, he also has a strong enough reputation so as to not have all these risks affect his price-tag much. We can see Florida being willing to part ways with Ekblad before he becomes a rental, but we can’t see them letting him go for cheap. A top prospect and a first seems like the bare minimum to start, which becomes tough to swallow if any of those risk factors come to fruition. 
John Marino, New Jersey Devils
RHD, 26, 6’1”, 181lb
$4.4 million AAV until 2027 (UFA)
SeasonGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi %
2022/236441418+2121:0452.0%
2023/249055020:1654.9%
This one is a little frustrating, because it sure feels like the Canucks could have acquired Marino for a lot cheaper not all that long ago. The Devils picked him up for just Ty Smith and a third round pick.
A season of top-notch defensive play in the top-four for one of the best teams in hockey has jacked that price all the way up. That said, Marino could feasibly be on the block anyway on account of the strong prospects bursting onto the New Jersey blueline. Dougie Hamilton’s there for a while, Luke Hughes is already playing on his off-side, and Simon Nemec is coming soon.
Marino might not be as talented as an Ekblad or Theodore, but his own-zone focus could make him a better fit for the Canucks’ purposes. Again, just like the others, his availability does not equal his affordability. He won’t cost a third and some waiver-bait this time around, that’s for sure.
Artem Zub, Ottawa Senators
RHD, 28, 6’2”, 200lb
$4.6 million AAV until 2027 (UFA)
SeasonGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi %
2022/23533710+220:1549.9%
2023/244123+317:5743.8%
You could take a lot of what we said about Marino and apply it to Zub, except that instead of locking it down on an elite blueline, Zub’s been holding it together on a terrible club. All the same, as Ottawa ascends as a team, Zub does seem to be sliding down the depth chart. Does that result in him becoming available? Probably not, because he’s still signed to a bargain deal for four more seasons.
But if he were to become available, he’d be exactly what the Canucks need. A shutdown defender capable of massive minutes and built to keep up with their team speed? One that is consistently described as that all-important “hard to play against?” One already locked into a sub-$5 million deal?
That’s a perfect fit for Vancouver right now. The trick is first convincing the Senators to part with him, and then convincing them to part with him at a price that doesn’t empty the prospect cupboard. A first round pick feels inevitable, and that’s not the end of it.
Brandon Carlo, Boston Bruins
RHD, 26, 6’6”, 218lb
$4.1 million AAV until 2027 (UFA)
SeasonGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi %
2022/237531316+4418:5050.2%
2023/2410033+220:0948.1%
Carlo is someone who has been linked to the Canucks in trade speculation before, mainly as a potential centerpiece in a Bo Horvat trade back when that was all we were talking about. It’s no real mystery as to why, either: Carlo is a giant right-handed shutdown defender who’s been a big part of an incredibly successful team in Boston ever since he entered the league.
Unless the Canucks have another top-six center to dangle, however, we don’t see Carlo being made freely available. He’s signed to a great deal for four more years, he’s still playing as solid as ever, and the Bruins need some stability on their roster as they try to maintain competitiveness in the wake of Patrice Bergeron’s departure.
It’s hard to conceive of a deal that would work for both franchises at this point.

The ‘More Available, But Still Expensive’ Tier

This players are plausible enough acquisitions to not be pipe dreams, but they’re still either not readily available or would be excessively expensive to acquire.
Brett Pesce, Carolina Hurricanes
RHD, 28, 6’3”, 206lb
$4.025 million AAV until 2024 (UFA)
SeasonGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi %
2022/238252530+1122:0158.0%
2023/245112+319:2161.0%
Pesce is widely-regarded as one of the best all-around defenders in the NHL, and he’s long been a linchpin in Carolina. So why isn’t he in the above tier?
Well, mainly because Pesce is a pending UFA who already spent a good chunk of the summer on the trading block. We don’t imagine he’s being shopped around now that the season has started and the Hurricanes are aiming to contend, but the possibility remains at least a little more open than it usually is for a player of this calibre.
The Canucks could put anyone together with Pesce and have it turn into a top-end shutdown pairing…for at least a season. The real issue with acquiring Pesce is A) paying high-end rental prices for him and B) offering him a big enough extension to not have him be a rental.
This is not a trade the Canucks could afford to make without being allowed to agree to a contract first. It’s probably not a trade the Canucks can afford, period. But if there were a way to make it work, it would absolutely be as much of a difference-making deal as is currently possible.
Rasmus Andersson, Calgary Flames
RHD, 27, 6’1”, 202lb
$4.55 million AAV until 2026 (UFA)
SeasonGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi %
2022/2379113849+524:0553.2%
2023/246123024:1553.7%
The Calgary Flames are, appropriately enough, headed for a fire sale. Andersson, still under contract for three more seasons at a majorly discounted rate for someone who plays half the game each night, is presumably not very high on the “must go” list. But if the Flames are burning it down, maybe cashing in on Andersson now is the best way to do it.
In Andersson, the Canucks get a defender who can guzzle minutes, pile up points, and matchup well with top lines. He’s also plenty mean…just ask Patrik Laine.
But on sale or not, the cost to acquire Andersson would be colossal. You’re talking about three more years of 25 minutes of impact a night, all for just $4.55 million a pop. It feels like you could take the price paid for Filip Hronek and almost double it here. Otherwise, you’re parting with painful prospects.
Tune in next time for Part Two: The Rest of the Best.

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