7 MORE reasonable trade targets for the Canucks as they retool the blueline in the summer of ’23

Photo credit:© Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 year ago
Everybody loves a good cliffhanger, and a good cliffhanger pays off.
Last time on Retooling the Blueline, we took a look at seven (!) offseason trade targets that we thought might be both (1) desirable to the Vancouver Canucks and (2) at least somewhat reasonable to acquire.
Rather than paraphrase ourselves, we’ll just straight-up quote our established criteria for these trade targets, otherwise known as the Bear-Hronek Talent Bandwidth (patent pending):
“For the time being, Filip Hronek and Ethan Bear are part of the solution moving forward. They also provide some convenient benchmarks for our list of potential acquisitions below.
The Canucks should be targeting defenders for trade that are, at the very least, of a higher quality than Bear. There’s already debate to be had about whether or not Bear constitutes anything approaching a long-term solution on the blueline. Trading for more players of a similar skill level would probably be a waste of already-limited assets. Bear should represent the lowest talent-bar for any future acquisition to clear in order to truly be considered a difference-maker.
Hronek represents, on the other hand, if not the upper talent-bar for an acquisition, at least the highest cost that the Canucks can manage. Paying a first and a second for Hronek was already tough to bear, especially when they were the fifth and sixth top-60 draft picks dealt by the Canucks in the last four years. The organization is simply asset-poor, and while they would like to close out more pricey deals like the Hronek trade, they simply cannot afford to.
Therefore, an ideal target is someone better than Bear and cheaper to acquire than Hronek. That’s our window.
As we’ve covered in the past, LHD or RHD are both desirable, with perhaps a slight preference for the right side. Any trade targets should also be as close in age to core pieces Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes as possible. The very best targets will be those in similar situations to the aforementioned Hronek and Bear: players capable of playing higher in the lineup than they currently are, but currently suppressed by their own team’s depth. Such acquisitions are generally of the high-reward variety, and the Canucks are in need of some high rewards.”
And now, as promised, here are seven more of those sorts of defenders!

Henri Jokiharju

RHD, 23, 6’0”, 200lb
 TeamCap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi
2022/23Buffalo$2.5 mil until 20246031013-1221:0150.0%
The Sabres are in an interesting spot with their blueline. They’ve got some A+ pieces in place, but they don’t know exactly where they’ll fit as of yet…or even on which sides. If Rasmus Dahlin remains an LHD on his off-side, it will probably lead in turn to the Sabres selling off an excess RHD, and Jokiharju is probably the leading candidate after a bit of stagnation at the NHL level.
Jokiharju is still a strong-skating minute-muncher with a defensive focus, which is a lot of what the Canucks are looking for. It’s unclear whether he’ll ever be capable of a top-four role on a contending team, but that once looked like a certainty. With the Sabres flush on cap space, maybe Jokiharju makes sense as part of the return for an overpriced forward?

Olli Määttä

LHD, 28, 6’2”, 207lb
 TeamCap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi
2022/23Detroit$3 mil until 20257861723-918:4246.2%
At the age of 28, Määttä probably doesn’t really belong on our list. We really only included him for one reason, and that’s that Hronek’s recent breakout season in Detroit — the one that convinced Vancouver to trade for him — occurred while primarily paired with Määttä.
With Simon Edvinsson and others arriving soon, the Red Wings could be looking to sell off Määttä just to make room. If the Canucks could pick him up for cheap and strike out elsewhere, he makes some sense as a stop-gap option in the top-four, linking up with Hronek for a few more seasons.

Timothy Liljegren

RHD, 23, 6’1”, 192lb
 TeamCap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi
2022/23Toronto$1.4 mil until 20246761218+2417:5550.0%
Here’s another player that has been thrown into trade proposals surrounding the Canucks for several years running. On the one hand, Liljegren seemed to break out into full-time NHL duty this season, playing effectively in Toronto’s top-four for much of the season. On the other hand, he’s been a healthy scratch in the playoffs, sitting in favour of Justin Holl and Luke Schenn. That’s not an enormous showing of trust.
There was once a time when Liljegren was considered one of the highest-touted prospects in the world. He’s still abundantly talented, and very capable of skating or moving the puck up the ice, which is something the Canucks need. His own-zone coverage has improved dramatically. He might keep his job in Toronto as other defenders age out, but if not, he’s definitely a target that’s potentially worth overspending on.

Ryan Lindgren

LHD, 25, 6’0”, 190lb
 TeamCap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi
2022/23New York$3 mil until 20246311718+2918:5053.9%
The only reason that someone like Lindgren would even be on the trade market is that the Rangers are facing an upcoming cap crisis. That’s the exact sort of opportunity the Canucks should be looking to exploit.
Lindgren has already proven capable of handling top-pair minutes in a complementary role, which could make him the perfect partner for someone like Hronek. He’s an expert at the simple things, like moving the puck effectively and applying reasonable physicality in his own end. There’s little that Lindgren doesn’t do well, which means he could fit in pretty much anywhere. That’s great news, except for when it comes to the price.

Mattias Samuelsson

LHD, 23, 6’4”, 231lb
 TeamCap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi
2022/23Buffalo$4.286 mil until 2030552810+1422:1147.9%
The son of long-time NHLer Kjell Samuelsson was handed a massive extension after just 54 games of NHL experience. He responded with an injury-plagued, step-back sort of season, and that could have the Sabres nervous.
On the whole, they’re probably committed to the sizeable, defensively-minded defender with a mean streak. But as we said earlier, there are a lot of moving parts at play on the Buffalo blueline, and if both Dahlin and Owen Power end up on the left side, and Samuelsson doesn’t effectively make the switch to the right side, he could be the odd one out. Maybe the Sabres look to get out of the contract before it becomes a problem. Maybe that brings down the overall cost of acquiring him.

Mackenzie Weegar

RHD, 29, 6’0”, 206lb
 TeamCap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi
2022/23Calgary$6.25 mil until 20318142731+1521:0661.2%
Okay, Weegar really doesn’t belong on this list. He’s the oldest and most expensive defender we’ve got here, and he comes attached with a contract that takes him well into his late-30s. That being said, he’s also the one with the most proven track record and the highest level of recorded play, and he might be available for cheaper than anyone would have expected.
Things aren’t going well in Calgary, and a rebuild of some sort may be in the offing. The Flames would probably love a re-do on those big extensions handed out to Weegar and Jonathan Huberdeau. They won’t find any takers on Huberdeau, but they could probably get someone to take Weegar, and they might not be picky about the return if shedding cap is the overall goal.
Is Weegar a perfect fit for the Canucks? No, not really. But his contract does line up pretty well with JT Miller’s, and Weegar is still playing well enough to not be an absolute millstone like Oliver Ekman-Larsson. It’s an option at least worth considering.

Zach Whitecloud

RHD, 26, 6’2”, 207lb
 TeamCap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPoints+/-Avg. TOICorsi
2022/23Vegas$2.75 mil until 2028595712+1017:0744.7%
We’ve talked acquiring Whitecloud before, and the logic is still sound. He’s a defender with strong two-way skill that has been held back by injuries and the overall depth in Vegas. The Golden Knights are perpetually in cap crisis, and they’ll be selling off parts again this upcoming offseason. Whitecloud could be next on the chopping block.
He’s not that exciting of a player, but he is incredibly steady, he does play with a level head, and he is known for being “difficult to play against.” He also brings some serious cost-certainty to the table, signed at a discounted rate all the way until 2028. He could be a bargain for the Canucks a few times over.

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