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8 more potential additions to the Canucks’ blueline from the 2024 Trade Deadline market, Eastern Conference Edition

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Photo credit:© Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
In case you missed the first one, you’ve just stumbled into Part Two of our two-part examination of the Trade Deadline market for defenders that might feasibly upgrade the blueline of the Vancouver Canucks.
In Part One, we focused on the Western Conference, and named our list of stipulations as the following:
-Genuine upgrades: The Canucks already have at least eight NHL defenders on hand. Playoff-bound teams always need depth, but right now we want to target players that will constitute real improvements upon what they already have.
-Workable cap hits: The Canucks can still squeeze about $1.8 million in deadline cap space, which means they can acquire some pretty expensive players through the magic of retention. But the financial numbers have to work.
-RHD preference: The Canucks have Quinn Hughes, Ian Cole, Carson Soucy, and Nikita Zadorov on the left. They’ve got Filip Hronek, Tyler Myers, Noah Juulsen, and Mark Friedman on the right. If there’s one side to focus on for that upgrade, it’s probably the right.
-Playoff-ready: The bigger, more physical, and more defensively-steady, the better.
With that, let’s get to the easterly list, sorted in relatively random order. 
Ivan Provorov, Columbus Blue Jackets
LHD, 27, 6’1”, 201lb
$4.75 million (retained), expiring in 2025 (UFA)
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2023/24564212522:3248.2%
While we are focusing on RHDs, on the subject of big name LHDs, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the unique opportunity presented by Provorov. He’s not quite what he used to be, but he’s done an admirable job of keeping his head above water under heavy deployment on a terrible team in Columbus.
He’s also already in possession of a retained cap hit, and further retention is possible. The chance to get a top-pairing-quality defender on a miniscule cap hit is appealing, and the Canucks could feel better about targeting Provorov over other LHDs because he does have a history of playing on the right side in Philadelphia.
The Blue Jackets would be wise to sell on Provorov now, while he’s still got some term left. If one is looking for a defender who can really do it all, Provorov is about the best that will hit the market this year. But he will incur a high cost, especially if further retention gets added on top.
Erik Johnson, Buffalo Sabres
RHD, 35, 6’4”, 225lb
$3.25 million, expiring in 2024 (UFA)
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2023/244830314:0646.5%
As we start to move into more economical possibilities, we hit the most senior player on our list in Johnson. A longtime warrior and a former captain, Johnson is definitely on his last legs, and he hasn’t exactly been a difference-maker in Buffalo. But he’s also just one season removed from playing a medium-sized role on a Cup-winner in Colorado, and chances are good that he can still play at least a bottom-pairing role in 2023/24. And, as JT Miller found out first-hand, Johnson is still a terrific teammate.
Don’t expect anything fancy out of Johnson, but by that same token, don’t expect him to cost what other “big names” do at the deadline. He should be available for something in the realm of a third round selection.
David Savard, Montreal Canadiens
RHD, 33, 6’2”, 234lb
$3.5 million, expiring in 2025 (UFA)
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2023/2435491320:2442.5%
Savard is a veteran middle-pairing, defensively-oriented RHD who has been asked to play an outsized role in Montreal the last couple of years. Are his questionable results due to his age, or the team around him, or both? Any team trading for him is making a bet that he’ll perform better away from the Canadiens.
From the Montreal perspective, however, they’ve got two deadlines with which to shop Savard around, and there’s not much possibility of him gaining or losing a lot of value from here on out. They can afford to put him to market this deadline, and if the value isn’t there, they can also afford to hang on to him until next year. In other words, Savard seems like someone who is likely to either be overpaid for or not traded at all, and thus might not be someone the Canucks want to target.
Sean Walker, Philadelphia Flyers
RHD, 29, 5’11”, 196lb
$2.65 million, expiring in 2024 (UFA)
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2023/24575152019:2953.0%
Walker is a tough one to call. He’s been playing far better and a fair larger role than expected in Philadelphia, and that’s part of the reason why the Flyers are far better than expected this year. But though they’re still holding onto a playoff spot as of this writing, most think that the wheels are going to fall off in Philadelphia eventually, and that trading a pending UFA like Walker now is still the right call.
It’s hard to imagine John Tortorella being okay with trading one of his top defenders while in the middle of a postseason chase, especially since his other top RHD, Rasmus Ristolainen, is out with a long-term injury. And Torts holds  a lot of sway in Philly! But if Walker hits the market, he’ll go to the highest bidder, and that bidding could reach as high as a first. A high price to pay for someone who has really only had one season of this quality.
Jakob Chychrun, Ottawa Senators
LHD, 25, 6’2”, 210lb
$4.6 million, expiring in 2025 (UFA) [M-NTC]
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2023/24549213022:4450.3%
It’s not that Chychrun hasn’t played well in Ottawa. He’s having a good season by his own standards, and he’s actually stayed healthy for about the first time in his career. But he hasn’t moved the needle much at all for the Senators, and if he’s given them any indication that he won’t be willing o re-sign in Ottawa next summer, they’d probably be smart to start shopping his services now.
In Chychrun, you’re getting a top-pairing two-way defender who can play either side of the ice with the same effectiveness. And you’re getting that for a very reasonable cap hit for this season and next. It’s tough to imagine the Senators wanting to retain salary at this point in their build, so some salary movement would be required, to say nothing of the cost of acquisition. Last time, Chychrun went for a first and two seconds, and that still seems appropriate. 
Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders
RHD, 29, 6’2”, 217lb
$6.15 million, expiring in 2030 (UFA) [M-NTC]
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2023/243235822:2144.1%
If we were sorting this list based on pure ability, Pulock would have to be at or near the top. Even in a down season with injury concerns, he’s playing more than 22 minutes a night on a team that still holds some playoff aspirations.
The word on the street is that Lou Lamoriello is getting impatient with the Islanders, which is perfectly understandable for an 81-year-old GM. There have been whispers of some big moves to get the Isles back on track, and with the emergence of Noah Dobson, one of those moves could very well be the selling off of Pulock.
That said, even if Pulock hits the market, he won’t go for cheap. He’ll be marketed as a top-pairing RHD signed to a moderate cap hit until the end of the decade, and that will incur a truly massive cost.
Really, this would be a bigger move than the Hronek trade, and would require the Canucks to move salary now and reallocate it in the future, in addition to scraping up the multiple blue-chip assets required to close the deal.
It just doesn’t seem very realistic. 
Nick Jensen, Washington Capitals
RHD, 33, 6’1”, 196lb
$4.05 million, expiring in 2026 (UFA)
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2023/245508819:1746.3%
We are, admittedly, beginning to hit the bottom of the barrel here. Jensen is a fine, steady, middle-pair RHD who is defensively responsible and doesn’t have a whole lot of flash. He’s on the downside of his career, but can still play an important role on a playoff team.
The length of his contract, which expires in 2026, makes him an awkward target for the Canucks, however. That’s probably too long for the Capitals to want to retain any, and the Canucks don’t really have room or even need for Jensen at full price. Chances are best that he’s moved a deadline or two from now, not today. 
Johnathan Kovacevic, Montreal Canadiens
RHD, 26, 6’5”, 223lb
$767K, expiring in 2025 (UFA)
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2023/244762816:4346.5%
At this point, we have to come to terms with the fact that the Canucks’ blueline is good enough that any upgrade is going to cost something, and probably not come with a very cheap cap hit. The one possible exception we can find to that is Kovacevic.
We’ve mentioned this before, but Kovacevic is a big and occasionally mean RHD from Grimsby, Ontario, and if you know why that’s exciting, then you know why he could be a Bieksa-llent addition. He’s played middle-to-bottom-pairing minutes in Montreal since being acquired, and has slowly-but-surely turned into one of their more reliable defenders.
With him signed below $1 million for next year, too, the Habs don’t need to get rid of Kovacevic by any means, but they do have a lot of young bodies trying to break onto their blueline, and they will have to move someone eventually. Something like a fourth and a mid-tier prospect could make it worth their while, and he could be, at the very least, some steady depth that could occasionally outplay the likes of Myers and Juulsen.
Call him a fine option to keep on the backburner.

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