8 teams who could be in the market for Conor Garland at the 2023 Trade Deadline
Photo credit:© Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
9 months ago
These days, you hear more talk of trades surrounding the Vancouver Canucks than you do at the average job fair.
Meanwhile, the local fanbase is just hoping that management does a fair job of fulfilling the potential for meaningful and positive change for the franchise at the 2023 Trade Deadline.
As March 3 approaches, there aren’t many to be found who believe that the Canucks are done dealing. Last week, we pondered about whether Brock Boeser may be one of those players best not traded, and GM Patrik Allvin seemed to echo our sentiments when he said he still believed Boeser was “a good player” who he did not want to give up on.
So, if it’s not Boeser who’s moving, it’s going to be someone else — and it’s going to be another winger, at that. As it stands, the Canucks are overloaded at the position, and already have more than $40 million in cap space allocated to wingers for the 2023/24 season, representing nearly half of their available cap space.
Something has to give. And if it’s not Boeser, and it’s not the recently acquired Anthony Beauvillier or the recently extended Andrei Kuzmenko, then that something is almost certainly going to be Conor Garland.
But is that something that will have to wait for the offseason, when more cap space becomes available, or is there already a genuine market out there for Garland at the 2023 Trade Deadline?
To be sure, any market would be a limited one. Garland is on the hook for a $4.95 million cap hit in this season and the next three, and cap space is at premium around the league. Teams either don’t have cap and are desperately trying to get it, or do have it and are eagerly waiting to sell it. In other words, don’t expect a non-playoff-bound team to trade for Garland now when they can put their cap space to better use and then pursue him in the offseason.
No, the only teams that would be interested in Garland right here, right now are those who are both on the way to the playoffs already and can manage to carve out enough space to supplement their postseason roster with one more pricey scorer.
As we said, that market is naturally limited. But it does, we think, exist. Certainly not enough to expect the Canucks to return the approximate value of a 9th overall pick that they spent for Garland a year-and-a-half ago — but perhaps enough to pick up some lower picks and lesser prospects, in addition to clearing out some much needed cap and roster space.
Approx. Deadline Cap Space: $2.4 million
Amazingly enough, the Bruins are at the top of the league and still have a little money to burn. Of course, that’s only because Jake DeBrusk is on LTIR at the moment, but they could easily open up more — and more than enough for Garland — by dumping Craig Smith and his $3.1 million expiring AAV. If Smith comes back to Vancouver as part of a Garland trade, that should mean at least an extra pick for the Canucks.
The Bruins have been sniffing around an extra forward to complete their top-nine all season long, and both Boston and Garland could be natural fits for one another. He’s already got that Boston attitude, and playing for the Big Bad Bruins might allow Garland to employ his undersized feistiness to the maximum of his ability. With a veteran-laden but inexpensive roster on the books moving forward, the Bruins could also easily fit Garland into their long-term budget.
Approx. Deadline Cap Space: $10.1 million
With Max Pacioretty back on the LTIR, the Hurricanes are a contender with serious cash to burn — and a hole in their top-six forwards that will almost certainly get filled at the Trade Deadline. Perhaps the magnetic hands of Garland are a fit for a team that already relies heavily on puck possession to succeed.
The Hurricanes also have more than $20 million coming off the cap via various UFA expiries after this season, so keeping Garland around would be no issue if they wanted to. The only real barrier to this trade is the fact that the Hurricanes will probably be at least in the mix for a higher-profile forward, leaving Garland as a backup plan at best. Still, the Hurricanes have an absolute bounty of picks and prospects to offer up should talks progress that far.
Approx. Deadline Cap Space: $4.4 million
Somewhat impressively, the Flames have carved out more than $4 million in legitimate cap space for themselves, with no LTIR required. Of course, what they haven’t carved out for themselves is a playoff spot. The Flames are in a tough position, and they’ve indicated that they’ll be making a big swing or two at the Trade Deadline. When in doubt, do the Flames not always turn to a former Canuck?
The Flames are specifically in need of another winger to slot into their top-six, making it all the more likely that they check in on Garland, and they’ve already got more than enough size on the roster to insulate him. Milan Lucic’s contract coming off the books provides them with more than enough space to accommodate Garland for at least next season, and after that the Flames’ window is going to begin to close anyway. Grabbing Garland now could provide them with that extra push they need to get into the top-three of the Pacific Division.
New Jersey Devils
Approx. Deadline Cap Space: $2.0 million
If rumours are to be believed, the Devils have been sniffing around a Canucks forward or two all season long, and Garland’s name has been brought up multiple times. Is there any smoke to that fire?
New Jersey is strong down the middle, but could admittedly use a little help on the wing. As of now, they don’t have the space to add much, but that’s easily rectified by shipping out the expiring contract of Andreas Johnsson, already buried in the minors. Vancouver would probably be more than happy to take back Johnsson for an extra asset.
Stylistically, there’s definitely a fit to be found between the Devil’s high-possession forwards and Garland, though one wonders if he has the speed to keep up with a top center of Jack Hughes’ ilk. In any case, Garland seems like the exact sort of medium swing that the Devils should be prepared to take right now, and there are only so many similar wingers out there for them to choose from. The Devils definitely have ample intriguing prospects at various stages of development to offer up in exchange.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Approx. Deadline Cap Space: $2.0 million
One team that Garland has been definitively linked to in recent weeks is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have reportedly been seeking out the final piece of their top-six prior to yet another attempt to escape the first round. They’ve already got a small-but-fiery former Coyote on the roster in Michael Bunting, which might make Garland seem redundant; but if the interest is there, then the Canucks should explore it.
Like many would-be contenders, the Leafs would need to clear out some cap space in order to squeeze in Garland’s salary, though not by much, and they do have expiring and expendable contracts available to dump. With GM Kyle Dubas supposedly hesitant to deal any of his top prospects or a first round pick, Garland could be more in the price range the Leafs are hoping for than other, higher-profile forwards, which could explain the rumours.
The Maple Leafs do have eight expiring UFAs on their roster, so offseason flexibility will be high and retaining Garland beyond this season will be possible — though dollars are always hard to come by in Toronto.
Vegas Golden Knights
Approx. Deadline Cap Space: $9.5 million
We’ve previously discussed the possibility of the Golden Knights really going all-in on their current core and trading for JT Miller. If they’re looking for a lower-risk, lower-reward option, however, Garland makes plenty of sense.
As soon as Mark Stone hits LTIR, cap space is no longer an issue, and the Knights have room to commit to at least a few more veterans for the next couple of seasons, too. Garland seems like a great fit for Vegas’ hard-forechecking mode of play, and the right sort of temperament for a Golden Knight. Style-wise, this might be the best fit available for Garland. And though the Knights are short on premium future assets, that just means that they won’t be in the running for the very best available forwards, making it all the more likely that they compromise on someone like Garland. With both Stone and Robin Lehner’s futures up in the air, Vegas could wait until the offseason to sort out the long-term implications of this acquisition.
Approx. Deadline Cap Space: $4.3 million
The Capitals only barely make this list. With Nicklas Backstrom back long before anyone expected him, cap space is no longer quite so readily available as it once was. Still, Washington does have a lot of salary on LTIR, and that does mean a fair chunk of available deadline spending room, and they have expressed interest in adding at least one scoring forward to supplant some lackluster options like Anthony Mantha. Does all that add up to Garland? It very well could.
With the entire franchise operating on Alexander Ovechkin’s timeline, the Caps might be one of the teams least concerned with the long-term risk of Garland’s three remaining years. Washington has to be in win-now mode from here until Ovechkin retires and/or breaks Gretzky’s record, and adding one more playmaking forward to the mix certainly helps in that aim. If the LTIR situation works out right, the Capitals are a stealth candidate for Garland.
Approx. Deadline Cap Space: $9.1 million
All indications are that the Jets believe they can contend this year, and are open for business. They’ve already been linked to Canucks names like Luke Schenn and Brock Boeser, but Garland could make plenty of sense for them, too.
Obviously, cap space is not an issue, and that’s legitimate, non-LTIR cap space, to boot. The Jets are already loaded up with size throughout their forward corps, making Garland’s lack thereof far less of an issue than it might be elsewhere. Garland neatly completes the Winnipeg top-six without disrupting chemistry too much, and could fit in very nicely alongside either of the Jets’ goal-scoring centers.
There’s plenty of room to be found for Garland in Winnipeg now and in the future. And for a franchise that often struggles to attract talent, Garland’s lengthy contract could be a feature, not a bug.
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