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9 wingers to genuinely upgrade the Vancouver Canucks’ top-six via trade

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Photo credit:© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
It’s seven weeks out from the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline, and the stove in Vancouver has arguably never been hotter.
Last time we talked trade around here, we floated the concept of the Canucks seeking out a high-quality 2C on the market, so as to make it easier for them to keep the Lotto Line together while maintaining a balanced top-six.
But, as the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a second line.
Most, including the Canucks’ own front office, seem to agree that a top-six forward of some sort is the piece most needed in order to transform the Canucks fully from contentious to contender. But that top-six forward doesn’t necessarily have to be a center. There are a few different ways in which the Canucks could benefit from the addition of a top-six winger, so long as the quality of that winger was high enough.
The Lotto Line might be broken up again, and then Elias Pettersson is probably in need of an upgrade on his wing.
Or alternatively, if the Lotto Line stays together, a good play-driving winger might be all that the second line requires to really get rolling.
In either case, we’re fairly certain that such a transaction would essentially amount to upgrading on Andrei Kuzmenko. For both cap- and performance-related reasons, Kuzmenko’s almost got to go if someone else is coming in – either directly in return, or perhaps over the course of multiple transactions.
Others, like Ilya Mikheyev and Tyler Myers, could perhaps be moved instead, though either scenario seems less likely. Virtually everyone else on the roster seems untouchable at this point.
So, below, you will find a list of wingers that are A) believed to be available on the trade market as the deadline approaches and B) could conceivably offer an upgrade on Kuzmenko’s services.
Few will be surprised to learn that there are far more wingers available than there are centers…but the potential impact thereof may vary.
 
Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins
LW, 29, 5’11”, 180lb
$6 Million AAV expiring in 2024 (UFA) [12-team NTC]
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOI Corsi
2023/244219274620:5756.8%
By now, you’ve probably heard a little bit too much about Guentzel. But it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that his name has popped up so frequently in Canucks-related trade chatter. Guentzel is in competition with Elias Lindholm as the top forward potentially available this year, and while he wasn’t drafted by Jim Rutherford, he did sign both of his NHL contracts with Rutherford. The ties are there. Is the fit?
Yes. Guentzel may have had his career stats slightly inflated by riding shotgun with Sidney Crosby, but this isn’t an Anson Carter with the Sedins sort of situation. Guentzel is a genuine elite talent in his own right, and would represent a considerable upgrade on every winger on the Canucks’ roster aside from perhaps Brock Boeser.
Guentzel’s 58 points in 58 career postseason games also makes him perhaps the single best playoff player available.
So what’s the catch?
Availability and cost. The Penguins are currently three points back of a wildcard spot with games in hand. If they remain anywhere near that close by the Trade Deadline, they will not sell – not with Crosby and the gang approaching their last legs.
Even if the Penguins fall out of it and do decide to move on from pending UFA Guentzel, the cost will be enormous. Early reports had it at Tom Willander or Jonathan Lekkerimäki PLUS a first round pick, and that’s about as steep as it gets. A first rounder seems inevitable, but perhaps the Canucks can get away with a combination of lesser prospects (and Kuzmenko) instead of a truly premium piece.
 
Pavel Buchnevich, St. Louis Blues
LW, 28, 6’1”, 196lb
$5.8 Million AAV expiring in 2025 (UFA) [12-team NTC]
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOI Corsi
2023/244113193219:5853.6%
We’re intentionally placing the names we’ve already discussed plenty at the top of this list so we can get to the newer stuff.
Buchnevich has had plenty of buzz as a tradepiece all season long, even though he’s still got a year remaining on his contract after this. The Blues don’t seem to be going anywhere, and Buchnevich is probably their most sellable piece.
He’s not having the best season of his career, but he remains a versatile and play-driving winger under most circumstances, and certainly offers up a more well-rounded scoring game than the likes of Kuzmenko. Buchnevich is often listed as a center, even though he’s spent most of his minutes on the wing in recent years, and that makes him someone that could fit into the Canucks’ lineup in a few different ways.
The cost could be the only barrier. Swapping Kuzmenko for Buchnevich for the next season-and-a-half seems like an exchange in which the Canucks would be expected to add heavily. How much? A first rounder seems inevitable here, too, and additional picks and prospects could be required depending on the bidding war…but likely not any of those aforementioned A+ assets.
 
Frank Vatrano, Anaheim Ducks
LW, 29, 5’11”, 197lb
$3.65 Million AAV expiring in 2025 (UFA)
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOI Corsi
2023/244421123318:1645.3%
Now here’s a name that has come out of nowhere. Vatrano’s previous career high is 24 goals, and he’s already at 21 just past the halfway mark of the season. There’s hot, there’s red-hot, and then there’s what Vatrano is doing this year.
Is Vatrano popping off primarily because he’s one of the few veterans on a young, talent-laden roster in Anaheim? Probably! He is receiving the most ice-time of his career by a longshot, and that includes plenty of top-six and power play time. And therein lies the trouble with this trade target.
Vatrano’s success will make him a popular commodity. But is any team going to get the same value out of him as Anaheim has? Not likely. In fact, the longer the season wears on, the more likely it is that Vatrano regresses back toward his career mean, even if he stays in the exact same situation. Anyone paying for Vatrano based on his current success is almost certainly betting on something unsustainable.
Then again, Vatrano is signed for an additional year at a bargain rate of $3.65 million. And it’s definitely easy to imagine a scenario in which he returns a more than satisfactory performance for that cap hit.
Again, it comes down to cost. The Ducks WILL sell Vatrano. They know the score. But this is not a player than the Canucks want to get caught in a bidding war for. If Vatrano can be snagged for something less valuable than a first rounder (a second, or a B prospect, or something similar) he could be worth their while. Of all the teams you’ll find on this list, Anaheim seems high on the “would value Kuzmenko” quotient. But any premium price should be avoided.
 
Claude Giroux, Ottawa Senators
LW/C, 36, 5’11”, 190lb
$6.5 Million AAV expiring in 2025 (UFA) [NMC]
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOI Corsi
2023/244013253820:0555.4%
Giroux is the oldest player on our list, but he’s still in the running for “most talented.” Whether as a center or a winger, Giroux belongs in any team’s top-six, and his production has only barely slowed own as he’s hit his mid-30s. Even with the Senators falling apart around him, Giroux is near a point-per-game.
Here’s the thing though: Giroux has a full no-movement clause, and he’s often expressed a desire to stay as close as possible to his family on the east coast. He sought out Ottawa as a trade destination specifically, and even though things haven’t gone exactly as planned hockey-wise, it’s hard to imagine him agreeing to pick up and move all the way across the continent…especially with another full year left on his contract.
If Giroux is available and amenable to joining the Canucks, he’d be worth at least what the Senators paid for him: a first, a third, and an aging prospect. Kuzmenko would have to go the other way, and the Senators may place some value in him, but they’d definitely expect a fair amount placed on top.
 
Vladimir Tarasenko, Ottawa Senators
RW, 32, 6’1”, 228lb
$5 Million AAV expiring in 2024 (UFA) [NTC]
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOI Corsi
2023/243811182916:0454.1%
Sticking with the Senators for a moment, Tarasenko is a far more realistic trade option, albeit also a lesser one. Whereas Giroux has aged gracefully, Tarasenko just isn’t what he used to be, though he still has an abundance of talent and size left to offer.
In some ways, an exchange of Kuzmenko for Tarasenko would be equivalent to adding about 50 pounds to Kuzmenko’s frame. Which does sound appealing! With Tarasenko a pending UFA, Kuzmenko signed for next year, and the Senators hoping to quickly retool, there’s actually some potential there for a fairly straight-up swap, too.
 
Jordan Eberle, Seattle Kraken
RW, 33, 5’11”, 190lb
$5.5 Million AAV expiring in 2024 (UFA) [16-team NTC]
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOI Corsi
2023/24416162217:2055.0%
Who wouldn’t want a former World Junior hero in the mix?
Unfortunately, Eberle is another player who definitely isn’t what he used to be. In fact, he’s right in the middle of what is easily the worst NHL season of his career, but that doesn’t mean there’s not at least a little hope for some resuscitation. Eberle was a 20-goal scorer in each of the previous two seasons, and the Kraken are a bit of a mess this year. At the very least, one has to assume he’d be scoring more in Vancouver.
Whether or not Eberle would constitute a genuine upgrade for the Canucks is up for debate. He and Kuzmenko are producing at approximately the same rate, and Eberle is receiving more consistent ice-time. There’s also some fair questions to ask about whether Eberle’s game is a real fit for Rick Tocchet’s style.
That said, Eberle is a pending UFA and his performance this year means he won’t demand a gaudy price. If the Canucks are simply looking for something different on the wing, and if they can convince their regional rivals to part ways with Eberle for little more than the cost of Kuzmenko (with perhaps a Seattle sweetener attached for good measure), then Eberle might be worth a look. But probably not.
 
Anthony Duclair, San Jose Sharks
LW, 28, 5’11”, 197lb
$3 Million AAV expiring in 2024 (UFA)
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOI Corsi
2023/2440881616:0243.4%
We’re now getting firmly into the less-than-ideal options, which is a good measure of how thin the forward market is this season.
Duclair has been an extremely up-and-down player his entire career. Two seasons ago, he got 31 goals in 74 games for the Florida Panthers. Last season, he only played in 20 games and only managed two goals, but then went on a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. This year, after a trade to San Jose, Duclair’s production is suffering – but that can be said of any Shark.
Acquiring Duclair is, no doubt, a gamble. But his cap hit makes it easier, as does the fact that San Jose is in a position where they will almost certainly sell him off for something, even if the offers they receive aren’t terrific. Should the Canucks strike out on better options, Duclair could be a cheap alternative with some potential for high reward, but not much. We wouldn’t want the Canucks paying anything more than a third and change for him at this point.
 
Anthony Mantha, Washington Capitals
RW, 29, 6’5”, 234lb
$5.7 Million AAV expiring in 2024 (UFA)
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOI Corsi
2023/24391271913:4949.3%
Mantha is an interesting case. The last couple of years, he’s been looked at as a cap dump-type contract. But in his final year before expiry, reports are that he has once again found his game, even if the numbers aren’t quite there.
Mantha brings that stereotypically-valuable combo of size and speed, and definitely plays both a more “Tocchet-friendly” and “playoff-ready” game than Kuzmenko. But does he have the talent to keep up with the 2023/24 Canucks? That remains in question.
The shape of this trade would be simple enough. The Canucks rent Mantha. The Capitals get Kuzmenko, another Russian to get along with Alex Ovechkin for at least one more season. Depending on how much the Capitals like Kuzmenko, they may even throw in a little extra in compensation for the extra year.
The only question is whether or not the Canucks’ pro scouting staff sees much of value in Mantha.
 
Adam Henrique, Anaheim Ducks
LW/C, 33, 6’0”, 195lb
$5.825 Million AAV expiring in 2024 (UFA) [10-team NTC]
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOI Corsi
2023/244311132416:5847.0%
We already talked about Henrique as a possible 2C in our previous article, so we will keep this part brief. In short, Henrique has played the wing about as much as he’s played center in his career, and that has included some notable stints as a top-six winger.
He doesn’t offer the most talent, but he does offer versatility and a well-rounded game that could theoretically fit on any Vancouver line. He, at the very least, seems like someone that Tocchet would have more use for than he currently does Kuzmenko.
 
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
LW/C, 33, 6’0”, 182lb
$8.5 Million AAV expiring in 2024 (UFA) [NMC]
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOI Corsi
2023/244219234218:4349.5%
Okay, we saved our zaniest idea for last.
The odds of Stamkos leaving Tampa Bay are low. The Lightning GM has already stated outright that it is not happening.
But…
Stamkos remains unsigned approaching the Trade Deadline, and has already expressed some dissatisfaction with negotiations and the perceived lack of deference he has been shown. At the same time, the Lighting have fallen back into the wildcard race, and seem to be trending downward.
We can imagine a scenario in which the Lightning slide further down the standings, contract negotiations continue to sour, and both Stamkos and the Lightning front office decide that maybe a deadline trade is the best course of action. It’s a very specific scenario, but it is possible.
In that case, Stamkos immediately becomes the top talent available on the market. Whether as a winger or a center, he’d singlehandedly make any contender a much more dangerous team, Vancouver included.
But the cost would be so, so high. You start with Kuzmenko, and then you probably have to ask the Lightning to retain salary, and then you start adding first round picks and excellent prospects. This would be the all-in move to end all all-in moves…but, gosh, wouldn’t it be cool?

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