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Beyond Oliver Kylington, slim pickings remain for UFA puck-movers for the Canucks to target

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
3 days ago
You’ve seen many articles like this one before. We identify a need on the roster of the Vancouver Canucks; we search the list of available free agents for fits, and we present an array of options.
Usually, however, we write those articles in the lead-up to the Free Agent Freny, at which point there are dozens of free agents of every variety available.
 
This one, on the other hand, is being written more than a week past the opening of the Free Agent Frenzy. To say we’re down to the dregs might honestly be an understatement.
We wrote earlier in the week about the Canucks’ clear-cut need for a puck-moving defender, something that’s been echoed by just about everyone with a Vancouver-related opinion. Our first stop on the journey to filling that need is, of course, what’s left of the free agent market. But when we say ‘slim pickings,’ we really do mean it.
What this article is really going to look like is a profile on the one solid remaining candidate out there, and then briefer profiles on everyone else who might draw the slightest consideration – and explanations of why they’re probably not even worth that.
So, maybe you haven’t seen an article quite like this before, but we hope it’s interesting.
And if you’re still wondering how the Canucks are going to add anyone at all to their roster, you can refer to this article on the current cap situation.
 
Oliver Kylington, formerly of the Calgary Flames
LHD, 27, 6’0”, 183lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$2.5 mil3335817:1548.7%
This article honestly could have been titled “Why Oliver Kylington is the only remaining UFA worth considering for the Canucks. Because, for the most part, that’s what he is.
Even then, Kylington is far from an ideal addition. He’s one of the most unknown quantities to hit UFA status in a while, with his having taken off the entire 2022/23 season to address his mental health and only returning for 33 games this past year.
Prior to that, Kylington was emerging as a top-four defender in Calgary with a clear offensive bent. While he was primarily working on rounding out his two-way game at the NHL level, Kylington had already earned some accolades in what are essentially the exact same categories that the Canucks are currently lacking: skating the puck out of the zone and in transition, making quality outlet passes, and joining the rush. He’s easily both the best puck-mover available and probably also qualifies as the best in his own end of anyone else on this list, which says a lot about the quality to come. He’s also left-handed, and the Canucks only have three big league LHDs under contract at the moment (compared to five RHDs).
The potential of Kylington really rediscovering his game in a new home makes the possibilities all the more tantalizing.
If Kylington were signable with the roughly $3.25 million in cap space the Canucks can achieve via placing Tucker Poolman on LTIR and demoting an extra player, that’s a route they should absolutely pursue.
As you’re about to see, there really aren’t any better options available on this market.
 
Tyson Barrie, formerly of the Nashville Predators
RHD, 32, 5’11”, 197lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$4.5 mil411141518:1946.0%
After missing out on Chris Tanev during free agency, perhaps the Canucks could instead pursue the player that former GM Jim Benning was so caught up with the last time Tanev went to market that he “ran out of time.”
Or not.
There once may have been a time when Barrie’s services might have been of use in Vancouver, but those days have passed. Barrie has always been an offensively-focused blueliner, but he’s become downright unreliable in his own end in recent years, to the point that he was made a regular healthy scratch in Nashville, including in the playoffs.
And on top of that, Barrie’s offensive skills have also deteriorated, to the point that he’s unable to put up many points even in sheltered conditions.
For these reasons, this is a homecoming the Canucks should avoid.
 
John Klingberg, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs
RHD, 31, 6’3”, 190lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$4.15 mil1405520:3354.1%
Klingberg, on the other hand, might be more interesting. Age-wise, he’s not nearly as far down the path of decline as Barrie, but then Klingberg suffered a hip injury last year that ultimately required surgery and shut down his entire season.
It’s the latest in a run of really bad luck for the big RHD. He had an opportunity to sign a massive UFA contract out of Dallas, but delayed too long and settled on a one-year show-me contract with Anaheim – and then proceeded to stink. He had a good post-deadline-trade run with the Wild that year, then hoped to really rehabilitate his value in Toronto, only to lose most of a season.
That said, Klingberg is still only two seasons removed from 41 assists in 74 games in 2021/22. And back in those days, he was also quite defensively sound, too. If the Canucks believe his year off has restored both his hip mobility and his overall game, he’s maybe worth a cheap, one-year deal. Even if the last thing the Canucks need is another RHD.
But some serious due diligence on his health would have to be conducted first.
 
Justin Schultz, formerly of the Seattle Kraken
RHD, 34, 6’2”, 190lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$3 mil707192616:2853.1%
Like Barrie, there definitely once was a time when a homecoming for Schultz would have made sense for both player and team. But those days are passed. In his prime, Schultz was a RHD with some range, capable of 30+ assists and solid enough play in his own end of the ice.
These days, Schutlz struggles to produce much, even in low, relatively-sheltered minutes. He slipped all the way down to the bottom-pairing of the Seattle Kraken even as they slipped down the standings, and his overall reliability seems to have taken a big hit.
In his current state, Schultz is simply not enough of what the Canucks are looking for and too much of what they are not.
 
Calen Addison, formerly of the San Jose Sharks
RHD, 24, 5’11”, 173lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$825K721161717:1644.9%
Okay, so on the one hand, Addison is just one year removed from his first full NHL season, in which he put up 29 points in 62 games.
On the other hand, he played poorly enough last season that the talent-starved San Jose Sharks chose not to give him a $866K qualifying offer, instead letting him walk to free agency.
If one can’t cut it on the Sharks blueline these days, that probably means one isn’t cut out for full-time NHL duty. His early numbers in Minnesota can probably be attributed to a plum assignment and some rookie sheltering, and when that sheltering became no longer possible in San Jose, Addison’s game sort of fell apart.
If the Canucks didn’t have plenty of RHD depth pieces already, he might make a vaguely intriguing tryout option. For now, he doesn’t really.
 
Ryan Suter, formerly of the Dallas Stars
LHD, 39, 6’1”, 205lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$3.65 mil822151718:5651.0%
Cue Britney Spears’ greatest song, because this dude is Toxic.
Now, that’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in hockey circles. But, boy, does it ever seem to apply especially well to Suter. He’s one of only two players to be bought out twice in NHL history, and the other is Anthony DeAngelo, a player we couldn’t even stomach putting on this list. That says a lot.
How toxic are we talking? Try (allegedly) hiring his own power play coach when he didn’t like what his own team’s coaches were saying. Yeesh.
On top of all that, Suter is 39 years old, and while he’s still very capable of skating NHL minutes, his days as a puck-mover are behind him. Even at nearly 19 minutes a night on a top team, Suter only managed 15 assists. Sure, he may have put up 51 points as recently as 2017/18. But that may as well be a different lifetime for Suter.
On the ice, he’s of little use to the Canucks. Off the ice, where they seem to have built a very positive and cohesive dressing room, he might be the single worst thing for them.
 
Alex Goligoski, formerly of the Minnesota Wild
LHD, 38, 5’11”, 173lb
2023/24 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$2 mil360101014:4948.3%
We end with Goligoski, another player who, on age alone, is probably disqualified. That said, of our two senior options, Goligoski still stands out as an infinitely better choice than Suter.
Goligoski has maintained an average of about 30-40 points, when healthy, for the last 15 years running.
Lately, he’s taken to more and more pressbox time. But that’s not necessarily a negative for the Canucks, who would be rotating through their defenders to some extent anyway. When he’s out there, Goligoski can put up points at a solid, if unspectacular rate, and handle his own duties fine enough. When he’s not out there, he’s unobtrusive.
He wouldn’t be the worst depth addition in the world. But he’s far from ideal…perhaps just not as far from ideal as the bulk of this list.
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