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Can Canucks get both Kessel and Soucy on active roster without losing a player to waivers?

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Photo credit:© Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
Inviting Phil Kessel to town for a look-see is one thing. Finding a way to get him onto the Vancouver Canucks’ active roster without losing a body in the process will be something else altogether.
Kessel, as I’m sure you’ve seen and heard by now, is in Abbotsford to show what he has left in the tank at the age of 36 and without the benefit of playing organized hockey anywhere since last spring. There is no guarantee that Kessel will earn a contract from the Canucks.
But even in the event the veteran winger shows well to the point the Canucks want to sign him, finding a way to get him on the club’s 23-man roster without collateral damage elsewhere could prove to be a challenge.
As of this writing, Jett Woo is still up with the big club, although with Nikita Zadorov set to return from his two-game suspension on Thursday, Woo’s time in the big leagues could be fleeting.
If the Canucks opt to send Woo back to Abbotsford, that would leave the team with an open roster spot. Is that the entry point Kessel needs for a return to the National Hockey League? Maybe.
With the Canucks back home from their five game post-All Star break road trip, hopefully Rick Tocchet will be able to provide an update and a better timeline for Carson Soucy’s return to the lineup.
To make room for Woo this week, the Canucks shuffled Soucy from the active roster to injured reserve. But before long, Soucy is going to require a roster spot to resume his season.
If the Canucks were to sign Kessel immediately and place him on the active roster, they’d have no choice but to re-assign Woo to make room. And that would leave them with 23 players – not including Soucy – on the roster. And that’s where things get dicey.
At some point, the Canucks are going to feel the squeeze. To add both Kessel and Soucy to the active 23-man roster, somebody else would be forced out.
Now, you can say it’s as simple as sending depth defenceman Mark Friedman to the minors. But nothing is ever as simple as it seems. And Friedman – a right-shot blueliner who has logged 20 games for the Canucks this season – would require waivers. And with a premium on the position he plays, there’s every reason to believe another team would claim him.
You’ve seen in the past week how quickly the Canucks have had to go eight deep on defence, and with the hopes of a lengthy playoff run ahead, the idea of losing a depth defender at this late stage of the season is less than ideal.
So maybe Friedman wouldn’t be the one exposed to the waiver wire. 
Are you prepared to roll the dice on Phil Di Giuseppe, Sam Lafferty, or Nils Aman? Of those three, Aman is the least likely to be waived at his age, his position, and with his growing penalty killing utility.
But playoffs are about attrition, and everyone knows how much Rick Tocchet values board battles and wall work. And for a team that doesn’t have a lot of sizes, the idea of swapping Kessel – who may simply be insurance for a first-place lineup – for Di Giuseppe or Lafferty doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Or at least, you have to question whether it’s worth the gamble of losing either of those players on waivers if that’s the direction the team chose to go.
After the trade deadline, there is no roster limit in place however salary cap constraints remain. So it’s not a complete free for all as far as stockpiling players is concerned.
But if the decision on Kessel comes well before the March 8th deadline – and it feels like it will – the Canucks will have corresponding moves to make. 
One way around that would be attaching a body or bodies to any sort of trade the team makes over the next three weeks. That could open up roster space. But if the Canucks are adding players to help them on a playoff run, then any new faces acquired before March 8th will also require a spot on the 23-man roster, especially if it’s adding a piece in exchange for a draft pick. That’s where the Canucks may have no choice but to include a warm body in such a deal to gain roster flexibility.
The idea of adding Phil Kessel as a low-risk, low-cost depth boost with championship pedigree certainly has its merits. But it also forces the Canucks to consider some difficult decisions about the best path forward with the roster they’ve got versus the one they want.
Sometimes free agents aren’t as free as they appear. This free agent could cost a player currently on the Canucks’ roster.

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