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JPat’s Monday Canucks mailbag: Pettersson’s knee, Necas still on the market, a Höglander swap, and more

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Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
Jeff Paterson
5 days ago
The sun is out, the dust is settling on free agency, and another summer development camp has come and gone. Yes, it is officially off-season for the Vancouver Canucks. Outside of an announcement of training camp plans, there is very little left for the hockey club to do between now and Labour Day. But that doesn’t mean the hockey talk stops in a market like this one. Far from it, in fact. You have questions for the CanucksArmy Monday Mailbag, and we try to produce answers – or at least further the discussion.
 
Let’s see what the people want to know this week:
In a previous life, I once worked with a Howie Reimer. Couldn’t be the same guy, could it?! That Howie Reimer was a radio star in Kamloops. This Howie wants the goods on Elias Pettersson. I have to say it’s been remarkably quiet when it comes to EP40. His new mega-deal kicked in on July 1st, but he has managed to keep a remarkably low profile since the season ended. He hasn’t updated his social channels in months, so he’s not providing much of a glimpse into his summer so far. Thus, we’re left to speculate about the state of his knee ailment and any off-season treatment.
Hopefully, rest immediately after the season will allow him to train fully in the summer months. And rest may be best when it comes to clearing his mind about his second-half and playoff struggles. He hasn’t forgotten how to play the game at an elite level. The Canucks need Pettersson to come to training camp ready to reapply himself, to engage and invest on a nightly basis and the hope has to be the addition of Jake DeBrusk will give him a goal-scoring winger he can find chemistry with. I’ve said it for months now, nothing the Canucks did on July 1st really matters unless they get star-level Elias Pettersson back playing the way he has throughout most of his career.
Patrik Allvin was on the record at the end of last season wanting to add speed and scoring to the Canucks line-up this summer. On paper, it appears he has made good on that pledge. DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Kiefer Sherwood can all scoot. And all should be able to add varying degrees of offence. Obviously, DeBrusk is being paid to score and needs to pay immediate dividends. Any and all production from Heinen and Sherwood will be welcomed by the hockey club. But those two have other ways of contributing, too. As for what’s left, it feels like the door remains open to the addition of one more puck moving defenceman. But that may be an on-going search through the off-season and possibly into the season, as well.
Like most things in hockey, trade rumours take summer vacation, too. All that draft weekend smoke around Martin Necas and he still remains a Carolina Hurricane. For now. As part of the process, Carolina made the winger a qualifying offer to retain his rights and, over the weekend, Necas filed for salary arbitration. So we’ll see where that goes. As for the Canucks’ interest in the player, it feels like free agency may have changed the club’s approach. They were able to add pieces without parting with assets. Necas would come at a significant trade cost. And then the Canucks would need to be able to fit his contract on their books. Never say never, but right now, it just doesn’t feel like a match.
This one is going to be fascinating to watch. Certainly with the systems and structure they’ve implemented, Rick Tocchet and Adam Foote have earned the opportunity to prove they are ‘tall d-men’ whisperers. They helped Tyler Myers have his best season in a Canucks uniform, Nikita Zadorov thrived after his arrival from Calgary and now the Canucks are hoping the coaching staff can do the same with Vincent Desharnais. The organization feels like it has a 6’7” ball of clay it can shape into an effective NHL blueliner. I think the Canucks see a 28-year-old with just 114 games of big league experience at a position where experience matters. They also see a player with solid underlying numbers in his first full season in the NHL, albeit in a sheltered third pairing role. No one should be expecting miracles, but the hope has to be that the Canucks can work with Desharnais to level up his puck skills so that glass and out isn’t his default option to break the puck out.
People forget that Akito Hirose and Noah Juulsen were in the Canucks opening night line-up last season. With the off-season additions of DeBrusk, Heinen, Sherwood, Forbort and Desharnais along with healthy versions of Carson Soucy and Teddy Blueger, who were both injured to start last season, the Canucks appear to be a deeper and more balanced group. That said, Nikita Zadorov and Elias Lindholm were among the club’s better playoff performers and both will be missed and haven’t really been replaced. So it’s probably a fair assessment to suggest the Canucks are better now than they were a year ago at this time, but not as good as the group that took Edmonton to Game 7 of their second round series. Oh wait a sec, a healthy Thatcher Demko is on Line 1 and wants to weigh in on this conversation.
Yes, I’d explore that option. And I think the Canucks would, too. That doesn’t mean they’re shopping him. But if you take the 30,000-foot view of the situation, the Canucks don’t have a ton of trade chips. Young puck-moving D come at a price and in order to get one, you’d have to give something. Höglander is a 23-year-old with a 24-goal season on his NHL resume. We know teams have asked about him in the past. The Canucks feel they have bolstered the wing position this off-season and have Jonathan Lekkerimaki as the top prospect in the system who also plays that position. Plus, despite his strong regular season, Höglander struggled in the playoffs to the point he was a healthy scratch and questions persist about his play away from the puck and at times continues to struggle to earn the trust of a third NHL head coach. He’s on an affordable contract that would make him attractive to other teams around the league. If the right deal presented itself, I think the Canucks would look long and hard at moving Höglander.

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