Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Monday Mailbag: 10 potential upgrades for the Vancouver Canucks’ defence corps
3 months ago
Welcome to the Monday Mailbag, brought to you by the great folks at Zephyr Epic! Use promo code “HockeySeason” for $5 off your order. Free shipping of trading cards Canada wide on any order over $50 as well! Shop local!
Good morning, everyone! Here I am, reporting for duty, to provide you with another edition of the Monday Mailbag. This time, from sunny Scottsdale, Arizona!
Unfortunately, the Canucks’ latest two-game losing streak appears to have killed anyone’s interest in providing the Q part of this here Q&A! But we got a few responses and will try to make do with what we got!
Let’s get into it!
Our last Mailbag was dominated by the potentiality of a Calgary Flames firesale and the opportunities available to Vancouver should the price be right. The few questions I received this week are similar but with a focus shifted away from the Flames toward the options elsewhere in the NHL. Especially with the Flames letting it be known through back channels that they weren’t interested in trading within the Division, specifically with Vancouver.
Rude, I know.
So, with Carson Soucy out for 6-8 weeks and the roster looking beat up by the schedule as they fight through exhaustion and injury to defy those “PDO sustainability” warnings from those no-good Eastern Media analytics nerds, what options exist for Vancouver to punch up the roster in the near and now?
There aren’t many defencemen on good contracts who could figure into Vancouver’s current short-term and long-term future, nor can they be had for a lower-ish price. But here are a few D-men I think the team should take a look at, even if it’s just to get to the table to find out the price tag.
Again, before you race to the comments going, “Cody, you’ve obviously fallen asleep outside in the Arizona sunshine and have lost your mind!” Remember that Seth Jones is actually pretty dang good!
Jones’ deal pays him $9.5-million until he’s 35 years old, which may seem like an eternity, but it’s not like the Canucks are swimming in sure-fire NHL-ready right-shot defensive studs. Hunter Brzustewicz is still 3 to 4 years away from being an impact NHLer, and Tom Willander—if everything shakes right—could be playing everyday 3rd-pairing minutes in 2 to 3 years.
Adding Jones to the fold would push Filip Hronek to the second pair with Carson Soucy, Ian Cole, or [insert cheap offseason addition here].
Despite their firesale for draft capital and assets that landed them Connor Bedard, the Blackhawks are still years away from contention and don’t have a prospect pool that will lend to a speedy turnaround. Over the last three seasons, the team set fire to their roster, going from some of the ugliest books in the league—remember Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane’s mega-deals hanging on the books?—to then have a capfriendly page with just one contract existing beyond 2025-26 (Jones).
I’m sure Seth Jones still figures into their long-term outlook. But given how GM Kyle Davidson has maximized youth futures over veterans signed to long-term deals, it wouldn’t be that absurd to see a move like Jones to Vancouver. Surely, a deal exists that involves either a mix of draft picks and a high-end prospect (think Brzustewicz, Willander, or Lekkerimaki) or a mix of NHL-ready players that Davidson can flip for more youth/futures that expire sooner (think Kuzmenko, Myers, Höglander, Podkolzin+ etc.).
Jones obviously wouldn’t come cheap, but a Hughes-Jones pairing would be nasty.
Zach Whitecloud, Daniil Miromanov, Brayden Pachal, Kaedan Korczak, or Nic Hague
It boggles the mind how the Vegas Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup!
It’s almost as if they are just oozing depth at every position! There are probably three or five defencemen on the Golden Knights who could be impact players for Vancouver right now in the short and long term.
Vegas has 6’3″ right-shot d-man Kaedan Korczak and 6’0″ Brayden Pachal knocking on the door for full-time roster spots, but they are stuck fighting for roles behind Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud—two incredible defencemen who themselves are stuck playing third-pair minutes behind Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, and Alec Martinez.
The team is outrageously deep on defence.
Martinez’s contract expires this season, which opens the door for more ice time for Nic Hague, but the right side is quite locked in for the following year. Miromanov and Korczak become RFAs at the end of this season and will all be waivers-eligible in 2024-25.
Champagne problems: you win the Stanley Cup and need to find space for five NHL-caliber defencemen to fit in your current championship-calibre d-corps.
The world’s tiniest, tackiest, gold-bedazzled, neon-glowing violin is playing somewhere for Vegas.
At this point, it would be criminal of Patrik Allvin not to be one of the GMs eying the situation and Vegas and trying to pry one of those five studs out. All five would have an immediate full-time role with Vancouver. They all have size, speed, offensive ability, and penalty-killing utility. None of the five defencemen listed are power play features for Vegas, so there isn’t a concern that their play drops off because their points totals are bloated by power play role. They’re monsters at evens and on the PK. Two areas where the Canucks are desperate for depth and skill, especially from their defence.
Whitecloud would be my primary target due to the contract: a gritty 27-year-old locked up until he’s 31 at an extremely cheap cap hit of $2,750,000 would be found gold for a team like Vancouver!
Miromanov hasn’t suited up this season due to an undisclosed injury. The well-travelled Russian is a 6’4″, 201 lb. right-shot pivot who turns 27 next June. On two atrocious Henderson Silver Knights’ teams, Miromanov logged 20 goals and 42 assists over 90 games. In the NHL, he’s logged 2 goals and 5 assists over 25 games. The NHL sample size isn’t there yet, but he’d be an intriguing upside project due to his size and counting stats. His lack of experience and present injury status may make him cheaper to acquire than the other four.
Whitecloud, Pachal, Korczak, and Hague would likely be too expensive for Vancouver to pry out of Vegas, but would be 100% worth a try. Assuming the Canucks are finishing with a pick in the 22-32 range, I wouldn’t be opposed to moving this year’s first-round pick for one of those four players.
This one’s a gimme.
Rick Tocchet clearly has an affinity for the 26-year-old right-shot defenceman’s work ethic, and the club has made it clear that they want Bear the second he’s recovered from his shoulder injury. Sometimes, the best solutions are the easiest.
Unfortunately, Bear won’t be ready until mid-to-late December, and the club still needs to carve out the cap space to fit him onto the roster.
That said, I’m all for signing Bear to a longer-term deal at a smaller cap hit, especially if doing so would reduce the potential damage of a cap-space clearing move. Andre Kuzmenko and Nils Höglander haven’t exactly endeared themselves to Rick Tocchet with their play as of late, but they are players with enough upside and skill that they wouldn’t cost the team to move in-season for cap space/upgrades. The fanbase would hate it! But look at Vegas; sometimes making unpopular moves in the name of improving the team is what’s, dare I say it, best for the team!
Given Pelech’s no-trade protections and usage in Long Island, I doubt this would ever happen. But it would be really funny to see another Western Conference club pry a stud defenceman from Lou Lamoriello because the Isles’ books are thoroughly cooked.
The cost would be prohibitive, but Pelech plays big minutes on the left side, improving the club’s depth dramatically over the near and long term.
Again, supremely unlikely. But incredibly funny, if just to see the Isles continue to do <gestures wildly> whatever it is they’re doing lately.
Another team whose season has gone off the rails, the Minnesota Wild, are 6th-last in the NHL and in a “biding our time” phase of the franchise as they wait for their prospects to develop into full-time NHLers. The Wild have one more season left of the $14,743,588 dead cap hit from the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts. Merrill makes $1.2-million for one more season and could likely be had for a low cost. The 6’3″ left-shot defenceman is 7th among the Wild’s d-corps by ice time per game. With Soucy out for 6-8 weeks, he’d surely have a bigger role locked up in Vancouver for the near term, and next season would be a decent option to replace Ian Cole, should he not return.
Another big-boy on the left side with decent underlying numbers at 5-on-5, Seeler sits 5th among Flyers defencemen by ice time per game. Seeler kills penalties, drops the gloves, and has the third-best share of goals for at 5-on-5 among Flyers d-men. Through 251 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time, the Flyers have outscored opponents 18 to 11.
By comparison, only two defencemen on the Canucks have a goal-differential at 5-on-5 that good.
Beyond the physicality, getting a defenceman who can hold his own—and then some—at 5-on-5 for a league minimum cap hit would be a sizeable upgrade for the Canucks, who’ve struggled to make hay at even strength this season with their best players ice time. Let alone with their least used.
Seeler has found his stride under Tortorella despite the Flyers’ struggles, and he’d be worth a shot under Rick Tocchet, who wants his teams to play a Tortorella-adjacent, hard-nosed, “outwork your man at all times” brand of hockey.
I’m going back to the pool to dehydrate in the sun.
Who are some defencemen you’d like to see the Canucks target this season for immediate or long-term help?
Recent articles from Cody Severtson