Monday Mailbag: Christian Wolanin growing his sample size, weaponizing cap space, and the hope for Jack Rathbone

Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
By Faber
1 year ago
Relatively speaking, it was a quiet week in the wacky world of the Vancouver Canucks.
We saw three home games this week and the Canucks picked up one win and two regulation losses. They were outscored 14-11 through the three games and saw two starts for the youngster Arturs Silovs.
At just 21 years old, Silovs is undoubtedly ahead of schedule regarding his development but this past week has been nothing but good news for the goaltender. He picked up his first NHL win on Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers in a game where he stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced.
It’s still way too early to start and imagine what Silovs would look like as a consistent NHL goaltender but after his strong performance on Saturday night, the excitement level can certainly rise when it comes to the 21-year-old’s future. He will likely be back in the AHL with a starter’s workload once Thatcher Demko returns from injury. Or, we may even see Spencer Martin back up with the NHL team and Silovs back to the AHL as he prepares for a Calder Cup run with Abbotsford.
Aside from the young goalie, there continues to be a lot of whispers about the Canucks being active on the trade market.
Luke Schenn, Brock Boeser, and even J.T. Miller have been rumoured to have teams interested. Thatcher Demko may even be a name to watch if he gets back to game action and shows well.
The trade deadline is less than two weeks away and we’d expect to see the Canucks be active. They have the cap space to be a third-team in to help teams with salary cap issues — so long as the Canucks can return some draft capital for the use of their cap space.
All that being said, it is likely to be a hectic couple of weeks here as we approach the March 3rd trade deadline. The Canucks should be active and try to weaponize their cap space to help build for the long term. We will have to see what Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin are cooking up.
Now, let’s dive into the mailbag and see what questions were asked by the wonderful people of Canucks Twitter.
One game isn’t going to be enough to form even a small sample size for Christian Wolanin but with Oliver Ekman-Larsson out for some weeks, it looks like a small sample size is going to be formed for Christian Wolanin.
We’ve been watching him be one of the best defencemen in the AHL all season long and it didn’t come as a surprise that he had success in his first NHL game this season.
Wolanin led the Canucks in control of expected goals on Saturday night and made some smart plays with the puck while showing decent movement throughout the game. He certainly has a toolbelt full of NHL skills and it will be interesting to see how Wolanin plays over the next 5-10 games.
Our expectation is that Wolanin will play well over this next stretch of games. He is on a one-year contract with the Canucks and has been very thankful to the organization for the opportunities that he was given in the AHL to be the top-dog and eat up so many minutes. Now, he is getting his shot with the NHL team and it feels like the Canucks have found a defenceman who can help with organizational depth.
The fact that Wolanin is getting time on the second power play unit gives him a great chance to impress with his offensive skills and as long as he sticks with Luke Schenn on a pairing, the duo should face some easier matchups at five-on-five. Having Schenn as his partner also gives Wolanin the chance to be the primary puck-mover on his pairing.
In general, the spot that Wolanin is currently in with the Canucks is a great one. He worked his way up to the NHL with how well he played in the AHL this season and is now cashing in that work for an opportunity to show what he can do in the NHL. It’s still very early to fully make a statement on if Wolanin will be able to get a spot in the Canucks’ lineup next year but there’s no problem with beginning the conversation now.
As the trade deadline approaches, the Canucks have a good amount of cap space and should absolutely get involved with helping facilitate trades.
The market will begin to be set on the dollar value for cap space soon and it may be a good idea to be the team that sets that market instead of a team that abides by the set precedent of value.
Timo Meier has a $6,000,000 cap hit, Jakob Chychrun has a $4,600,000 for two seasons, and Patrick Kane has a $10,500,000 cap hit. All of these players are rumoured to be on the market and the Canucks have the cap space to be able to help a team move money around to make a big move possible.
This added cap space from Ilya Mikheyev and Tanner Pearson hitting LTIR helps the Canucks and we could see even more space with Oliver Ekman-Larsson out for some weeks.
It would be a miss from the organization if they don’t weaponize their cap space, and we should have high expectations for the Canucks at the deadline because of the fact that cap space is king in this current day and age of the salary cap era in the NHL.
The last we heard from Travis Green was that he was Canada’s coach at the Spengler Cup and that did not go well at all. We’re pretty sure that Donnie & Dhali will be having Green on their show in the coming weeks.
As for Jim Benning. It’s been radio silence. Perhaps he moves into a scouting role in the future or maybe he just had enough hockey after his time in Vancouver. We have not heard anything about Benning getting back into hockey any time soon.
Not being able to gain momentum from playing has certainly cost Jack Rathbone over the past couple of years.
Now, at 23 years old, this season certainly set itself up for Rathbone to hit the gas hard and be able to prove himself as an NHL-calibre defenceman. He played just six games in the NHL this season before heading down to the AHL and battling an injury early on. There’s certainly still a lot of upside in his game but Rathbone is going to need consistent minutes to be able to develop. Being in the AHL is a good spot for him now and he will have to put in a lot of work to earn himself another go with Vancouver.
There’s no doubt that Rathbone could play in a depth role on a handful of NHL teams right now. The Canucks have an abundance of depth left-shot defencemen in their system and until the organization wants to give Rathbone an opportunity, we will have to settle with players like Riley Stillman, Christian Wolanin, and Kyle Burroughs getting time over the 23-year-old Rathbone.
Having him reset in the AHL this season and then coming in next season with the drive to win a spot out of camp is more than likely how this situation will play out.
If another team is interested in Rathbone, the Canucks may look to swap him for a prospect of similar age and pedigree but potentially at a different position.
Some other U24 names who may be in a similar position to Rathbone and may benefit from a change of scenery are guys like Will Cuylle (NYR), Zac Jones (NYR), Georgii Merkulov (BOS), Marc McLaughlin (BOS), Samuel Walker (MIN), Gage Concalves (TB), Declan Carlile (TB), Victor Söderstrom (ARI), or Brady Lyle (STL).
Maybe the Canucks want to find a similarly valued 21-25-year-old player who they believe is close to the NHL at a different position. Trading Rathbone may also be his quickest path to the NHL.
That wraps up this week’s Monday Mailbag. As always, thank you to the folks who sent in their questions on Twitter.
Be sure to keep your eye out for the call for questions every Sunday afternoon.
We will see you next week for another edition of the CanucksArmy Monday Mailbag.

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