NHL Mock Trade: Canucks trade Nils Höglander for Brett Pesce

Photo credit:© James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Strang
11 months ago
With the calendar now almost halfway through July, we are in a dead spot for NHL action. The top free agents have all found new homes, the draft is old news, and the start of next season is still months away. This means that it’s the perfect time of year to turn on the hypothetical trade machine.
Brett Pesce has been on the trade market for some time now. The top-four right-handed defenceman is a premium asset league-wide. While he’s expressed his desire to stay in Carolina long-term, the team must consider the upcoming extension he will be due next summer. If they can’t agree to an extension soon, they may need to trade Pesce to avoid losing him for nothing.
TSN insider Pierre LeBrun said the following when discussing the Pesce scenario nearly a month ago:
“Listen, if the Hurricanes have their way, they’re not trading Brett Pesce, they’re signing him to an extension,” said LeBrun. “And those talks continue with his camp, but I think the Hurricanes are also pretty resolute that if they can’t extend Brett Pesce, they will move him this summer to get max value on the asset with a year left on his contract.”
If Pesce is indeed available, the Canucks should absolutely be interested. Pesce would be a great fit on a team desperate for right-handed defencemen. And best of all, the Canucks may have a trade piece that the Hurricanes would want: winger Nils Höglander.
The Carolina Hurricanes have shown interest in Höglander in the past. They are one organization that has been linked to the player in previous discussions. We know that they do at least somewhat believe in what Höglander brings to the table. Of course, he would just be a crucial piece in a package for Pesce.
Cory Lavalette of The Athletic proposed that the Hurricanes might expect a mid first round pick, a bottom of the lineup player, and perhaps an additional asset in a trade. With the Canucks’ potential to bottom out and Höglander’s potential, perhaps a deal would look something like this.
  • To Vancouver: RHD Brett Pesce
  • To Carolina: W Nils Höglander, 2024 1st Round Pick
Pesce does have a 15-team no-trade clause included in his contract. It’s not clear at this time if Vancouver is on that list or not. For the purpose of this hypothetical, we will assume that Pesce is okay with being traded to the west coast.

Why the Hurricanes make this deal

While the Hurricanes aren’t super thrilled about this deal, they do extract value from an asset that they’ll lose in a year for nothing. This means that they at least get something in return and aren’t left empty-handed after Pesce hits the open market during the summer of 2024.
While Nils Höglander has shown flashes of great potential, he hasn’t been able to put it all together in Vancouver. Part of that may be due to the rotating cast of head coaches he’s had throughout his young career thus far. In Carolina, he would get to play for one of the best organizations with plenty of stability behind the bench. That could be a great thing for the young winger.
Because he broke into the league at such a young age, it can be easy to forget that Höglander is still just 22 years old. Plenty of other prospects from his draft class are still making their way through the minors while he has already recorded 141 NHL games.
In addition to Höglander, the Hurricanes are also getting a 2024 first-round pick. The Canucks have been a lottery team for the past few years and while the roster is looking slightly improved, there’s a high chance that they end up back in that position next year. That means that the 2024 first-round draft pick could be very valuable.

Why the Canucks make this deal

The Canucks get the best player in this deal. Pesce is by far and away the top asset in this exchange and someone that the Hurricanes would definitely want to hold onto if they could extend him long-term. Adding Pesce would transform the Canucks right-side defence from a weakness to a strength.
  • Brett Pesce 2022-23 NHL Stats: 82 GP, 5 G, 25 A, 30 PTS, 22:01 TOI
Pesce is great in his own zone and is a crucial part of the Hurricanes’ penalty kill. He was routinely tasked with shutting down the opponent’s top line and took the most defensive zone draws of any Hurricanes’ defenceman. Pesce would fit great next to Quinn Hughes and give the Canucks a legitimate top pairing to be feared league-wide.
The only issue with adding Pesce would be the fact that his contract expires next summer. This means that the Canucks would need to re-sign him, Filip Hronek, and Elias Pettersson at the same time. More moves would have to be made to free up the cap space required to sign all of those players long-term.
Pesce is 28 years old right now, he’ll be 29 next summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, and thus signing him to a long-term deal does come with some risks. However, he’s good enough and has been a crucial part of an excellent defence group that the Canucks could afford to sign that deal.

Final verdict

You can make a solid argument for why both sides would like this trade. The Hurricanes get a great draft pick and a solid young player in return for giving up an ageing asset that they likely won’t even be able to keep a year from now. The Canucks get a legitimate top-four right-handed defenceman that will help greatly on the penalty kill.
While there are long-term consequences to consider in this deal, namely Pesce’s upcoming extension, it does make some sense in a vacuum. The Canucks could upgrade at a position of need cheaper than they might be able to otherwise because the Hurricanes are in an unfortunate salary cap situation.
Of course, there’s lots to be said about the Canucks not sacrificing future assets for win-now moves. However, this one might actually be worth it when you consider what type of player Pesce is and his supreme quality.

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