Potential Hronek Hreplacements Part II: 9 realistic trade targets for the Canucks at RHD

Photo credit:© Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
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Sometimes, finishing off Part II of a two-part article is easy. No need to think of a new premise, not as much preamble required, formatting all taken care of.
Sometimes, it’s difficult, because whatever premise you set up in the first piece doesn’t carry quite as easily over to the second.
This is one of the latter scenarios.
This past week, we discussed the possibility of the necessity of the Vancouver Canucks replacing Filip Hronek. The idea was straightforward enough: Hronek, reportedly seeking a contract extension in excess of $7 million per season, is the Canucks’ most expensive free agent to re-sign and, as a pending RFA, is also the only one they could get any sort of value back for in a trade.
Thus, the impetus to consider trading Hronek is obvious.
But then, should he traded, that leaves Noah Juulsen as the highest-ranking RHD on the Vancouver depth chart. Therefore, the moment Hronek is theoretically traded, replacing him at that position becomes the team’s highest priority. It’s the kind of thing they have to plan for before putting their player to market.
In Part I, we took at look at potential replacements on the UFA market, and found a top-heavy collection of about 11 possibilities. We also promised to find some reasonable trade targets for Part II, and as we said at the outset, that proved significantly more challenging.
These days, RHDs are hard to come by. And an RHD that fits the bill as a Hronek replacement – cheaper to sign or already under contract, around the same age or younger, capable of playing top-pairing minutes – are even harder to come by. And that’s not even factoring in the inevitably high cost of acquisition.
Below, you’ll find the best names we could come up with, and a brief assessment of how tough it might be to land them.
Brandon Carlo, Boston Bruins
RHD, 27, 6’5”, 217lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGames GoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$4.1 mil (M-NTC)2027 (UFA)764101419:5446.19%
We’re feeling a bit like the old lady from Titanic in writing this article, because it seems like we’ve been writing about acquiring Carlo for 83 years.
You already know what he is. He’s among the biggest, burliest, most defensively-focused RHDs out there, and that’s led to him being thrown around as a potential return for the likes of Bo Horvat and JT Miller. At this point, the Bruins are still looking for help up front, particularly in the form of a 1C, and that will have them scrambling to cut cap somewhere, especially with goalie Jeremy Swayman also needing a lucrative contract extension.
Taking away from the blueline to restock the forwards seems like their only real option, and they won’t be trading Charlie McAvoy or Hampus Lindholm. That leaves Carlo as the next most likely, but that doesn’t mean he will come cheap. Expect a player like Carlo to demand at least a top-five prospect and a top-60 pick at the bare minimum, and at his price-point, the bidding probably only goes up from there.
Rasmus Andersson, Calgary Flames
RHD, 27, 6’1”, 202lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGames GoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$4.55 mil (M-NTC)2026 (UFA)789303923:4947.68%
Andersson is perhaps the premium option on the market, if he is actually on the market. He’s in the midst of his prime years, eats an incredible amount of minutes in all situations, and possesses some serious snarl in his game. He’s also got two years left on his contract at what has become an absolute bargain rate.
He only moves at this point if the Calgary Flames commit to a rebuild of some sort and wish to sell high, but that’s a distinct possibility. Even then, one has to imagine the cost is sky-high, especially for Vancouver. We’re thinking the 2025 first and a top-five prospect as a starting bid, which we realize is astronomical, but this is meant to be the most expensive player on the list.
MacKenzie Weegar, Calgary Flames
RHD, 30, 6’0”, 206lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGames GoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$6.25 mil (NTC)2031 (UFA)8220325222:5550.99%
It’s hard not to compare Weegar directly to Andersson. On the one hand, Weegar is probably the more well-rounded and better overall defender, and that’s true at both ends of the ice. On the other hand, he’s older and signed to a more expensive contract that carries him deep into his late 30s.
The Canucks already have one of these contracts on the books in the form of Miller, and they could have another if they choose to re-sign Elias Lindholm. So, in a sense, Weegar fits in well with the team’s planned window of contention and then-decline. These contractual reasons also probably conspire to make Weegar a cheaper acquisition than Andersson; perhaps a first round pick OR a top-five prospect. But, again, Weegar only goes if the Flames rebuild, and that’s not certain yet.
Connor Murphy, Chicago Blackhawks
RHD, 31, 6’4”, 212lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGames GoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$4.4 mil (M-NTC)2026 (UFA)4626819:4943.24%
Big, physical, and having learned to take on more and more defensive responsibility by necessity; in many ways, Murphy looks like a perfect target for the Canucks. The only thing that isn’t exactly ideal is his age, combined with his proneness for injuries.
Still, Murphy makes some sense as a temporary stop-gap before prospects like Tom Willander become an option.
The Blackhawks might not be exactly eager to trade one of their few capable veteran blueliners. Then again, they’ve already got Seth Jones on contract for the foreseeable future, and if he’s sticking around, Murphy can probably go.
Of all the players on this list, he should reasonably be the cheapest to trade for, and is the only one who could be feasibly had for a cost less than a first round pick.
David Jiricek, Columbus Blue Jackets
RHD, 20, 6’4”, 207lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGames GoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$918K2026 (RFA)43191014:3546.60%
In some ways, this is a pipe-dream. Young RHDs with the draft history of Jiricek don’t get traded very often, if at all. But Jiricek’s first few years with the Columbus organization have not been happy ones, and there appears to be some serious bad blood between player and franchise.
Now, that bad blood may have been mitigated by the departure of GM Jarmo Kekalainen and his replacement by Don Waddell. At the same time, Waddell may be looking to turn this Blue Jackets’ roster around in a hurry, and that may lead him to trade his disgruntled and slow-developing prospect for something more immediate.
It’s coming up with something Columbus would want in return that is the real trouble. Picks and non-NHL-ready prospects don’t move the needle much, and that’s all the Canucks really have on hand. A young forward like Nils Höglander or Vasily Podkolzin could make sense, but the Blue Jackets are already loaded on wingers. This one probably doesn’t fit.
John Marino, New Jersey Devils
RHD, 27, 6’1”, 181lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGames GoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$4.4 mil (M-NTC Pending)2027 (UFA)754212520:5751.24%
Marino is an interesting case, in that he’s got a modified-NTC kicking in as of July 1, but doesn’t currently have any trade protection. He’s a defensive- and matchup-specialist who can hold down massive minutes in any situation, and he’s under contract for three more seasons at an excellent rate.
So, why would the Devils entertain trading him? Room. They’ve got Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec ready to take over the New Jersey blueline, they’ve got Dougie Hamilton returning to the fold, they’ve got others like Jonas Seigenthaler and Kevin Bahl and Seamus Casey. Marino looks like a convenient way for them to recoup some assets and cap space that can be turned toward more prominent needs, like a new starting goalie.
If Marino is made available for picks and prospects, or perhaps for a young forward with talent, that’s something the Canucks can and should be all over. Based on contract alone, the starting price should probably be a first, but Marino was acquired for a third and Ty Smith just two years ago, so maybe it could be less.
Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders
RHD, 29, 6’2”, 216lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGames GoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$6.15 mil (M-NTC)2030 (UFA)585141922:3349.00%
The Islanders find themselves in a tough spot. They’re not good enough to compete, not quite, and they’ve got too many long contracts committed to veterans to really consider a rebuild. All that’s left is a retool, and that could be kickstarted by moving Pulock and officially handing the blueline reins over to Noah Dobson.
Pulock has increasingly focused on his defensive responsibilities on a pairing with Adam Pelech, but injury troubles have also decreased his overall effectiveness. Signed to 2030, Pulock would be on the books for a long, long time, and is already 29, but he might also be reinvigorated by a homecoming to Western Canada.
As far as price, that really depends on how interested NYI is in getting out from under Pulock’s contract, and how badly they feel they need the cap space they could gain from dealing him. We don’t imagine it starts at anything less than a first or its equivalent, however.
Erik Cernak, Tampa Bay Lightning
RHD, 27, 6’3”, 230lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGames GoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$5.2 mil (M-NTC)2031 (UFA)692111319:1146.02%
Not that long ago, the idea of Cernak being on the block would be laughable. He’s an enormous, multifaceted defensive-specialist RHD with Cup experience in the midst of his prime.
But a combination of wear-and-tear and some genuine injury troubles have conspired to limit Cernak’s effectiveness, especially this past season. And that has some Tampa Bay fans whispering that his contract is already an albatross, and one they should try to get out of before it’s too late. This could be especially true as they try to re-sign Steven Stamkos.
The Canucks, meanwhile, are committed to a longer window of contention than the Lightning might be. And if they believe that Cernak can bounce back at all, they’d probably be fine picking up the tab for the next few years, and suffering through those final seasons after the window has closed.
Whether or not the Lightning are looking to ditch him, he won’t come for cheap. Cernak’s resume is extensive, and there will be a market for him, and that will mean a bidding war. A first round pick and a considerable prospect seem like the minimum, although Tampa may rightly prefer a cheap NHL talent, like a Höglander, as a primary piece.
Shea Theodore, Vegas Golden Knights
LHD, 28, 6’2”, 197lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGames GoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOIxGF%
$5.2 mil (M-NTC)2025 (UFA)475374222:0553.36%
In many ways, Theodore would be the dream acquisition here. An expert skater, a true two-way force; Theodore is a lot of the things Hughes is, including left-handed, but he’s also bigger and far more comfortable playing on the right side. He’s also a local product.
We all know about the self-inflicted cap crunch in Vegas, and we all know about their penchant for ruthlessness. We could absolutely see them selling high on Theodore a year before he’s due a very expensive extension at the age of 29.
Of course, if the Canucks were to acquire Theodore, they’d have to do so while intending to offer him that same extension. Maybe they get a slight hometown discount, but they’d still have to be comfortable with one more Miller-style contract on the books.
Then there’s the cost of acquisition. We did say “sell high,” and if Theodore doesn’t wind up being the most expensive player on this list, he’d be damn close. In many ways, Theodore is a perfect fit…but his price-tag also reflects that.

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