A preseason trade between the Canucks and the Columbus Blue Jackets still makes plenty of sense
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
The last time that Rick Dhaliwal reported there might be a trade impending, Tanner Pearson was swapped for Casey DeSmith within less than 24 hours.
So, this time around, when Dhaliwal says that the Canucks are “working the phones” trying to make a trade before the 2023/24 regular season begins, we have ample reason to believe that it’s true.
As Dhaliwal put it to on-air partner Don Taylor, “The Canucks haven’t claimed anybody on waivers as of yet, Don. I do believe they’re working the phones and I do believe they’re trying. They’ve got work to do with this roster and I think they know that, and I think they’re working the phones right now.”
Of course, working the phones trying to make a trade does not necessarily equate with a trade actually happening, especially at this time of the year. This is the point in the season in which teams are struggling to decide who to cut, not looking to add more to the mix. It’s tough to look around the league and find another roster that also isn’t quite yet settled, and that has the pieces in place to make a mutually-beneficial trade with the Canucks.
Until one takes a look at the Columbus Blue Jackets.
We’ve been saying it all summer, and we’re still saying it now: a trade between the Canucks and the Blue Jackets makes a lot of sense.
There’s a multitude of reasons, but it can be summed up as simply as supply and demand. The Blue Jackets have an abundance of the two things the Canucks need most, meaning RHD and cap space. Meanwhile, the Jackets themselves are short on scoring, which is probably the only thing the Canucks possess in excess.
The Blue Jackets have already seen talented defenders squeezed off their roster this preseason, like Marcus Bjork, who just hit waivers and cleared.
But the tough decisions aren’t done quite yet. Columbus still has five RHD on its roster right now in Damon Severson, Andrew Peeke, Erik Gudbranson, Adam Boqvist, and Nick Blankenburg; all arguably deserving of an NHL role. That’s to say nothing of Jake Bean, an injured LHD who frequently plays on the right, and top prospect David Jiricek, who might not be ready now but will be very soon.
At a position where most teams are thinnest, Columbus is decidedly overstocked. The same could be said of their approximate $4.5 million in cap space heading into the season.
Up front, however, it’s a different story. The Jackets do not have a deep forward corps, and their right wing depth is particularly shoddy. Behind Patrik Laine, who is currently playing centre, they’ve got Kirill Marchenko and Emil Bemstrom in their top-six. Behind them they’ve got the likes of Jack Roslovic, Justin Danforth, and Mathieu Olivier, which is not exactly an inspiring group.
If the Blue Jackets want any hope of cracking the playoffs in the East this season, they’re probably going to want more veteran scoring help on the wings.
Which is where the Vancouver Canucks come in.
The basic shape of the deal we’re imagining is one in which the Canucks swap one of their wingers for one of Columbus’ right-handed defenders, ideally with more salary headed to Columbus than is coming back to Vancouver.
And within that basic shape, there’s really only a couple of deals that make sense, with a Conor Garland for Andrew Peeke swap being at the top of the list.
We’ve written extensively about Peeke over the past couple of years as a steady all-around talent on the right that can skate well and is defensively-dedicated. In other words, the exact sort of RHD the Canucks have been looking for since they drafted Quinn Hughes. There’s little doubt that Peeke belongs in the NHL, he’s just caught in a numbers game.
The same could be said of Garland. He’s one of about ten wingers vying for a spot in the Canucks’ top-nine right now, and although he’s had a great preseason, he’s going to still struggle to pull ice-time away from the likes of Andrei Kuzmenko, Brock Boeser, Ilya Mikheyev, and Anthony Beauvillier. Heck, at this point it’s looking like he might struggle to pull ice-time away from Phil di Giuseppe!
Removing a winger from the equation allows more room for someone like Nils Höglander to get a legitimate shot, and it leaves more room for Vasily Podkolzin to take another run at things whenever he is recalled. In other words, it’s a positive all around, and all it will cost the Canucks is some scoring potential that they’ve already got plenty of. And if getting rid of that extra winger can bring back a badly-needed RHD, that’s just perfect.
As it stands, there’s a $2.2 million difference in cap hit between Garland and Peeke, though Peeke is signed for an additional year. One might imagine that the Canucks would be asked to throw in at least a small sweetener to get this trade across the finish line, but that would probably be acceptable, so long as we’re not talking a second rounder or anything like that.
There are some other swaps that might make some sense, too. Maybe a Beauvillier-for-Boqvist arrangement. Maybe a budget-conscious Jack Studnicka-for-Blankenburg exchange.
But on the whole, it’s Peeke who makes the most sense for the Canucks, and veteran RW Garland who makes the most sense for the Blue Jackets.
Is that the conversation currently happening as the Canucks work the phones? We don’t know. But the pieces are definitely in place for a potential trade, and with the season coming in just a matter of days, we’ll all find out one way or another soon enough.
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