Project Petey’s Partner Part III: 8 less-obvious targets for the Canucks to consider this summer

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
20 days ago
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Ah, the trilogy. You know a series has really ‘made it’ when it hits the third edition, and that’s the point at which we’ve reached in our Project Petey’s Partner anthology. It’s a series of articles in which we’ve been scouring the NHL for players who might address what many see as the Vancouver Canucks’ most pressing issue: a distinct lack of quality linemates provided to Elias Pettersson of late.
First, we looked at the pending UFA market. Then, we looked at those candidates who were known to be in the trade market. Now, today, we’re here to explore some less-obvious candidates.
It’s a point in our exploration that pessimists might call ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel,’ and optimists might call ‘thinking outside the box.’ The players we’re listing today stand out because they don’t stand out as obvious trade candidates or as obvious fits on a Pettersson line.
But GM Patrik Allvin and Co. haven’t always gone with the obvious solution in the past, and maybe this, too, is an issue they can solve with some atypical thinking.
Morgan Frost, Philadelphia Flyers
C/LW, 25, 6’0”, 193lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$2.1 mil2025 (RFA)7113284115:5052.5%
Frost is a young player who arrived in the NHL with a lot of hype. He struggled to make an impact at first, but then, just when he started to make a regular impact, Frost found himself firmly within John Tortorella’s doghouse. He’s the kind of player that Philadelphia fans are lobbying to be traded, not because they want to be rid of him but because they truly believe his potential could best flourish elsewhere –– including on a line with Pettersson?
The fact that Frost has produced as much as he has, in generally limited opportunities, suggests that he probably has more to give. He’s a highly mobile playmaker who can create space for his linemates and then get them the puck, which sounds like a fine fit for Pettersson. The real upside here is that, with a few younger prospects coming into the Flyers, Frost could be a highly affordable asset both in terms of trade cost and his low cap hit.
Ross Colton, Colorado Avalanche
C/LW, 27, 6’0”, 194lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$4 mil [NTC]2027 (UFA)8017234013:4353.0%
Colton is a hard player to get a read on. He’ll be 28 years old before the 2024/25 campaign starts, yet he’s just three-and-a-half years into his NHL career. During that career, split between Tampa Bay and Colorado, Colton has pretty consistently scored at a 20-goal, 40-point pace, despite his highest amount of ice time being the 13:43 he received last year.
Colton has spent much of his time in the NHL as a depth centreman with some jam. But some believe he’s actually better suited as a winger on a scoring line, a role he’s only been tried in sparingly. He’s a good shooter who likes to play in the difficult areas and plays bigger than his frame.
There’s also a belief that Colton may be shopped as a cap casualty of Colorado, with Gabriel Landeskog set to return and Val Nichushkin’s status still up in the air. Colton went for a second-round pick last time he was traded, and he’s probably available for a similar value now.
Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning
C/W, 26, 6’0”, 189lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$6.25 mil 2031 (UFA)7920254518:3152.6%
Speaking of cap trouble, it’s no secret that the Tampa Bay Lightning are in some hot water again and need to make some cuts in order to keep their best players in the fold. With a full NTC kicking in next year, this will be their last chance to bail on Cirelli’s lengthy contract without restrictions –– and he happens to be coming off a real down year. The table is set for him to be traded, and if so, he makes a lot of sense as a Pettersson linemate.
Cirelli stands out first as a defensively responsible forward who has often been in the Selke conversation. But while he’s best known as a checking centre –– not a negative for a Pettersson linemate –– he’s also got some major scoring chops and can play any forward position. He looks to have 30-goal potential under the right circumstances, and the Canucks could certainly place him in those circumstances.
However, those defensive accolades and Stanley Cup experience might combine to drive the bidding up on Cirelli and out of the Canucks’ reasonable range. We have to suspect a first-round pick would be involved, at a minimum.
Arthur Kaliyev, Los Angeles Kings
RW, 22, 6’2”, 210lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$894K2024 (RFA)51781511:4858.0%
What is a player with 15 points doing on this list? Call it a potential low-risk, high-reward gamble. Kaliyev certainly profiles as an NHL talent, but he’s been unable to put it together due in large part to getting pushed out by younger, more exciting LA prospects.
Kaliyev has the size and shooting ability to be a power forward, and the skating has come along a long way. If the Canucks strike out on options with more certainty, they could probably pick Kaliyev up for pretty cheap, as he is no longer exempt from waivers. A younger prospect swap probably does it.
Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres (or bought-out UFA?)
LW, 32, 5’11”, 197lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$9 mil [NMC]2027 (UFA)7424224616:0051.9%
Don’t laugh. Sure, Skinner is a player with a lot of warts on his game. And no one in their right mind would want to pay him anywhere near $9 million for what he provides.
But ‘no one’ might very well include the Sabres, who sound as though they’re well on their way to buying Skinner out. If that happens, the possibility of signing Skinner to a short-term, low-pay, show-me contract starts to pick up some serious appeal.
He’s definitely a little on the small, not-so-defensively responsible side to make an ideal partner for Pettersson. But the skill is undeniable, and a formerly Selke-nominated centre in Pettersson might be exactly the kind of linemate Skinner needs in order to be at his best.
Chances are good that if bought out, Skinner will seek a new home on the East Coast. But if no one there wants him and he goes looking elsewhere, Vancouver could make a compelling backup destination.
Andrew Mangiapane, Calgary Flames
LW, 28, 5’10”, 184lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$5.8 mil [M-NTC]2025 (UFA)7514264016:0051.3%
The shine has really come off of Mangiapane of late, but then the same could be said about the entire Calgary Flames franchise. He burst onto the scene in the 2021-2022 season with a 35-goal campaign but has failed to hit the 20-goal plateau over his previous two seasons.
Mangiapane isn’t so old yet that he doesn’t have bounce-back potential, especially if given an assignment like riding a shotgun with Pettersson. Part of Mangiapane’s low numbers of late can be attributed to him playing on a shutdown line in Calgary.
If the Flames are still not committed to a rebuild, they’re going to need to clear a little space this summer to make improvements. If they offer up Mangiapane as a dump or for an extremely low cost, he’d be a reclamation project at least worth considering.
Alexandre Texier, Columbus Blue Jackets
LW/C, 24, 6’1”, 194lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$1.525 mil2024 (RFA)7812183015:1148.9%
Texier falls into the category of buy-low, or perhaps ‘medium-risk, medium-reward.’ He’s had a difficult start to his NHL career, battling injuries and personal issues that saw him spend all of 2022/23 playing in the Swiss-A league.
Last year, he returned to the NHL and put up fairly respectable numbers. But in 2021/22, his third NHL campaign, Texier scored 11 goals in just 36 games, a nearly 25-goal pace. Does he still have that in him?
At 24, Texier is just hitting his prime years, and given his developmental path, he may realistically be a step or two behind the ordinary progression. With countless other young scoring wingers already present or arriving soon in Columbus, Texier could be pushed out and thus available for a very low price. Like Kaliyev, he makes sense as a backup option should the Canucks not land a more known quantity.
Rickard Rakell, Pittsburgh Penguins
RW, 31, 6’1”, 195lb
2023/24 Cap HitExpiryGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
$5 mil [M-NTC]2028 (UFA) 7015223716:3154.7%
Aside from Skinner, Rakell is the oldest player on this list. That alone makes him a questionable fit, especially since he is signed for this season and three more thereafter. He’s also coming off a pretty terrible season, which explains why he might be available. But Rakell is one year removed from a 28-goal, 60-point campaign and has scored as many as 34 goals in the past. He may still have a few more productive years left in him.
His age and lack of physicality make him a less-than-ideal candidate to partner with Pettersson. But if Rakell were to be made available for free or even with a small sweetener attached, is that worth considering? It depends on how the other options pan out, really.
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