For the second year in a row, the Canucks send a cast off to try and address a need

Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
10 months ago
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While the noise around a trade was growing, there probably weren’t many who expected the shoe to drop as fast as it did.
The Tanner Pearson trade marks the final piece of the insurance line (Pearson-Horvat-Eriksson) departing the team. It’s also the second year in a row that the Vancouver Canucks have made a trade like this, casting off a surplus piece, one that was making more money than they would’ve liked, tossing in a sweetener and trying to address a need in their return.
When Pearson first inked his 3-year, $3.25 million AAV contract with the Canucks back in the 2021-22 season, it was regarded as an okay piece of business. Yes, Vancouver had some promising wingers in the system, but surely signing a favourite linemate of the team’s captain wouldn’t backfire, right?
In a vacuum, there shouldn’t have been a problem with the Pearson signing. He was actually making $500,000 less than his previous deal and had shown himself well as a defensively solid middle-6 winger that could chip in some offence. Plus, that chemistry with Horvat was a bonus on top of keeping him around, a solid locker room presence that everyone appreciated.
But the reality of the situation was very different from just the signing in isolation. For one, Pearson was having a rough 2020-21 season. With Vancouver in a tailspin during the COVID-impacted year, Pearson saw his production drop from 45 points in 69 games during the 2019-20 season to a paltry 18 points in 51 games. Granted, the team didn’t perform all too well around him, but that isn’t exactly the kind of numbers that you want out of a forward making $3.75 million in your cap hit.
It makes it all the more head-scratching that Benning would ink him to a contract that didn’t factor in the reduction of production. In fact, the man literally said at the time, “When we talked to his agent, we kind of went through the process and decided that if he goes to free agency that this number is probably the number he is going to get in free agency.” Thus, Pearson became a jarring contract in a flawed roster construction, making life difficult for the Canucks as they attempted to maneuver around the cap ceiling while figuring out their logjam on the wing. His injury timing and struggles sucked for Pearson personally, but was a welcome respite for Vancouver to figure out what their best steps forward.
Dealing Pearson was probably the right move. Both from a personal and professional standpoint, Pearson will benefit from playing for the Habs much more than playing with the Canucks this season. What they got in return from Montreal is also a fair deal as well. There was no way a team was going to take on the winger without any further value added –  and so, the Canucks parted with a 2025 third-round pick. That isn’t awful, all things considered, especially since they are now saving $1.4 million in cap space.
Plus, they’ve been able to add Casey DeSmith, a goaltender with actual NHL experience to back up Thatcher Demko. We all bore witness to how Vancouver’s starting netminder got ridden into the ground, due in large part to spotty backup netminding that would often cost them games. DeSmith looks to be at the very minimum better than Spencer Martin, as well as allowing Arturs Silovs further time to develop in the AHL and not having to undergo the Mikey DiPietro treatment. With this acquisition, Vancouver managed to address a need while shuffling out a position of excess, though at the cost of another draft pick.
Hey, that sounds kind of familiar.
At the start of the 2022-23 season, the Canucks jettisoned Jason Dickinson to the Chicago Blackhawks along with a 2024 2nd-round pick in exchange for Riley Stillman. The logic was the same – a struggling forward in a position of relative strength, with a contract that in a vacuum made sense but couldn’t justify the production and lack of penalty killing, sent off in exchange for a relatively young defender that could’ve helped address the Canucks’ defensive depth issues on the right side.
It was sound reasoning – unfortunately, the results were pretty badly one-sided. Vancouver fans were treated to the horrors that was Stillman on the backend, often the worst defender by eye and by numbers, throwing away pucks and giving up brutal turnovers. Thank goodness they were able to recoup some value at the deadline by dealing him for Josh Bloom, an interesting forward with top-9 potential.
Meanwhile, Dickinson hit the ground running with the Hawks, going on a hot streak to start off the year and finishing off 2022-23 with a career-high 30 points. He also regained the defensive form that made him an appealing acquisition in the first place for the Canucks. Adding salt to the wound is that Vancouver gave up a second-rounder to unload Dickinson – draft capital that has been so hard to come by for this franchise. Of course, the centreman probably got more deployment than he usually would’ve gotten on an actually good team, but Dickinson looked a hell of a lot better in Chicago than he did in Vancouver.
Now, we’ve come full circle. Nearly a full year later, the Vancouver Canucks had to find a way to get under the cap. Put in a compromising position, management found a solution that makes a ton of sense on paper, as inelegant as it might seem. They simultaneously relieved cap pressure and positional surpluses to address a need, at the cost of draft capital. That is the price that a team has to pay to move salary these days. Vancouver has gotten a backup that should be more solid than the ones they tried last year, along with getting some salary breathing room at last.
Only time will tell if this deal was the right one.


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