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Should the Vancouver Canucks try to trade for Alex DeBrincat?

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Photo credit:© Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Strang
8 months ago
The NHL rumour mill has been working overtime recently as there seems to be some tension in Ottawa. Winger Alex Debrincat, acquired from Chicago just before last season, has not made it clear that he is willing to sign an extension in Canada’s capital and could be on the move.
DeBrincat scored 66 points in 82 games with the Senators last season and has broken the 30-goal mark three times in his career thus far, including two seasons with more than 40. At 5’8″, he’s one of the smallest players in the league, but he’s still effective due to his agility and devastating shot.
He’s just 25 years old and will become a restricted free agent on July 1st. He has a relatively high qualifying offer at $9 million,  a significant raise on the $6.4 million he cost against the cap last season. If DeBrincat takes that qualifying offer, he can walk as an unrestricted free agent next summer, further encouraging the Senators to make a deal this summer if that scenario seems likely.
So should the Canucks give the Senators a call and inquire about DeBrincat? The two franchises made a deal in March 2022 that sent Travis Hamonic to Ottawa, so there is some recent history. To better understand if it’s worth it for the Canucks to go after DeBrincat, let’s look at some pros and cons.

Pro: DeBrincat is an electric player

The biggest pro when trading for any top-line player is the fact that you’re going to acquire a significant contributor. DeBrincat is a near-lock for 25 goals every season and a threat to score 40+. He would instantly slide onto the Canucks’ top line as well as the top power play unit as one of the team’s premier scoring threats.
It’s very easy to imagine DeBrincat and Elias Pettersson meshing very well together. They’re both super smart players that have a knack for finding open space on the ice. Together with Andrei Kuzmenko, that sounds like a devastating first line that would be a threat to score at all times, even if the wingers would leave something to desire defensively.
It’s not often that you get the chance to acquire a 25-year-old proven NHL first-line player. This is a very rare opportunity for a team, including the Canucks, to add a top-of-the-line talent that is just about the enter what should be the best years of his career.

Con: The acquisition cost

Of course, the flip side to acquiring a bonafide star is that it’s going to be expensive. The Senators know that they have a good asset on their hands and there are sure to be plenty of teams interested.
The price that has been thrown out there in the early days is a solid NHL asset as well as a high draft pick. Last summer, the Senators coughed up a first, second, and third round pick to acquire DeBrincat. It seems unlikely that they’ll be able to recoup that value, but getting a solid NHL player and a first or second round pick seems very possible.
The Canucks do not have a lot of expendable assets to use in a potential trade. The organization is desperate for prospects of any kind and using another high draft pick in a trade means that the pipeline will stay dry. Of course, bringing in DeBrincat eases some of that pain but you really are pushing more of your chips in despite not even being a playoff team.

Pro: His value might never be lower

Last season was one of the weakest of DeBrincat’s career. While he still scored 27 goals and had 66 points in 82 games, those numbers were a step below what he’d managed in the few seasons prior. There were some concerns that DeBrincat’s play in Chicago was buoyed by strong playmaking linemates and his slight down season in Ottawa did nothing to dispel that notion.
The bigger culprit for DeBrincat’s down season is likely his 5-on-5 shooting percentage falling to a career low 7.19%. This led to him scoring just 12 goals at 5-on-5, far fewer than in past years. It’s a safe bet that his shooting percentage will rebound in the future and DeBrincat will once again easily smash through the 30-goal mark.
This summer seems like a good time to buy on DeBrincat as his value might be a bit lower than what it should be in reality. When you add in the fact that it seems pretty clear he does not want to commit to Ottawa long-term, the Senators are going to lose some leverage, potentially dropping the price even further.

Con: He’s a winger

While DeBrincat is a great player, he’s also a diminutive winger. For some teams, that would not matter at all but for the Canucks, it’s an important factor to consider. With Andrei Kuzmenko, Brock Boeser, Ilya Mikheyev, Connor Garland, Anthony Beauvillier, Vasili Podkolzin, and Nils Höglander all on the roster, the Canucks don’t really need to add to this already crowded position group.
Unless the Canucks can move out some of the wingers already on the roster, the fit between the team and the organization is a bit weird. When you look at the cost of clearing cap space around the league right now, such as the deal that the Los Angeles Kings just made, it seems tough for the Canucks to move off some of the bloated contracts they have on the wings.
While DeBrincat is a great player, the Canucks just do not need to be in the market for another smaller winger. Unless things change drastically with the current roster, the fit is awkward and will lead to even more issues down the line.

Pro: He fits the timeline

At 25-years-old, DeBrincat fits the timeline for the Canucks very well. He’s the same age as Filip Hronek and within a couple of years of other key players like Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. DeBrincat still has many productive seasons ahead of him and the chance to take his game to new levels.
25-year-old NHL players are rarely available on the open market, especially ones that have already scored more than 40 goals multiple times. If the Canucks are going to swing for the fences and make trades, they need to be targeting players in this age range, as they did with the Hronek trade.

Con: The large financial commitment 

DeBrincat is going to need a new contract this summer and it’s not going to be a small one. For a team that’s already pushed right up against the upper limit of the salary cap, there’s no denying that fitting in another large contract will be a challenge and could cause some casualties.
DeBrincat’s next deal could be worth as much as $8-9 million per season if it’s a long-term contract. This would put a lot of additional pressure on the Canucks’ salary cap situation and make it even harder for the team to maneuver what’s already a messy issue.

Verdict:

While acquiring Alex DeBrincat would be a huge boost to the Canucks forward group, his position and upcoming salary commitments mean that it would be risky for Vancouver to pull the trigger. With a prospect pool that already ranks near the bottom of the league and only a few picks in the first couple rounds of this summer’s draft, the Canucks cannot be giving up additional assets to acquire a smaller winger, even if it is someone as good as DeBrincat.
 

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