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Should the Canucks use the waiver wire to shore up their RHD depth this preseason?

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
7 months ago
In news that was only exciting to those of us far too interested in hockey transactions, the NHL’s waiver wire officially opened on Thursday. Vancouver Canucks goaltender Spencer Martin was among the seven players placed on Day One waivers, and there’s already been some speculation that he’s going to be claimed.
But should GM Patrik Allvin and Co. be looking to make some waiver claims of their own at some point in this preseason?
To answer that question, let’s break down their roster needs by position.
They’re currently trying to lose a goaltender to waivers in the form of Martin, so obviously the Canucks aren’t interested in claiming a waiver goalie.
And we can all agree that the Canucks don’t need any more wingers. They’ve arguably already got one too many, and if they’re looking for more, they’ve got a couple of prospects like Arshdeep Bains potentially ready to make an impact.
They probably don’t need any more centers, either. Elias Pettersson, JT Miller, Pius Suter, Teddy Blueger, and Nils Åman seem like plenty down the middle, and both Max Sasson and Aatu Räty look ready for a few minutes.
The left defence position is more interesting. Quinn Hughes, Ian Cole, Carson Soucy, and Matt Irwin would seem like ample depth, but if one of Cole or Soucy winds up playing most of their minutes on the right side, there’s room for more. In that case, however, the Canucks might be more interested in employing an internal option, like Christian Wolanin or Akito Hirose or Guillaume Brisebois or Jack Rathbone.
Then there’s right defence. That ol’ chestnut. None would argue that the Canucks haven’t improved their RHD situation from years past, but it’s still just Filip Hronek and Tyler Myers over there. Chances are good they’ll be joined by one of Cole or Soucy eventually. But after that set of three? The pickings are slim.
It was Noah Juulsen’s spot to lose, but through limited preseason action, he seems well on the way to losing it.
Next up would be Jett Woo, but he’s noticeably struggled in NHL exhibition action, and could probably benefit from at least one more year of Abbotsford seasoning.
Filip Johansson, meanwhile, is a North American rookie pro who didn’t exactly show well in the Penticton Young Stars Tournament. If anyone needs more seasoning, it’s him, and he doesn’t have to clear waivers himself to get it.
It’s Cole McWard that has probably shown the best of the bunch, but he’s also the youngest at just 22 (and he won’t turn 23 until June). Not only is he young, he’s fresh out of the NCAA. The responsible choice for McWard’s development is almost certain to get him top-four minutes in Abbotsford, not to have him lining up behind Hronek and Myers.
But that’s it. The Canucks don’t have any other options for right-handed defenders. This leaves them without a clear-cut 4RD on the roster, and if both Cole and Soucy wind up staying on their natural left side, the problem becomes even more dire. The notion of heading into opening night against McDavid and Draisaitl with any of Juulsen, Woo, or Johansson as the 3RD is not currently feeling terrific.
Perhaps, then, the waiver wire could offer some better options.
We don’t mean today’s waiver wire. Though Ty Smith has played some RD before, he’s a LHD and not the most useful. (Remember when some of you wanted to trade Quinn Hughes for him? We do.)
But there are a lot of cuts left to be made, and there will be a lot more players hitting waivers, including some RHD of note.
Whom, you might ask?
Here’s some of our best guesses:
 
Conor Timmins
Toronto Maple Leafs, 25, 6’2”, 202lb
The Leafs already have Timothy Liljegren and John Klingberg as RHDs, plus TJ Brodie and Jake McCabe, who frequently play on their off-side. Timmins is ostensibly the 3RD or 4RD, but his spot isn’t certain, and that’s exacerbated by the Leafs’ cap issues. They might run with just six defenders on their roster, or they might feel the need to swap out Timmins’ $1.1 million salary for someone making closer to the minimum.
For the Canucks’ part, Timmins is a not-small two-way defender who put up a shocking amount of points in a short stint last year. With his injury troubles, he has every reason to be a late bloomer, and might just be.
 
Johnathan Kovacevic
Montreal Canadiens, 26, 6’5”, 223lb
Kovacevic is a big RHD from Grimsby, Ontario, so that’s already reason be excited for the Canucks’ faithful. He was a waiver claim from Winnipeg who played well enough for the Canadiens’ last year, but may wind up on waivers again this year as he’s overtaken by youth.
Basically, Kovacevic should make their roster, but if the Habs decide to keep either David Reinbacher or Justin Barron around, it will come at the cost of Kovacevic’s job.
He’s nothing fancy, but he is at least capable of defending at the NHL level.
 
Brayden Pachal
Vegas Golden Knights, 24, 6’1”, 204lb
Pachal was along for the ride with the Stanley Cup champions last year, but he’s perhaps better known for being named captain of his AHL squad at the tender age of 22. Now 24, Pachal is still pretty young to be potentially hitting the waiver wire, and he’d be a quality pickup from a franchise that has issues hanging on to talent.
Pachal will probably make the Golden Knights’ roster based on his experience and low salary, but if he’s overtaken by a prospect like Kaedan Korczak, that could change in a hurry. He’s a solid all-around defender with a history of winning, and there should be multiple teams interested.
 
Ty Emberson
New York Rangers, 23, 6’1”, 195lb
This 23-year-old former third rounder of Arizona has no real chance of cracking the deep New York blueline, but he’s developed fairly well at the AHL level as a defensive defender with some occasional offensive pop. His age and strong AHL playoffs last season make him an intriguing candidate with more long-term potential than the average waiver claim.
 
Lassi Thomson
Ottawa Senators, 23, 6’0”, 190lb
The 19th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft is out of waiver exemption having just turned 23 a few days ago. Thomson hasn’t exactly given the Senators a reason to keep him around, and he’s been cleanly passed by younger, better prospects, but for another organization, it might be worth going back to the well one more time with Lassi.
He’s an offensively-gifted blueliner with excellent skating abilities and some still-existent holes in his defensive game. He’s also got a good point-shot, which could be seen as an asset to the Canucks.
 
Dylan Coghlan
Carolina Hurricanes, 25, 6’2”, 208lb
The 25-year-old from Duncan has had the misfortune of starting his NHL career trying to break in to two of the deepest bluelines in Vegas and Carolina. He’s run out of waiver exemption now, and that probably has him hitting the wire despite getting into 105 NHL games across the past three seasons.
Coghlan is mostly lauded for his offensive attributes and puck-moving abilities, but his defensive game is said to have improved. It’d almost have to, being a member of the Hurricanes.

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