Of the three top six wingers linked to the Canucks, who’s the best fit for Vancouver?

Photo credit:© Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
1 month ago
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The NHL trade deadline is tomorrow, and the rumours are circulating about the Vancouver Canucks wanting to add a top-six winger. 
While it was never believed that this Canucks management group of Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin were finished after they acquired the top centreman on the trade board, Elias Lindholm — adding another top-six forward was more of a pipe dream than the reality it has become today. 
Again, it became a glaring need because this management team doesn’t believe Lindholm can play on the wing. They’ve backed up these thoughts by having Lindholm centre the third line with Conor Garland and a revolving door of wingers on the left side. Leaving the same gaping hole the Canucks had before the Lindholm trade — a top-six calibre forward on Elias Pettersson’s wing.
While there are multiple wingers available to fill this void, there are three names heavily linked to the Canucks: Jake Guentzel, Tyler Toffoli and Jason Zucker.
Now, each player brings different elements to their game and would come at different acquisition costs. So, which player is the best fit for this playoff run, and what would each player cost to acquire?

Jake Guentzel

Jake Guentzel is the most appealing of the three wingers available, but he also comes with the highest price tag. He has one year remaining on his 6-million-dollar contract and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. 
Guentzel has 22 goals and 52 points in just 50 games this season, with a +9 rating. Individually, he has the highest expected goals/60 (ixG/60), (1.2) and his second-highest scoring chances/60 (iSCF/60), (11.69) of his career.
His on-ice 5-on-5 analytics are even more impressive. When Guentzel is on the ice, the Penguins have the highest scoring chances for percentage (SCF%) and second-highest expected goals for percentage (xGF%). These numbers are also at the highest they’ve ever been in Guentzel’s career, despite this being a rare down year for Pittsburgh.
These indicate that he is having a career year offensively and defensively, as he is producing a higher percentage of expected goals and scoring chances offensively than he allows.  
To put this into perspective, he ranks 40th in xGF% (56.01%) and 32nd in SCF% (56.65%) in the entire league. 
If the Canucks were to trade for the Penguins winger, he would almost certainly slot in next to Pettersson. Guentzel has not only shown the ability to play with high-end talent, as he’s played alongside Sidney Crosby all of his career, but has also proven to elevate his game. 
As you can see, Crosby’s 5-on-5 on-ice analytics drastically change when he is not with Guentzel. 
The price has fluctuated throughout the rumours, but it has settled on the Pittsburgh Penguins wanting a first-round pick, a top-tier prospect who’s almost ready or has already made the jump to the NHL, and a third piece.
The Canucks have already said goodbye to this year’s first-round draft pick, meaning the 2025 first-round pick would have to be involved. 
It’s been heavily reported that Rutherford and Allvin are unwilling to part with their high-end prospects (Jonathan Lekkerimaki, Tom Willander and, to a lesser extent, the other Elias Pettersson.) So, if those are untouchable pieces for Vancouver, what could the Canucks realistically trade to Pittsburgh to entice them enough to make this move?
Well, there’s always a young, cheap winger who’s already made the jump to the NHL and is currently playing in the Canucks’ top-six right now, who has the ninth most 5-on-5 goals in the NHL. But is moving on from Nils Höglander a smart move?
Hoglander has another year remaining on his 1.1 million-dollar contract, and in a year when this roster potentially experiences so much change, cost-efficient versatile forwards like Hoglander will be a necessity for this team next season. 
Now, a player of Guentzel’s calibre would obviously make the Canucks a better team and would be an upgrade on Hoglander — but big picture, it seems like a step back and a lot to package with next year’s first for what is now, just a rental.
Here’s a look at the Canucks projected lines with Jake Guentzel.

Tyler Toffoli

Tyler Toffoli is a step below the offensive threat Jake Guentzel is, but the familiarity with the team, plus the lesser cost, might be the most appealing move in Canucks fans’ eyes. Toffoli has one year remaining on his $4.25-million contract and is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. 
In his first season with the New Jersey Devils, Toffoli has 26 goals and 44 points, a -15 rating in 61 games. He is on pace for a top-three season individually regarding his ixG/60 (0.89/60) and average in iSCF/60 (9.16/60).
His 5-on-5 on-ice analytics paint a lesser picture — nothing extraordinary, but by no means far below his career average. Toffoli has a 52.09% xGF% and a 54.58% SCF%. Given how the Devils have played in this underwhelming season, it’s encouraging to see him stay on the positive side of these percentages.
Now, instead of projecting the type of impact Toffoli could bring to Pettersson’s wing, there is actual data to help support this claim.
Toffoli was a member of the Canucks team in the 2019-2020 season, in which he played 126:51 of his 147:16 minutes of 5-on-5 time on ice with Pettersson. Here are their numbers together and Pettersson’s numbers without Toffoli.
As you can see, Toffoli elevated Pettersson’s game in each important analytical category. What’s most impressive is that the duo was on the ice for 10 goals and just three goals against at 5-on-5 together. 
The familiarity with this team extends past Elias Pettersson — Toffoli had a career year last year, scoring 34 goals and 73 points on, guess who, Elias Lindholm’s wing.
Now, the whole idea of this is to get a winger for Elias Pettersson, but it’s always nice to keep the options open. Once the playoffs roll around, the benches tighten up a bit. Why not keep Lindholm at centre, move Pettersson to the left wing (his position on the lotto line), and have Toffoli on the right side? Or, speaking of the lotto line, reconnect the lotto line?
You tell me which one you prefer here, Canucks fans.
Adding Tyler Toffoli gives the Canucks so much flexibility throughout the lineup with his familiarity with both Elias’. But what would his cost be?
Per Darren Dreger, the cost of Toffoli would be multiple picks or a pick and a prospect. NHL fans saw Vladimir Tarasenko get dealt to the Florida Panthers today for a 3rd round pick and a conditional 4th round pick that could become a 3rd — Toffoli will almost surely fetch a higher return. Still, it is hard to imagine it’s much far off.
Would the Canucks be willing to move off the second-round pick in 2025 and one of forward prospects of Vasily Podkolzin, Aatu Raty or with the Devils struggling in net, goaltending prospect Arturs Silovs for the services of Tyler Toffoli?

Jason Zucker

The asking price on Jason Zucker would be the cheapest, and for good reason. He would be the least appetizing piece for the Canucks to acquire. Zucker has one year remaining on his 5.3-million-dollar contract and is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. 
Zucker has nine goals and 25 points with a -5 rating in 51 games this season. Individually, Zucker is on track for his second-best season over his last five seasons in an xG/60 (0.86) and iSCF/60 (9.4).
His 5-on-5 on-ice analytics don’t look pretty. This may be a by-product of how the Arizona Coyotes have performed this season, but nonetheless, it is discouraging. Zucker has a 48.27 xGF% and a 48.72% SCF%, meaning the team is allowing more expected goals and scoring chances than it’s generating when Zucker is on the ice. 
With all this considered, what would his cost be?
According to David Pagnotta, the price on Zucker is at its highest, a second-round pick with 50% salary retained on his cap hit. With the Canucks current salary cap situation, money would almost certainly need to be moved out, along with salary retention on the player. 
Let’s not forget that Rutherford was the Penguins’ General Manager when they brought Zucker in, so this would just add to the lengthy list of ex-Penguin players this regime has brought in. 
While Zucker’s asking price isn’t outlandish, I believe I’m not alone in saying that there are more exciting options out there to target when including that second-round pick — even if there are other smaller pieces to attach to it. 
Here’s a look at the Canucks projected lines with Jason Zucker.
As it grows closer and closer to the trade deadline, the Canucks seem to get farther and farther away from landing the Guentzel sweepstakes. 
Per Frank Seravalli, unless something changes, the Canucks don’t seem to have the goods to pull off a Guentzel trade — but knowing Rutherford, he’s never out until it’s over. 
Rick Dhaliwal reported on Canucks Talk that he believes the Canucks have made an offer on Jason Zucker. What that offer contains remains to be seen, but if the Coyotes were to have been swept away, this may have been done already. 
In the latest Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal piece, they mentioned Tyler Toffoli as a name to keep an eye on for the Canucks — so best believe the Canucks have been poking around there. 
Doesn’t it feel like Toffoli and the Canucks have some unfinished business? He enjoyed his previous tenure in Vancouver — enough to say that he was disappointed the previous Canucks management team never offered him a contract extension.
It will be interesting to see which one, if any, of these three wingers the Canucks add before Friday’s trade deadline. But isn’t it nice to be speculating which player the Canucks are looking to add for a playoff run and not what return they can get for a depth piece or which NCAA free-agent can throw in the lineup?
I ask you Canucks fans, who do you want Rutherford and Allvin to target for this year’s playoff push?
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