Updated Vancouver Canucks trade-likelihood tiers for the 2022 offseason
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
5 months ago
With some surprising talk about Thatcher Demko making the rounds on Twitter last week, we think it’s official…
…EVERY single member of the Vancouver Canucks has now been mentioned in some form of trade rumour pertaining to the 2022 offseason.
Of course, as you well know, not all trade rumours are created equal. Below, you’ll find a definitive ranking of the entire extended roster, ordered by their actual likelihood of being traded before opening night of the 2022/23 regular season. And by “definitive,” we mean you’re not allowed to argue about it.
Would not surprise anyone
No surprise here. We know that Miller is coming off a career season that he’s somewhat unlikely to replicate past the age of 30, and we know that his upcoming contract demands are probably going to outstrip the Canucks’ budget. We can assume that some of the offers received for Miller this offseason approach the realm of “too-good-to-pass-up.” For the unique combination of how much it makes sense for the Canucks to deal him and how badly other teams will want him, Miller is the runaway leader of this list.
We’ve already written at length about the Canucks’ need to shed some salary off their blueline so as to reconfigure it, and the general unlikelihood of moving Oliver Ekman-Larsson at this exact moment. That all adds up to a probable Myers trade. The good news is that it sounds like there’s actually a market out there for the towering defender, and that market can almost certainly be expanded by retaining some of his salary. The Canucks could still use Myers on the roster next year, but the benefits of trading currently outweigh the detriments.
Pearson was specifically identified as a player the Canucks were looking to move this offseason, and unlike Jason Dickinson, Pearson is coming off a solid campaign and has been generally effective for several seasons running. His slightly-inflated salary might scare some teams off, but there have to be a few out there willing to bite on him as a middle-six solution, especially if salary retention enters the picture. Like Myers, Pearson is a player that the Canucks can definitely still use, but who seems probable to be sacrificed on the altar of cap flexibility.
Dickinson and Pearson were both name-dropped as being on the block as the offseason began. Dickinson is coming off a difficult debut season in Vancouver, and that has him looking a little overpaid for the next two years, but the salary is still low-stakes enough that someone might take a chance on him. Dickinson’s long history of defensively-responsible play has to be appealing, even if the acquiring team would be taking a risk on his offence bouncing back. The Canucks should have plenty of bottom-six options available to take Dickinson’s place on the roster, and at a cheaper cost, to boot.
Here, we transition from the “likely traded” to the maybe. Garland has seemingly been on the block ever since Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford took over, and there’s been plenty of reported interest in him from around the league. Chances are good that Garland is going to remain a top-six talent throughout the duration of the remaining four years on his contract, so the Canucks won’t be in a rush to deal him. But if they’re not planning to be ultra-competitive for the next while, and if they feel like Garland can return some badly needed future assets, they won’t hesitate to pull the trigger. If Miller stays, Garland is almost certainly gone. Even if Miller is traded, Garland is about 50/50.
Dermott was a weird one to slot into this list. He performed well enough, if unspectacularly, after arriving in Vancouver from Toronto at the Trade Deadline. He’s cheap and effective enough to keep around for at least another year, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a spot for him. On his natural left side, Dermott is stuck behind Quinn Hughes and OEL, with Jack Rathbone stuck behind him. On the right, it’s more open, but that could change if the Canucks do the expected and add some RHD talent this offseason. Dermott could move to make room, or because another team values him higher than the Canucks do, or both.
You probably weren’t expecting to see Highmore’s name this high on the list, but we can explain. Highmore saw his peak of productivity this past season while playing on the “Motto Line,” but his play crashed as soon as the unit was disbanded. With Will Lockwood on the way and some cheap fourth line types likely to be added during the offseason, Highmore’s job is suddenly in peril. We could definitely see a scenario in which he falls out of the Canucks’ plans, but another team decides to give him a shot based on his short spurt of excellent play in 2022/23. But we could just as easily see him continuing to skate on the Vancouver fourth line for at least another year. Highmore’s play early in training camp will go a long way toward determining that.
Of the three top-six forwards that the Canucks might trade this offseason, Boeser is somehow both the longest-tenured in Vancouver and the one with the most remaining upward potential. Those two factors go a long way toward explaining why he’s the least likely of the bunch to move, and the one that fans most want to see stay. Boeser bravely suffered through some awful circumstances in 2022/23, and it would seem like bad business to trade him before he had a chance to bounce back — not to mention, a little morally questionable. RFA negotiations could still sour Boeser’s chances of staying in Vancouver, but the most likely outcome still seems to be an extension.
Höglander never really found his groove in his sophomore season, and unlike most players, his struggles actually became worse once Bruce Boudreau took over. At the age of 21, nobody is talking about a “fresh start” quite yet, but those conversations will happen if this level of play continues. Right now, Höglander’s saving grace is that there aren’t really any middle-six prospects ready to burst onto the scene, but that could change after a few offseason transactions. A compelling offer could be all it takes for Höglander to move this offseason — or, alternatively, he could be the additional sweetener that puts another, larger transaction over the top. The odds are, however, that he’s given at least another season to figure it all out.
Perhaps including Poolman in the top-ten is wishful thinking. On the surface, he’s a replacement-level defender making more than three times the minimum salary for another three years — and with some lingering health issues, to boot. But if there really is a run on larger-than-average RHDs this summer, there might exist the slightest of chances that the Canucks could find a suitor for his service. Whether it takes sweeteners or retention, they should explore every option to move this player.
Of the three members that made up the Motto Line, Lammikko looks like the only one who might be a long-term fit. He earned plenty of accolades for his work as the Canucks’ fourth line center in 2021/22, even if his production and impact were incredibly inconsistent. He’ll get another crack at the job this year, unless management identifies someone else that they’d rather have in that position — like a Curtis Lazar. In that case, they might make Lammikko available, and someone else could then feasibly seek him out for their own fourth line. The most likely scenario, however, is that Lammikko at least starts 2022/23 as the Canucks’ 4C.
Trading OEL represents the best possible means through which to create cap flexibility this offseason, but that’s exactly why he’s probably not going to be traded, because what teams are going to be interested in increasing their cap inflexibility? Ekman-Larsson is a top-four defender paid like a top pairing defender, and he’s paid that way for five more seasons. The Canucks will try to move him this offseason, but chances are good that they’re stuck with him. And we only really mean “stuck” in terms of asset management, because on the ice, he’s still pretty useful.
Dowling is a bit of a forgotten member of the squad. He put in some okay work on in the bottom-six near the start of the year, and then headed down to Abbotsford where he made a moderate difference. The odds of any team wanting to give up an asset for him are extremely low, as are the odds of the Canucks feeling the need to deal away the depth he represents. At the same time, they’re not going to try particularly hard to hold onto him. That’s why Dowling finds himself right near the middle of the list.
Almost absolutely not
Really, the Canucks have no business dealing any prospect who appears to be NHL-ready. Rathbone is one of maybe three prospects in the entire organization with undeniable big league potential, and the goal should be to add more players of his quality, not to trade some of what they already have away. That being said, Rathbone does have a fairly similar profile to Hughes and Ekman-Larsson, the two LHD ahead of him on the depth chart. If adding him to a larger transaction is what it takes to get the deal across the finish line, the front office could probably live with it. The far safer call, as we’ve previously mentioned, would be to try OEL on the right side so as to clear more of a path for Rathbone on the left.
Why would the Canucks trade Burroughs, a cheap hometown RHD who brings exactly the sort of grit and tenacity they generally lack as a team, especially with him signed on for another year? They wouldn’t. Burroughs is the perfect depth defender for the Canucks’ current circumstances, and he’s easily buriable in the minors if he doesn’t crack the roster this time around. But at this point in the list, we’re getting into the players that are downright unlikely to be traded, and Burroughs just isn’t as valuable as the players listed below him, so he goes here.
Martin is the Canucks’ anointed backup goalie for next season, and nothing — outside of a disastrous showing in training camp — is going to change that. If he totally blows it in the preseason, we guess there’s a chance of him being dealt and someone else coming in. Or, if the Canucks get their hands on a more established backup who is somehow also cheaper on the cap and incredibly inexpensive to acquire. In all likelihood, however, we can expect to see Martin sitting on the Canucks’ bench, wearing a hat, when the 2022/23 season opens up.
There’s just no reason to trade Schenn this offseason. At the 2023 Trade Deadline, where the bidding could get ridiculous? Sure. But not this summer, when nobody is going to be giving up anything more than a third for the services of a bottom pairing defender — not with so many others available. Schenn’s services are worth more to the Canucks next year than he’d return in a trade, so he won’t get dealt. Simple as that.
The new management have been pretty clear in their desire to keep Horvat around, and it makes sense. While it’s impossible to predict, he certainly seems to have the temperament of the sort of person who might take a hometown discount on his next contract, and he’s among the more irreplaceable players on the roster. Now that he’s finally holding down genuine shutdown minutes — while simultaneously reaching new offensive heights — why would the Canucks want to move on from Horvat? Unless he wants to leave or his contract demands reach unexpected proportions, The smart money is on the captain re-upping for a long time.
There’s just no feasible scenario in which the Canucks trade Lockwood. He’s NHL-ready, he’s dirt cheap, and he throws exponentially more hits than anyone else on a roster that doesn’t play with nearly enough physicality. Combine that with the total dearth of other forward prospects ready to step in next year, and Lockwood isn’t going anywhere, save for Vancouver on a permanent basis.
Podkolzin finds himself on the very cusp of the “true core.” He impressed as a rookie, and even if his raw numbers don’t suggest he’s prepared to take on a top-six role in the immediate future, the eye-test says he does. He’s the best 21-and-under asset in the organization by a big country mile, and a rebuilding team should want nothing to do with trading such a player. The Canucks need more Podkolzins, not fewer.
This list was always going to come down to this top-three. Demko slots in at the bronze position for a couple of different reasons. First, he’s a goaltender, and goalies are unpredictable, quasi-mythological beasts who can lose all their magic in a single offseason. While it’s currently looking rather promising that Demko will remain an elite starting goalie for the duration of his contract, injuries can always change that, and long-term quality play from goalies is the exception, not the rule. Demko is almost definitely not getting traded this offseason, but these factors make him slightly more likely two than the two skaters below him.
In the battle of Pettersson versus Hughes for maximum untouchability, Pettersson comes up short by a hair. That’s largely because of his contract status, with only two years remaining on his current deal to Hughes’ five. And while Pettersson rebounded extremely nicely after his early season troubles in 2021/22, he’s still yet to put up a truly dominant season, start-to-finish. Hughes did last year.
Under contract for five more years at what is increasingly looking like a bargain rate, coming off a franchise-record-breaking campaign, and lightyears ahead of his peers on the blueline, Hughes is the Canucks’ most valuable asset, and their most untouchable player.
PS: Just kidding about the whole “definitive” thing. If you disagree with the rankings on this list, let us know in the comment section!
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