Which defenders might the Canucks be “peeking at” as they seek an early season trade?
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
It’s opening night on the 2023/24 season. Some might have hoped to make it at least a week into the campaign without some sort of controversy emerging.
But forget it, Jake, it’s Canuck-Town. And controversy is what we do.
If you haven’t been keeping up with the news, Conor Garland announced on Tuesday that he had changed agents, and within a few hours of that, news that the Canucks had granted his agent permission to seek a trade went public.
That’s probably not a coincidence, especially with word that Garland’s new agent had been given permission to talk trade with other teams and was already aggressively pursuing conversations.
It might seem a longshot for a Garland trade to happen now, after what has presumably been a full offseason of the Canucks trying and failing to make something happen.
But, as Elliotte Friedman notes in his 32 Thoughts column, “This doesn’t always work, but there are times it can — including one prominent BC example: Roberto Luongo. It was an agent change that breathed new life into trade discussions with Florida, before Canucks/Panthers executives hammered out the particulars.”
Speaking of that Friedman column, and speaking of things that probably aren’t coincidences, one couldn’t help but notice a subsequent note that “Carson Soucy’s injury has the Canucks peeking at defence options.”
It doesn’t take a math whiz to put two-and-two together on this set of speculation and determine what, at the very least, the Canucks are attempting to do as they prepare for the 2023/24 regular season.
With Garland wanting out and the blueline already banged up, a Garland-for-D swap seems like the perfect solution.
But is that too much to ask for?
Below, we take a “peek” at those defenders around the league that the Canucks might be “peeking” at. And, yes, we did not miss the potential pun at work there, and our tour will begin with Andrew Peeke.
Andrew Peeke, Columbus Blue JacketsRHD, 25, 6’3”, 210lbSigned at $2.75 million for three more seasons
This is the potential Garland trade that makes by far the most sense for all sides involved, as we already wrote about last week. As it stands heading into opening night, Peeke will be the extra defender on the Blue Jackets’ roster, caught up in a traffic jam that can only really be solved via trade.
Don’t judge Peeke too harshly for not beating out Erik Gudbranson for a spot. That’s as much a result of the contract handed out to Gudbranson last summer as it is anything. Don’t judge Peeke for his league-worst plus/minus last year, either, as that was just the result of him being asked to play a top-pairing shutdown role that he was ill-prepared for.
In reality, Peeke is a steady, defensively-oriented defender who is more than capable of handling a reasonable role and above-average matchups, so long as his minutes can be somewhat limited.
A swap of Garland-for-Peeke works cap-wise, but we imagine that the Blue Jackets would want to be compensated for taking on more salary. That could be in the form of a draft pick, or it could involve the Canucks taking back another contract. Maybe Mathieu Olivier, signed at $1.1 million for two more years, is of some interest.
Dante Fabbro, Nashville PredatorsRHD, 25, 6’0”, 189lbSigned at $2.5 million for one more season (RFA)
Fabbro, like Peeke, starts the season as a healthy scratch, having fallen behind Luke Schenn, Tyson Barrie, and Alexandre Carrier on the Nashville RHD depth chart. That’s in keeping with a general downward trend in Fabbro’s once-promising career.
But maybe a return to British Columbia is exactly what Fabbro needs to get back on track. There’s still a lot of two-way ability to like in his game, and his cap hit is certainly manageable. Even better, the Predators have almost $8 million in cap space heading into the season, which would allow them to swap out Fabbro for Garland without so much as breaking a sweat. Again, we’d expect them to want something in return for taking on more salary, but it might not be all that much, given that the Preds could also use the supplemental offence that Garland will bring.
Jan Rutta, San Jose SharksRHD, 33, 6’3”, 204lbSigned at $2.75 million for two more seasons
If there’s one trend that’s impossible to ignore, it’s Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford’s penchant for pinching former Penguins. Why not one more for the list?
Rutta is a depth defender through-and-through, but one who has played a depth role for several great teams, including championship rosters. He’s getting up there in age, but he could still have a few more good years left in him.
Why would the San Jose Sharks, owners of the worst blueline in hockey, be looking to shed defenders? One can definitely look at their roster and see a need for more scoring, too, and plenty of cap space to at least accommodate this sort of exchange. It wouldn’t be in the interest of them winning more games, necessarily, but winning might not be in their best interest anyway. Garland could be seen as the more valuable player in the long-term.
Adam Boqvist, Columbus Blue JacketsRHD, 23, 6’0”, 182lbSigned at $2.6 million for two more seasons
If Peeke doesn’t work out, there is another RHD potentially available from the Blue Jackets that may be a fit. Obviously, it’s not gonna be Gudbranson. But it could be Boqvist, who makes a little bit less than Peeke and is seen as having a bit more upward potential.
As far as bringing something to the table that the Canucks lack, Boqvist is not nearly as great a fit as Peeke, and he’s no Carson Soucy replacement, but then again, beggars can’t be choosers.
A Garland-for-Boqvist trade would probably look identical to a Garland-for-Peeke trade, with added value either coming from Vancouver’s side or a contract coming back from Columbus.
Chad Ruhwedel, Pittsburgh PenguinsRHD, 33, 5’11”, 191lbSigned at $800K for one more year
Speaking of former Penguins, how about a current one?
Ruhwedel has been a depth/extra piece for quite some time, and he’s still happily plugging along, having just made it into the lineup for Pittsburgh’s Game #1. He’d be a stopgap in Vancouver, to be certain, but a highly affordable one and one still capable of thriving in low minutes.
Unfortunately, his low cap hit makes any sort of trade involving Garland a nonstarter. Pittsburgh simply does not have the cap space to spare, nor any other obvious contracts in need of dumping.
They could look to flip Ruhwedel for a draft pick in order to get younger defenders, like recent waiver claim John Ludvig, some more time. But that doesn’t seem all that likely.
Robert Bortuzzo, St. Louis BluesRHD, 34, 6’4”, 216lbSigned at $950K for one more year
One more former Penguin for the road. Bortuzzo’s NHL days are almost at an end, and he can’t offer much more than a little toughness on the bottom-pairing, but he’s out there are probably available, with the Blues no doubt interested in handing his role over to someone younger.
Like Ruhwedel, Bortuzzo would be a cheap, temporary fill-in that would have little to do with a Garland trade. Unlike Ruhwedel, Bortuzzo can still throw down and has a history of motivating even his teammates with his fists.
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