Who is the single best top-six talent the Canucks could land (and afford) this offseason? 33 candidates priced out

Photo credit:© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
2 years ago
In hockey, it’s important to both set them and score them.
And when it comes to the Vancouver Canucks and the upcoming 2021/22 season, it’s safe to say that scoring more goals is one of their most important goals. But is it important enough to actually address during the 2021 offseason?
The Canucks finished the 2021 regular season with a 2.64 goals-per-game average, 24th in the league. For all the noise made about their defensive struggles, the Canucks’ 3.34 goals-against average only ranked two spots lower at 26th.
Preventing goals remains an issue and a priority, but putting them into the opposing net is nearly as worthy of worry.
As of this writing, the Canucks possess five genuine top-six talents in Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, JT Miller, and Nils Höglander. Vasily Podkolzin is an unknown quantity, Tanner Pearson is on the wrong side of his efficacy trend, and no one else on the depth chart is even close to stepping into such a role.
The matter becomes all the more complicated if the Canucks do as coach Travis Green suggests they will and slots Miller in at 3C. Such a move undoubtedly strengthens the Canucks down the middle, but it also knocks them down to just four authentic top-six threats.
Suffice it to say, then, that GM Jim Benning and Co. would love to add at least one more top-sixer to the roster mix, and in particular a high-scoring winger.
Actually being able to afford to do so is another matter entirely.
The first stumbling block that the Canucks will encounter is the salary cap, which has the team at a little under $20 million in space to lock up both Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, and then acquire/sign/extend at least five more NHL-quality players. Buyouts of Jake Virtanen and maybe Braden Holtby, coupled with perhaps an expensive salary dump transaction or two, will help here. A surprise retirement could help even more.
The second stumbling block will be the cost to acquire said top-six talent. Any trades are going to require future assets from a cupboard that is still shockingly bare after a half-decade of quasi-rebuilding. Free agent signings are, of course, asset-free, but then the Canucks will be bidding against multiple other teams, and salaries will skyrocket accordingly.
Below, we’ve cobbled together a list of all the top-six-quality players reportedly on the market in one form or another, with an eye toward ranking them for what they might bring to the Canucks’ roster — and then sorting which of them the Canucks can and cannot afford.

Trade Targets

Jack Eichel

C, 24, Buffalo

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$10 mil (Five years)212161820:3055.8%
Eichel is undoubtedly the most talented player on the market. He’s also coming off a serious neck injury, is owed $10 million for the next half-decade, likely has no real interest playing in Canada, and will reportedly cost the equivalent of four first-round picks to acquire.
The temptation of that first attribute is definitely outweighed by all the others, and that’s why there’s really no chance of him coming to Vancouver.

Sam Reinhart

C/RW, 25, Buffalo

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$5.2 mil (RFA)5425154019:3250.0%
We already wrote a whole article about Reinhart being someone the Canucks could use but couldn’t afford, so instead of repeating ourselves, we’ll just drop a link here.

Matthew Tkachuk

LW, 23, Calgary

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$7 mil (One year)5616274318:0956.6%
Ditto for Tkachuk.

Patrik Laine

RW, 23, Columbus

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$6.75 mil (RFA)4612122417:2743.0%
Like all the players listed prior on this list, Vancouver really can’t afford the combination of assets and cap space it would take to acquire Laine from the Blue Jackets. Unlike the others, however, there’s a real question of whether the Canucks would even want him. A downward trend, ongoing contract negotiations, and a notoriously malcontent attitude are all reasons to avoid. Those same reasons might make the acquisition cost cheaper, but then you’ve still got to deal with contract demands that he probably doesn’t deserve.

Filip Forsberg

C/LW, 26, Nashville

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$6 mil (One year)3912203218:1753.4%
Finally, someone at least somewhat feasible! The Predators are in the midst of a light retooling, though it remains to be seen how deep the shuffle will reach. This week’s trading of Viktor Arvidsson suggests they’re willing to part with talented forwards, but there’s quite a wide gap between Arvidsson and Forsberg. Then again, if contract negotiations aren’t going well with the pending UFA, why not explore a deal?
With one year remaining at $6 million, the Canucks could squeeze Forsberg in if they got some luck elsewhere in the cap structure. They could expect to part with an unprotected first round pick at a bare minimum, however, and then they probably couldn’t afford to re-sign him thereafter. A rental doesn’t do them much good.

Vladimir Tarasenko

RW, 29, St. Louis

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$7.5 mil (Two years)244101417:2547.7%
In a vacuum, Tarasenko might be the second-most talented player on this list after Eichel. Unfortunately, Tarasenko hasn’t spent the last few years in a vacuum, he’s spent them on the LTIR. Though he’s now reportedly fully healthy (and seeking a trade out of St. Louis), it remains to be seen whether Tarasenko can step out of the shadow of his former self. The cost to acquire him might be surprisingly low with the Blues desperate to cut cash, but investing $15 million in Tarasenko over the next two years is a luxury the Canucks can’t bear with so many of their own forward contracts coming due.

Kevin Fiala

LW, 24, Minnesota

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$3 mil (RFA)5020204016:5450.7%
Contract talks between Fiala and the Wild are supposedly at a standstill, and that means an opportunity for someone else to step in and snag a great young winger — but the Canucks? Minnesota will be looking for high-end centers and center prospects in return, and Vancouver doesn’t have any of those available for trade. If the Wild’s asking price isn’t met, they can just hang on to Fiala for at least another year, so there’s no impetus for them to bend.
Fiala would be a great fit for the Canucks, but these are not a pair of good trading partners.

Conor Garland

RW, 25, Arizona

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$775K (RFA)4912273917:5552.3%
Now, this is interesting. The Nation Network’s own Frank Seravalli reported that Arizona has yet to even answer Garland’s calls this offseason, and don’t sound interested in capitulating to his fairly reasonable contract demands. Fresh off two consecutive breakout seasons, Garland looks to be poised on the edge of stardom and it honestly looks like a foolish decision by the Coyotes to part with him. If the Canucks could get him for anything less than the 9th overall pick, and extend him to a  deal that starts with a “$5,” that would have to be considered a win — but that might not be easy with a bunch of other teams presumably in the mix.

Travis Konecny

RW/C, 24, Philadelphia

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$5.5 mil (Four years)5011233415:5455.1%
Hey, look, it’s Bo Horvat’s cousin!
Konecny and the Flyers are in an interesting spot right now. They’re not quite rebuilding, but they are in “nobody is untouchable” mode, and that obviously has plenty of teams asking after Konecny — especially after a bit of a down season. But there’s really no reason for Philadelphia to deal him for anything less than an overpay. His tenacious style and family connections might make him a natural fit in Vancouver, but they can barely pay for a top-flite asset at this juncture, never mind overpaying.

Viktor Arvidsson

LW, 28, Nashville

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021 5010152516:3654.3%
Arvidsson would have been a fantastic pickup for the Canucks, but he’s already gone to the Los Angeles Kings — and for the low, low price of a second and a third. The Canucks probably could have afforded that, but it might bode well for a generally suppressed trade market and some bargains to be had elsewhere on this list.

Jordan Greenway

LW, 24, Minnesota

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$2.1 mil (One year)566263215:4843.7%
We talked about Greenway extensively in a previous article about poaching forwards from expansion-overloaded rosters, and everything we said there still stands. Trading Greenway would allow the Wild to safely protect all four of their top-four defenders, and that’s got some value in and of itself. The removal of Greenway would also, however, mean the end of one of the best two-way lines in hockey, and the loss of a player with genuine top-line potential.
If you can pry Greenway loose without absolutely breaking the bank, you’ve even got a year left of his $2.1 million salary before you’ve got to really pay him. This is one tree the Canucks should absolutely be barking up. The 9th overall pick could even be on the table here.

Brendan Gallagher

RW, 29, Montreal

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$6.5 mil (Six years)351492315:0159.5%
Does the prodigal son return to Vancouver? Prodigally not. There were some rumours of he and Montreal parting ways right up until he signed a six-year extension, and those talks have somewhat surprisingly continued, even as he’s helped lead the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Finals. There will be a cap crunch coming to Montreal, but they will try to find space elsewhere. Vancouver is probably one of the few cities that Gallagher would waive his NMC for, but the ask would be large and there’s a real question of fit. The Canucks can probably make a wiser move here than to invest six years of $6.5 million in an asset nearing 30.

Timo Meier

RW, 24, San Jose

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$6 mil (Two years)5412193116:0450.9%
Meier is an intriguing, but treacherous, possibility. In 2018/19, he looked like a de facto superstar, but he’s had two consecutive seasons of downward trend since then and still has that poison pill $10 million qualifying offer coming at the end of this contract. San Jose, as a team that pretty much has to “go for it” over the next couple of seasons, might be interested in a hockey trade here — maybe a Miller-for-Meier swap — but the Canucks are almost certainly better off sticking with what they have.

Ondrej Palat

LW, 30, Tampa Bay

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$5.3 mil (One year)5515314617:2752.6%
Palat is in a very similar situation to where Miller was before coming to Vancouver, in that the Lightning would love to keep him, but need to cut salary somehow. They could thus be enticed to give Palat up for what might seem like less than market value, but all is not quite as tempting as it seems. Unlike Miller, Palat would arrive with only one year of team control left before becoming a UFA, and that makes him more or less a rental. That’s not what the Canucks should be after.

Rickard Rakell

RW, 28, Anaheim

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$3.79 mil (One year)529192817:5051.3%
As a pending UFA on a rebuilding team, Rakell is almost automatically available. As we said before, the Canucks really shouldn’t be exploring any rentals. But if they were to, Rakell makes at least some sense as a low-salaried player with potentially suppressed value due to a down season. Rakell is only three years removed from a 34-goal season, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. In the end, Anaheim is better off hanging onto Rakell until the Trade Deadline, when they can really cash in.

Mason Appleton

C/RW, 25, Winnipeg

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$900K (One year)5612132514:2547.1%
Appleton is an intriguing name for a whole bushel of reasons. He hasn’t got an apple-ton of opportunities with the Jets as of yet, but his underlying numbers and uptick in scoring when placed in the top-six suggests a breakout to come. Too bad he’s almost certainly going to be picked up by the Seattle Kraken before that can happen.
With that said, it stands to reason that Winnipeg would be willing to trade Appleton for pretty much anything, but that’s not quite true. If they deal him, they’re still going to lose someone like Logan Stanley to the Kraken, so any trade would have to include compensatory value for that, too. It sounds like something that would cost a little too much for the Canucks to bite on someone with so many question marks still.

Jonathan Drouin

LW, 26, Montreal

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$5.5 mil (Two years)442212316:0553.6%
Drouin is a player with far too much risk for the Canucks to take on right now. He’s got a history of scattered production and brutal injuries, and recently had to step away from the Canadiens for undisclosed reasons. All the power to him if he chooses to make a comeback, and some veteran-laden team might do well to give him the chance. The Vancouver Canucks specifically, however, can’t really stand to miss on an acquisition like this.

Jake DeBrusk

LW, 24, Boston

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$3.68 mil (One year)41591414:5451.4%
DeBrusk would seem to have a lot going for him. He’s paced for more than 20 goals in each of his three seasons prior to this one, and is still signed to a reasonable contract for another year. With just five goals in 2021, DeBrusk has definitely fallen out of favour in Boston and will likely be moved, and probably for something even less than what Arvidsson returned.
Here, it comes down to the Vancouver pro scouts. If they believe in DeBrusk rebounded, he’s probably worth the risk.

Jakob Silfverberg

LW, 30, Anaheim

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$5.25 mil (Three years)47881616:5751.3%
Silfverberg is a tough one to pin down. On the one hand, he scored at a greater-than-25-goal pace in each of the two seasons prior to this one, but he’s really starting to show his age and is signed for three more years at top-six dollars. Chances are good that the Ducks would be willing to part with him for not terribly much as a cap-saving measure, and chances are good that he’d look a lot better elsewhere, but he’s really not at all what the Canucks are looking for.

Jason Zucker

LW, 29, Pittsburgh

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$5.5 mil (Two years)38991815:4151.8%
The Penguins will likely explore trading Zucker as a cost-cutting measure this offseason, and they probably won’t get much in return for him. He’s ultimately a complimentary scorer who looks fine on the wing of an Evgeni Malkin, but isn’t going to make anyone’s top-six much better. Zucker is also at least a little overpaid, and for two more years, to boot. No thanks.

Evgenii Dadonov

RW, 32, Ottawa

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$5 mil (Two years)551372015:3551.7%
Take everything we just said about Zucker, add three years in age, take away some defensive responsibility, and you’ve got Dadonov. He’s half a million cheaper than Zucker, but not someone the Canucks should even be kicking the tires on.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Alex Ovechkin

LW, 35, Washington

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$9.54 mil (UFA)4524184219:3048.1%
Let’s not waste ink. Ovechkin isn’t leaving Washington, and if he does, he’s not doing it to join a team that finished last in the North Division. The Canucks couldn’t, and shouldn’t, pay him what he’s asking for, anyway.

Gabriel Landeskog

LW, 28, Colorado

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$5.57 mil (UFA)5420325219:5761.9%
If you got excited seeing this name, sit back down.
It’s hard to imagine a better fit for what the Canucks want to add to their top-six than Landeskog, but that’s exactly why they’ll never have the chance. It is fairly widely believed that Landeskog will return to the Avalanche, and that he’s just waiting until after the Expansion Draft to sign. If he does hit the open market, there will be no shortage of bidders, and he’ll pick up a contract well over and above $8 million — something the Canucks should stay far away from.

Taylor Hall

LW, 29, Boston

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$8 mil (UFA)5310233317:5256.5%
It’s supposedly an open secret that Hall is going to re-up in Boston and is just waiting out the Expansion Draft to do so. Good. While he probably remains a better player than most give him credit for, Hall is a player and a personality that really wouldn’t mesh with the top-six Vancouver already has established. He’s no match for the cerebrally-oriented Pettersson or the tough matchup minutes of Horvat, so where does that leave him? In Boston, that’s where.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

C/W, 28, Edmonton

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$6 mil (UFA)5216193520:4652.4%
Nugent-Hopkins probably wouldn’t have minded coming home to BC, and he would have been a fine fit on the Canucks, but he was going to get either big money or big term this offseason, and the Canucks should have been interested in giving him neither. Ultimately, he chose the term and will remain in Edmonton for a long, long time.

Zack Hyman

LW, 29, Toronto

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$2.25 mil (UFA)4315183319:2252.1%
Hyman is the very definition of a juiced-up asset. He’s played all of his minutes alongside incredibly talented linemates, and has had the full weight of the Toronto media machine hyping him up for the past several years. Heck, they even had him in the conversation for the Canadian Olympic Team at one point last season. We’re not saying that Hyman isn’t a good player, but he’s not going to be worth whatever he signs for this offseason — unless he takes a discount to stay in Toronto.

Jaden Schwartz

LW/C, 29, St. Louis

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$5.35 mil (UFA)408132117:4250.1%
Schwartz seems like one of those players who is just waiting until after the Expansion Draft to sign, but it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if the Blues cut him loose. Schwartz has been very inconsistent through his late 20s, and 2021 was his worst season since his rookie campaign.
If that’s enough to cost him in free agency, he might be one worth circling back on for the Canucks. But for the money he’d almost certainly garner, they can probably do better.

Blake Coleman

RW/C, 29, Tampa Bay

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$1.8 mil (UFA)5514173115:2855.1%
All indications are that Coleman is an absolute luxury for the Tampa Bay Lightning to have on their third line, and that he’d be a fine fit in anyone else’s top-six. But that’s not a trade secret. With at least one Stanley Cup under his belt, along with at least second-line-worthy production, defensive prowess, and oodles of intangibles, Coleman is going to land himself a hefty — and probably regrettable — contract in free agency this summer. The Canucks would be wise to steer clear, as much as he might improve their team in the short term.

Kyle Palmieri

RW, 30, New York Islanders

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$4.65 mil (UFA)5110112116:3450.7%
Palmieri is a little too old and plays the wrong wing for the Canucks to truly pursue him, but he’s not all that bad of an option in a pinch. He’s been a consistent 25-to-30-goal scorer for the last five seasons prior to this one, and continued to show that into the playoffs for the Islanders. He won’t attract the same attention as the A-list UFAs, and that could shorten his term and his salary, but he’ll get his suitors all the same. Either way, he’s worth more to someone else than he is to the Canucks.

Mikael Granlund

C/W, 29, Nashville   

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$3.75 mil (UFA)5113142719:2849.5%
The Canucks’ interest in Granlund will come down to salary and term demands. They sure could have used him for the money he was paid last year. If he’s still amenable to a short-term situation and a salary south of $5 million, he’s absolutely worth a look. But one has to assume that Granlund is looking for more security on this next deal, and the Canucks shouldn’t go offering it to him.

Brandon Saad

LW, 28, Colorado

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$6 mil (UFA)441592414:0657.1%
Saad has settled into being a consistent 25-ish-goal scorer and a strong complementary force in any top-six, but he’s no longer the gamechanger he was when he was traded for Artemi Panarin. Even on the high-flying Avalanche, Saad didn’t look incredibly impressive, and the fact that they’re not too upset to part ways with him says a lot. Someone is going to given Saad a lengthy contract worth at least what he’s making now, but it shouldn’t be the Canucks. If no one comes calling and his demands get lower, they could maybe afford him — but wouldn’t that be all the more reason to avoid?

Tomas Tatar

LW, 30, Montreal

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$5.3 mil (UFA)5010203014:5958.9%
This article is getting pretty long, so we can keep this one short. Tatar is an inconsistent regular season producer who consistently disappears in the playoffs. Right now, Montreal is in the Stanley Cup Finals and paying Tatar $5.3 million to sit in the press box.
Hard pass.

Michael Bunting

LW, 25, Arizona

 Cap Hit (Years Remaining)GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
2021$738K (UFA)211031316:4255.8%
Don’t let the name and the fact you’ve never heard of him fool you, Bunting is not a professional baseball player. In fact, he’s the only hockey player on this list that looks like an undeniably good fit for the Canucks.
Though Bunting has seemed to come out of nowhere and comes bearing a tiny sample size of 26 career games, his strong start in Arizona wasn’t entirely unexpected. Arizona prospect-watchers and analytic gurus had been singing the left winger’s praise for awhile as he completed five tours of duties in the AHL before finally getting a real chance in 2021. That’s why he’s a Group VI UFA at the age of 25.
Getting out of the Arizona organization seems like a good plan for Bunting, and he’ll probably be looking to sign short-term in a place where he can really prove himself. Vancouver can offer a guaranteed spot on the wing of either Pettersson, Horvat, or Miller.
This looks like it could be a mutual match.


Looking at the list above, most will end up with the same takeaway: there are an overwhelming number of players that the Canucks could not afford, and a fairly underwhelming and still-expensive collection of those they actually could afford.
With that in mind, the only real conclusion left to draw is that this is probably not the best offseason for the Canucks to address the hole in their top-six.
Instead, they’d probably be better off to seek a stop-gap option — or take a flyer on someone like Bunting — see what they have in Podkolzin, and then decide what they want to do in the summer of 2022, when they’ll have significantly more cap space and just as many options to choose from.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t exactly jibe with Benning and Co.’s desire to be “aggressive” this offseason, and that’s naturally raised some fears that a player from the “unaffordable” column will be acquired, and that the consequences of that decision will be felt for years to come.
It’s not an enviable position for a management group that has more or less been told it is playoffs or bust in 2021/22.
Thankfully, the two latest additions to the front office are renowned for their attributes of patience and restraint. Here’s hoping they can lend some of that to what promises to be a fruitless search for a top-six talent this summer.

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