Why the Canucks should not be so fast to give up on Conor Garland
Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang6 months ago
Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff reported recently that the Canucks were exploring the idea of trading winger Conor Garland to help solve their salary cap issues.
“The main focal point is that the Canucks are active on trying to move Conor Garland’s salary,” Seravalli said. “You heard Brock Boeser say at the end of the season that he doesn’t really want to be traded. It’s still certainly possible that they find a new home for Boeser. And they always have a break glass in case of emergency play with J.T. Miller before his no-trade clause kicks in on July 1. Garland is someone they’ve really keyed in on with the term remaining on his deal, he might provide some flexibility. So Garland is one name that they’ve been focusing on.”
The Canucks have less cap space than any other NHL team entering next season. The easiest way out seems to start with dealing a winger, of which the Canucks have many, for virtually nothing in a cap dump. With Andrei Kuzmenko, Conor Garland, Ilya Mikheyev, Brock Boeser, Tanner Pearson, and Anthony Beauvillier all making at least $3.25 million next season, the position group is crowded and expensive.
With an AAV of $4.95 million and another three years left on his contract, Garland is a significant commitment for the Canucks and moving him would go a long ways towards alleviating some of that salary cap pressure. However if the Canucks are going to need to attach a draft pick to make the deal work, looking in a different direction makes a lot more sense.
Garland’s 5-on-5 production
Conor Garland isn’t the flashiest player, in fact he looks a little awkward on the ice at times, but he is quietly one of the most effective on the Canucks. Despite receiving little powerplay time, Garland has found a way to continually produce as he’s averaged 0.62 points per game in Vancouver, good for a pace of 50 over an 82 game schedule.
Across the 2021-22 and 2022-23 NHL seasons, Garland is tied for second on the team in 5-on-5 points with 78 in 158 games. That’s only eight points behind leader Elias Pettersson and tied with J.T. Miller. When you add in the consideration of ice-time, Garland ranks second among Canucks skaters with at least 1o00 minutes over that sample in 5-on-5 points / 60 minutes.
He’s been one of the most consistent 5-on-5 drivers of offence since he arrived in Vancouver. That is despite struggling to find regular linemates that fully clicked and bouncing all around the lineup, even sitting out as a healthy scratch at one point. Being able to create space and scoring chances at 5-on-5 is an invaluable skill in today’s NHL and Garland is one of the best on the Canucks at doing exactly that.
Garland’s low value at the moment
The Canucks terrible salary cap situation has left them handcuffed as every other GM knows that they need to move money out. Thus, they’re going to be expected to add draft picks or other assets to Garland to make a deal work.
“Everyone can see it and knows it,” Seravalli said recently. “They know [the Canucks] are backed up against the cap, and the ask is high.”
Spending draft capital to get rid of Garland’s contract, which is far from the worst among Canucks wingers, is not the way out of this mess. Garland’s value is relatively low at the moment and in a year’s time, even if he has a disappointing season, the price isn’t going to get worse than attaching a high pick.
Alternative options to free up cap space
If the Canucks are looking to free up cap space by moving a winger, they have plenty of other options. To start, Tanner Pearson’s health is a question mark and his status for next year is up in the air. It’s impossible to say what will happen with that situation but there is the potential for some LTIR relief there.
The other two candidates that make the most sense include Brock Boeser and Anthony Beauvillier. Boeser would be a bigger fish and his $6.65 million contract would give the Canucks more space to play with. If the Canucks were forced to attach a pick to Boeser’s contract, it would likely be one in the mid-to-late rounds. However, giving up on the goal scorer at this point could come back to hurt them.
Beauvillier scored 20 points in 33 games with the Canucks and has a cap hit of $4.15 million for next year before he becomes an UFA. While that’s an impressive rate, it becomes evident that he benefited greatly from playing significant minutes beside Elias Pettersson. When away from Pettersson, his numbers fall off a cliff.
Elias Pettersson’s and Anthony Beauvillier’s 2022-23 stats with and without each other. (Natural Stat Trick)
Finding a way to move off Beauvillier instead of Garland, if both are going to cost draft capital, would be well worth the ~800k in lost cap savings. Garland is a better player and just because he hasn’t been given amazing opportunities doesn’t mean that his impact should be underrated.
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