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Why didn’t Luke Schenn go for more on the trade market?

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Photo credit:© Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
11 months ago
Way back in December of 2022, some little-known blogger published an article entitled “The bidding for Canucks defenceman Luke Schenn has to start at a first round pick.”
The piece got some attention, including a retweet and an endorsement by Schenn’s own agent, Ben Hankinson.
The endorsement was so strong, in fact, that some interpreted it as a roundabout trade request.
Flash-forward to the present day. It’s February 28, 2023, and Luke Schenn was just traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2023 third round pick…and a late one, at that.
Oops. Gosh, we’d hate to be that author right about now. Talk about egg on the face.
So, yeah. Obviously, the bidding for Schenn did not start at a first round pick. It ended at a third round pick. But — authorial embarrassment aside — that’s actually okay, and it’s still a case of positive asset management by the Canucks. Disappointing? Sure. But not bad, especially given the context.
The harsh reality here is that Schenn was far more important to the Canucks than he could ever be to a contending team. Here in Vancouver, Schenn was — until the acquisition of Ethan Bear — perhaps the only RHD having a good season in 2022/23. Schenn’s impact as Quinn Hughes’ frequent partner was notable in stabilizing the young franchise D for what have become truly dynamite third and fourth NHL seasons.
On a team that struggled to stand up for itself or for each other, Schenn consistently stood tall. If insider accounts are to be believed, he helped hold together a fractured dressing room through sheer force of will and some serious “dad” energy.
In short, Schenn was everything the Canucks needed, and more. But that doesn’t mean he holds that same value outside of the Lower Mainland.
Right off the bat, we have to cop to something. In that aforementioned article, we described Schenn as a “top-four” defender. Unfortunately, even for the lowly Canucks, that just wasn’t true. Of all the regular defenders, Schenn’s average TOI of 17:11 ranked fifth overall, behind Hughes, Bear, Tyler Myers, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. It was only about 30 seconds more than Kyle Burroughs averaged per game, and barely a minute more than Riley Stillman.
Was Schenn one of the four best defenders on the Canucks this season? Absolutely. But that still didn’t make him a true “top-four” D. If even on the Canucks, possessors of possibly the worst blueline in hockey, Schenn couldn’t hold down top-four minutes, no one should ever expect him to on a contending playoff team.
Which doesn’t mean that Schenn has no value to a competitor, of course. He’s just two seasons removed from two consecutive Stanley Cups. But he won those Cups while being in-and-out of the lineup for the Tampa Bay Lightning and playing an average of about ten minutes a night.
That’s what playoff-bound teams undoubtedly saw Schenn as: not the saviour of the blueline he was in Vancouver, but as a rock-solid depth piece for a lengthy postseason run.
That’s valuable, sure, but it’s hard to justify giving up a top-64 draft selection in exchange for.
The Canucks also had to deal with an active and volatile trade market. Canucks fans might be tempted to believe that, in a world where Stillman was traded for a recent third round draft pick, Schenn himself must be worth ten times that. And in a vacuum, maybe he would be.
But trade values are all over the place at the moment, as GMs seem to be in a leaguewide race to get their deals done well before the Friday deadline. The fluctuations in the market have been truly unpredictable.
The Canucks were the beneficiaries of that volatile market, watching the asking price for Vitali Kravtsov drop from a first, to Nils Höglander, and then ultimately to Will Lockwood and a seventh round pick.
By trading Schenn now, they avoid becoming victims of that same market and being left holding the bag.
The list of players who have been traded for a first round pick (or a package containing one) over the past month are so is a long one, and it includes Bo Horvat, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, Dmitry Orlov, Timo Meier, Tanner Jeannot, Jake McCabe AND Sam Lafferty, and Mattias Ekholm.
Nobody in their right mind can argue that Schenn belongs anywhere on that list. And you can’t really argue with the market.
Is it possible that the Canucks could have waited it out until Friday and hoped that a team got desperate enough to up the offer to a second rounder? Sure, it’s possible. But it seems unlikely with so many of the contenders having already loaded up their roster.
On a personal level, it was also deeply impractical for Schenn and his family. Everyone knows that Schenn’s wife is due to have a baby on or near Trade Deadline Day. Getting the deal done sooner, rather than later, is the kind of thing that might help attract free agents in the future — including perhaps Schenn himself this upcoming summer.
So, yeah, it would have been nice if Schenn returned a first or a second. It’s okay to be a little disappointed. But that, by no means, makes this a bad trade, or a case of negative asset management.
Let’s be real here: the Canucks signed Schenn at the going rate for a sixth or seventh defender back in the summer of 2021. The contract was for two years at a cap hit of $850,000, just barely above the league minimum.
In other words, it was the kind of contract that gets signed a hundred times over every offseason. But how many of those low-end free agency signings get cashed in for a third round pick at their conclusion? Not many of them!
The Canucks signed Schenn for a song and then watched him play most of two seasons, all the while making a positive mentorship impact on key players without affecting the Canucks’ place in the standings all that much, one way or another.
If that’s all they got out of the contract, that would have been enough.
Instead, they’re walking away with what should be a top-90 selection in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. And that’s not for nothing. One of the team’s top prospects, Elias Pettersson II, was just drafted in the third round. Every year, genuine NHL talent comes out of the third round. There might not be a franchise in the league that needs picks in this range more than the prospect-bare Canucks do right now.
If the Canucks make the right selection, they can count on the player that they draft having an impact on their roster until at least the year 2030.
If that is Schenn’s lasting legacy in Vancouver — on top of all the mentorship and good memories — then that’s not bad at all.
This is, at the end of the day, a clear-cut case of good asset management.
THE DAILY FACEOFF TRADE DEADLINE SHOW
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