Why the Vancouver Canucks simply cannot afford to part with Nils Höglander

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
4 months ago
With the Vancouver Canucks being both the top team in the NHL and its most active traders heading into the 2024 Trade Deadline, it’s no wonder that they’ve been at the center of a ton of speculation over the past couple of weeks.
Almost all of this chatter, however, has been focused on the Canucks’ potential targets, with little commentary the other way around. We’ve heard all about those players on other teams that the Canucks are supposedly interested in, but surprisingly little about those players on the Canucks that other teams are interested in – save for some bits and pieces about expensive prospect packages and the like.
But that changed slightly this week when a certain name entered the discussion, and it’s not a name that the Vancouver faithful will be particularly happy to hear bandied about.
It’s Nils Höglander.
But don’t worry, and don’t take this particular bit of chatter too seriously.
From where we’re standing, the Canucks simply cannot afford to part with Höglander, and there’s more than a handful of reasons why that is.
Both Rick Dhaliwal and Satiar Shah brought up a supposed connection between Höglander and the Calgary Flames on Monday.
The gist of the rumour is that the Canucks have asked the Flames about acquiring Chris Tanev on a couple of occasions, and that each time the Flames have expressed interest in Höglander as the primary return.
Obviously, the trade hasn’t happened, so either Patrik Allvin and Co. said “no,” or at the very least they said “not yet.”
But with no shade and all due respect to Tanev, still one of the most-beloved former Canucks in the sport of hockey, we’re betting on the former. There’s just no compelling reason for Vancouver to trade Höglander, and so many reasons for them not to.
We really do mean it when we use the phrase “cannot afford to.”
As an exceptionally talented team with an expertly-built roster, the Canucks find themselves short on two things: cap space and ice-time to go around. And when it comes to providing the most value with the least of either thing, it’s Höglander first and then it’s everyone else.
Right now, through 45 games, Höglander is averaging just 10:52 of even-strength ice-time per game. On top of that, he’s averaging just 12 seconds of power play time per game, or 9:13 total on the year.
Overall, Höglander’s 11:05 in average total ice-time has him ranked 22nd overall on the team, ahead of just Nils Åman, the departed Jack Studnicka, Linus Karlsson, and Cole McWard.
Despite that, Höglander’s production has him ranked much, much higher. He’s 11th on the team in total points with 20. He’s fourth on the team with 14 goals. And, since he only really receives even-strength opportunities, Höglander should rightly be ranked only by his even-strength production. Only Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson have more EV goals at this point in the season.
But Höglander doesn’t have to just be measured against the other Canucks. When it comes to per-60 production, he’s notable on a leaguewide scale.
Höglander’s points-per-60 of 3.16 has him ranked 41st overall in the league. His goals-per-60 of 2.22, however, has him ranked third in the entire NHL, behind just Auston Matthews and Gabriel Vilardi.
Matthews’ most-frequent linemates are Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Matthew Knies. Vilardi’s are Mark Scheifele, Nik Ehlers, and Kyle Connor.
Höglander’s most frequent linemates are Sam Lafferty and Nils Åman.
And we haven’t even touched on salary yet.
Höglander’s $1.1 million cap hit also has him in the running for the best value non-ELCs in the league. Right now, it costs the Canucks a paltry $78,571 for every goal Höglander scores. That’s simply an amazing return that would be valuable to literally any team, but especially so for the Vancouver Canucks, who have been capped all the way out for the past several years running.
There are few teams that need more “bang for buck,” both in terms of cap and ice-time allocation, than the Canucks. The Lotto Line takes up a lot of real estate on either front, and if the Canucks are going to run such an unbalanced forward corps for any sort of duration, then economical contributions from lower in the lineup are an absolute necessity.
And there’s no more economical contributor in the lineup than Höglander.
Especially when one considers that, as of this offseason, the Canucks project to be even lower on cap space. Good thing, then, that Höglander is already signed to an additional year at that same $1.1 million cap hit.
In other words, the Canucks can look all the way around the NHL, and they won’t find anyone capable of offering them more of the exact kind of value that they need than Nils Höglander. And that’s why they simply cannot afford to trade him.
Would Tanev be an important acquisition for the Canucks? Would he be a difference-maker?
But the Canucks are already the top team in the league. Their blueline has been more than adequate, even on the right side, where they’ve been able to rotate Filip Hronek, Tyler Myers, Noah Juulsen, and an offsided Ian Cole with consistent effectiveness.
At this point, someone like Tanev has to be considered a luxury.
And you don’t go around trading for luxuries if the cost is an absolute necessity.
Höglander’s ultimate bang-for-buck value makes him a necessity, including in this year as the Canucks make their long-awaited return to the postseason. We haven’t even touched on how perfectly Höglander’s puck-battling, possession-maintaining, reverse-hitting game is built for the playoffs.
But Höglander is also incredibly necessary next year as the Canucks hope to keep their competitive window wide open, and quite possibly for several seasons thereafter. He just turned 23 years old a few weeks back. He’s as much a part of the future as anyone.
To trade him for a pending UFA, even one as likeable as Tanev, comes off as almost incalculable.
Which is why it’s not going to happen.
Under the past regime, it was entirely possible to encounter some speculation, deem it be entirely nonsensical, and then watch it happen anyway. It happened all the time!
Under GM Allvin and Co., however, things are different. Which is why we think this particular rumour is either wishful thinking on the part of the Calgary Flames or, if you’ll allow us the pun, a load of Hogwash.

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