Monday Mailbag: A Wild Joel Eriksson Ek Canucks trade proposal, the Kuzmenko thing, and more

Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
Cody Severtson
4 months ago
My, how sweet it is.
Savour it, everyone.
Bathe in the knowledge that Steve Dangle spent Saturday night mopping up his tears off his couch with a brand new Maple Leafs™ branded tea towel set.
Oh, it feels so good.
The fraudulent Leafs proved their fraudulence when they spent their first period against the Canucks deathly afraid of board battles and physicality, conceding three goals in 20 minutes. To give the Dangles of the world false hope, they rallied back with a dominant second period. Fortunately, they Leafed their way out of a potential regulation win—did you know the Leafs only had one more regulation win than the Ottawa Senators? Four more than the Anaheim Ducks? How embarrassing!
As of Sunday afternoon, the Leafs have fallen into wild card territory, and the Canucks sit first in the NHL by points and second by points percentage.
When I wrote my first Stanchies of the season back in October, I oozed positivity because I was skeptical that the good times would last.
It’s January 21st.
The rain has melted the snow away.
And it’s time for your questions about the completely non-fraudulent powerhouse, Vancouver Canucks.
Let’s get into it!
Does Höglander hit 30 goals this year?
Even with two goals against the lowly Leafs, Höglander is scoring at a 25-goal pace. In his last 20 games, he’s got multi-goal games against the Leafs and Rangers and single-goal games against the Predators and Wild.
It would take a bit more consistency in his goalscoring for me to change my opinion, but I don’t think that will change unless he moves up the lineup or the club finds an upgrade at center over Nils Åman.
For the record, I think Åman has played well and has proven to be an effective penalty killer, but I’m not sold on his playmaking ability. Åman is on track to finish the regular season with just 10 assists, which includes the assist on Höglander’s second goal against the Leafs on Saturday night.
This brings me to my following two questions…
Of all said-to-be available top six forwards, who is actually the easiest to acquire?
I think Anaheim’s Adam Henrique is the easiest-to-grab top-six forward at this trade deadline. And even then, a few asterisks make this decidedly “not easy.”
The soon-to-be 34-year-old is a more-than-capable left-handed centre/wing pivot who comes with playoff experience (not recently, mind you), throws the body around, blocks shots, and plays premiere minutes on the power play, penalty kill, and at even strength for Anaheim.
Henrique would be a pure rental. Given his age, I can’t imagine the Ducks are interested in re-signing him to an extension.
The only issue would be making the salaries fit. For Vancouver fans, the answer is obvious: trade Kuzmenko for Henrique. The problem is that the book is out on Kuzmenko. Given the reports that the Ducks have made Trevor Zegras available, I can’t imagine swapping a capable two-way veteran forward for another one-dimensional offence-first forward is what the Ducks have in mind. It would take a serious sweetener from Vancouver to get them to take on a forward like Kuzmenko in exchange for Henrique, especially if the Ducks have zero plans to keep Henrique after this season. Trading an expiring asset for a deflated asset with an extra year of term isn’t going to come cheap.
That said, Henrique in the top six would be a no-brainer quality add. If the Lotto line and [insert line name for Joshua-Garland-Blueger here] hold for the rest of the season, then Henrique in your bottom six adds some serious heft to the club’s playoff aspirations. A bottom-six group featuring Henrique on the wing or at center and bumping one of Sam Lafferty, Ilya Mikheyev, or Pius Suter to the fourth line sounds pretty good!
The Ducks have the 12th-worst power play in the NHL at the moment; maybe the Ducks do a straight swap and juice Kuzmenko’s stats on PP1, then flip him this summer or next trade deadline with retention for an even juicier return?
Which brings us to Andy’s question…
At what point does Kuzmenko become the Mark Friedman of forwards? #scratch / Is there a road back for him in Vancouver?
It’ll never get that bad. Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin are men of action; if they get the vibe from Rick Tocchet that he’s going to become the Mark Friedman of forwards, they’re going to keep playing him in prescribed minutes until they can facilitate a trade for whatever they can get.
I think the Arizona Coyotes benching says it all about his future. In a one-goal game against a team on the up-and-up, Rick Tocchet sat Kuzmenko for the entire third period following a string of brutal giveaways in the second period when the game was tied.
If that’s the reaction during a tied regular season game, what will happen come playoffs, and the stakes are through the roof? You can’t double-shift players like J.T. Miller, Conor Garland, or Elias Pettersson for 28+ post-season games to compensate for a benched forward and expect them to give you their best and win. It’s beyond time to cut and run.
Sure, Kuzmenko bounced back from the third-period benching for a 13-shift game against the Leafs that saw him draw a critical power play in the third period—yes, Vancouver gave up a shorthanded goal on that power play, but that’s not Kuzmenko’s fault—but I don’t think that’s enough to clear up the writing on the wall.
What kind of sweetener is Minnesota going to have to throw in with Eriksson Ek if they want to land Höglander? Same question for Pittsburgh RE: Guentzel.
I know Chris Baxter was asking this tongue-in-cheek, but I still think it’s worth answering to say the obvious, in that the only sweetener being included in an Eriksson Ek deal is the one going the Wild’s way.
Eriksson Ek has finished 9th, 7th, and 4th in the last three years of Selke Award voting and is on pace for the first 30-goal campaign of his NHL career. Oh, and he’s on the Wild’s books at a comically low cap hit of $5,250,000 per year until he turns 32 years old.
The Wild are the true definition of a mushy-middle squad: a team talented enough to make the playoffs but not enough to make noise. Their books are hogtied by the Parise/Suter buyouts to the tune of $14-million for this year and next. They have locked up a group of players into their mid to late 30s that will require their draft prospects to hit big to ensure playoff contention in the near term and a star player whose contract expires much sooner than they’d probably hope.
Trading Joel Eriksson Ek would require an absurd tier of sweeteners that keep Minnesota competitive now and down the road when the Kaprizov contract expires.
They say, “Never fall in love with your prospects.”
With that in mind, if Minnesota throws up the white flag, would you shed the farm for Joel Eriksson Ek, knowing Elias Pettersson remains unsigned?
For s-words and giggles, I threw the above trade proposal together to drive our readers to the comment section in a rage. Let me be clear: Eriksson Ek is the engine of the Wild, and the odds of them flipping him at the trade deadline are lower than my odds of signing an ELC.
It would be pretty cool to see a blockbuster like that happen for Vancouver, though!
How good would Tanev and Toffoli be on this team?
It would’ve been the perfect fit…four years ago.
The time has passed on Tanev/Toffoli and the Canucks, sorry to say.
This management group has turned the club around on the backs of their value-add, low-cost UFA signings and barring a hometown discount—which is never going to happen after how Tanev was left hanging by the Benning regime following the 2019-20 offseason—neither are going to come cheap this summer with the cap going up and teams like Chicago blowing up the UFA market with bizarre extensions to veteran players.
If Tristen Nielsen makes the NHL, who do you slot him with? Is he a realistic replacement for Lafferty?
Given Nielsen’s role as a top-six energy winger in Abbotsford, I view him more as a “discount Nils Höglander.”
Nielsen hasn’t quite shown anything close to the shifty, disruptive, aggressive forechecking that Höglander brings to the table. Still, they share similarities in size, ability to create clutch goals, attitude around the crease, and propensity to score highlight-reel goals.
Nielsen’s north-south play is more reminiscent of Sam Lafferty’s, but there is a hardness to Lafferty’s forechecking that is brought on by his speed and size. In contrast, Höglander’s forechecking prowess is brought on by his ability to shift east-west quicker than anyone on the team.
I like Nielsen as a potential call-up option for the club down the road, but expecting him to be a replacement level player for someone of Lafferty or Höglander’s calibre is asking a bit much.
Which Sabres’ players are likely available in a trade?
Jordan Greenway’s name has been linked to Jim Rutherford, but given that GM Kevyn Adams just shed a 2023 2nd-round pick and a 2024 5th-round pick to acquire him, I can’t imagine he’s back on the market.
The Sabres have given themselves a ton of runway with their young core of players locked up to long-term deals throughout their primes. Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens, Rasmus Dahlin, Mattias Samuelsson, and Owen Power as a core group is a great starting point for a team desperate to get out of the league’s basement. Look for Adams to go long at a lower cap hit with Jack Quinn, JJ Peterka, and Devon Levi in the next couple of years to ensure as much flexibility to improve the team around its core.
Sure, this team didn’t take the step they expected to this season. However, they have until at least 2029-30 to let this group figure out how to be a playoff contender.
Unless Adams decides to try and accelerate the rebuild—a strategy that is always a good idea—I don’t think they’re in the business of trading anyone that could be of value to the Canucks this season.
Maybe you try to buy low on Peyton Krebs and see if you can get more out of him here in Vancouver on a cheap extension.
Maybe you flip one of Hunter Brzustewicz or Tom Willander for one of the Sabres’ hundred thousand forward prospects they have lighting it up across hockey leagues around the globe. Noah Ostlund? Jiri Kulich? Isak Rosen? Matthew Savoie? Anton Wahlberg? If the Canucks can find value out of the Sabres’ positions of strength, they should go for it!
Otherwise? It’s probably for the best that the Canucks take solace in the excellent work they’ve done in free agency thus far and try to find value this offseason or at next year’s deadline.

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