The word “ironman” gets thrown around a lot these days, and it absolutely should, because it’s a fantastic word. Speaking of such things, I, Stephan Roget, am back for a second consecutive turn at the Monday Mailbag, filling in for my intrepid editor David Quadrelli and answering all your tweetable questions, #Canucks-related or otherwise.
Definitely higher than I’d like them to be.
Jim Benning has stated a desire to be “aggressive” in improving the team this offseason. With few tradeable pieces on the roster, one has to assume that the assets being aggressively offered will be futures-based, and there’s really only so many that qualify. Vasily Podkolzin, Jack Rathbone, and the 9th overall pick are pretty much it when it comes to “aggressive” pieces that could be dangled.
Of the three, the 9th is the asset that I would be most comfortable dealing, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable dealing it.
The last ten 9th overall picks, in order, were Mikael Granlund, Dougie Hamilton, Jacob Trouba, Bo Horvat (hey, I know that guy!), Nikolaj Ehlers, Timo Meier, Mikhail Sergachev, Michael Rasmussen, Vitali Kravtsov, and Trevor Zegras.
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That says there’s a pretty good chance of getting a star player with the Canucks’ pick, even with all the strangeness of this draft class.
Trading the 9th overall for an established star on the right side of their prime and with some level of contract certainty would be a deal most could get behind, even if they quibbled with the value. Trading it for anything less just isn’t worth it.
Shoutout to Point Shot, some of the nicest folks in the biz!
That last answer all leads nicely into this next question, because Sam Reinhart is probably someone the Canucks are targeting, and the 9th overall pick seems like the most logical centrepiece of such a trade.
I could get behind a 9th for Reinhart trade, but only so long as the Canucks could talk to Reinhart and his agent first and agree to a reasonable contract extension, preferably one that contained some measure of a hometown discount.
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The question of where to play him is tricky, however.
Reinhart has played his best hockey for Buffalo at center with Jack Eichel out of the lineup, and so my first inclination would be to have him there. Ideally, you’re keeping the Lotto Line together, putting Reinhart with Nils Höglander and someone cheap, and then rolling with a third line of Tanner Pearson, Bo Horvat, and Vasily Podkolzin taking tough matchups — though this would require a bit of a defensive renaissance from Horvat and Pearson.
Placing Reinhart on Horvat’s wing is tempting, but it leaves a bit of a mess in the bottom-six. If you’re going to do that, JT Miller probably goes down to the third line, leaving something like:
Höglander-Pettersson-Boeser
Pearson-Horvat-Reinhart
Motte-Miller-Podkolzin
That’s actually not half-bad, either.
Of course, acquiring Reinhart would probably eat up any remaining cap space the team had left to play with, and that wouldn’t mean great things for the blueline, which we’re about to talk about.
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Thus, any trade for Reinhart has to be precipitated by the moving of salary elsewhere.
It’s hard to say.
Right now, you’re losing Alex Edler and Travis Hamonic and replacing them with Jack Rathbone and…someone else. That could constitute an improvement in the long run, but it’s probably not going to result in fewer goals against in 2021/22.
Re-signing Edler and Hamonic strains the cap situation, and it also results in the exact same blueline that let in 188 goals last year, and a worse version of it at that with both players continuing to show their age.
That same cap situation is going to make it difficult to add anyone else to the roster, but any extra dollars that can be scrimped should be dedicated to the defence corps. Just one genuine top-four addition, especially one with some genuine defensive and penalty killing chops, would go a long, long way toward improving the goals against rate — especially if they could play the right side.
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Beyond that, one has to hope for improvement from within. Bounceback campaigns from Quinn Hughes and Nate Schmidt would do wonders, as would someone putting a little more caution and control into Tyler Myers’ game. On that note, the arrival of assistant coach Brad Shaw could very well be the thing that reduces the Canucks’ porousness the most in 2021/22, regardless of the quality of the blueline.
I have absolutely no idea, to be perfectly honest. But that’s not a very good answer, so I did some Googling around and came up with some names.
At center, Marc McLaughlin of Boston College is a high-character center who broke out as a 21-year-old this past season, going point-per-game and maintaining his reputation for attention to defensive detail. Could project as a classic checking center at the NHL level.
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Parker Ford of Providence College is only 20 and was supposed to go in the last Entry Draft. He’s not the biggest, but he’s a classic two-way energy center with solid offensive potential and a real two-way conscience.
On defence, I’d take a gander at Nick Blankenburg, a right-hander who played with Owen Power at the University of Michigan and brought stability to his game — though his size is a major drawback to the role he’d likely play. Has a bit of a Troy Stecher vibe.
That’s pretty much it. There’s a couple of lefties that could be of interest in Akito Hirose and Brandon Scanlin.
It’s all about those midi-chlorian counts. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the Canucks were getting their midi-chlorians checked on a regular basis back when Mike Gillis was GM. He did buy them a Hyperbolic Time Chamber, after all.
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Like Kadri? Possibly. Kadri, specifically? Probably not.
His contract status is a major detriment to any trade from the Canucks’ perspective, as is his reputation for playoff knuckleheadedness. His qualifications as a shutdown center are also generally overrated.
The notion of going all-in on a “luxury option” for 3C is logical in a vacuum, but runs into cap-related complications pretty quickly in practice. Cap space is going to be hard to come by, and the holes on the blueline should take priority over the holes up front. As mentioned when discussing Sam Reinhart, there probably won’t be any additions of note up front — save for Podkolzin — unless the team gets lucky with a contract or two this offseason.
Beyond Reinhart, some other intriguing high-price options for center can be found in an article I did a few weeks back, so I’ll just plagiarize myself here:
Radek Faksa, Yanni Gourde, Chris Tierney, and Andrew Copp would all be worth pursuing pre-Expansion Draft if the cap space could be scrounged — but, again, that’s a Tyler Myers-sized if.
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I am also Team MacTavish, but then that’s probably my big hair bias talking.
I’m actually a little leery of Mason MacTavish because so much of his hype comes from one single tournament, and because a lot of what gets said about him relies on those dreaded intangibles like “hustle” and “motor.”
Kent Johnson, on the other hand, seems like a lot of what the Canucks already have with smooth puckhandling, sublime skill, and a speciality in making pretty plays.
If it came down to the two of them, I’d probably go with MacTavish because his skillset brings more of what the Canucks lack, but I wouldn’t argue too hard if anyone else preferred Johnson.