The Vancouver Canucks are not playoff contenders. That much should be obvious. It’s simply impossible to say that the Canucks will do anything of note in the postseason especially when looking at how the team is built and what they’re facing against in their own conference.
Calgary can call Sean Monahan their fourth-line centre. The Avalanche have two second-lines along with Cale Makar and Devon Toews. In St. Louis, there’s size, speed, and grit throughout their entire lineup.
Meanwhile, Vancouver is icing Tyler Myers for 22 minutes a game and Tucker Poolman for 18. They’re viewing Alex Chiasson and Nic Petan as viable wingers for Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat.
Against the competition they’re going to be playing in the playoffs — if they even get that far? They’ll be eaten alive. As Darryl Sutter said, it’ll be a waste of eight days.
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This is why this juncture today and tomorrow becomes critical for the future of this franchise. It’s a fork in the road that could thrust the Canucks into contenderhood, or relegate them further into the doldrums of mediocrity. Always good, but never good enough.
The league was active Saturday. Prior to puck drop against the Flames, three transactions were made for teams to add for an impending cup run. Hampus Lindholm went from the Ducks to Bruins, Claude Giroux departing Philadelphia for sunny Florida, and Nick Deslauriers solidifying the Wild’s fourth line.
Vancouver should be encouraged when looking at the prices these teams paid to get their players. The Lindholm trade saw a bounty of picks headed the other way. A 2022 first-rounder, two second-rounders in 2023 and 2024, along with an intriguing 23-year-old defensive prospect in Urho Vaakanainen was what Boston coughed up for Lindholm at 50% retained. For a solid top-four defenceman and a soon-to-be UFA, it’s quite the haul that Anaheim managed to recoup.
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As for the Giroux deal, Philadelphia was allegedly handcuffed by their captain’s demands to play for the Panthers. They might have had better deals on the table, but what they got back shouldn’t be scoffed at either. Former 10th overall pick Owen Tippett might’ve lost a bit of his shiny sheen, but the right-winger has been lights out in the AHL and producing a fair amount in the NHL with 14 points in 42 games. Sending a 2024 first-rounder and 2023 third-rounder to the Flyers finished off the trade that saw Connor Bunnaman and German Rubtsov head to Florida as well. The two 23-year-olds don’t look likely to be full-time NHLers.
Even the Deslauriers trade is arguably an overpay. For a player who’s never topped 15 points in a single season, his sandpaper and grit cost a 3rd rounder to acquire. In all of these acquisitions, a pattern has emerged – the teams that are adding are paying a lot.
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It’s something that’s been going on for the past week too. The lopsided Brandon Hagel trade, which saw a 2023 and 2024 first-rounder plus Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh head to Chicago, can definitely be justified by Bolts fans. However, the Blackhawks are licking their chops with the haul that they got, picks in deep drafts and two cheap middle-six pieces.
Montreal managed to get quite the return for Ben Chiarot, the physical bottom-pairing defender getting swapped for Ty Smilanic, currently putting up 22 points in 39 games with Quinnipiac as a sophomore, as well as a first in 2023 and a fourth in 2022.
These pieces that are being moved along with the prices that they are commanding should be plenty of motivation for the Canucks to sell at the deadline. Vancouver has arguably better players that can be bonafide additions to playoff teams, looking to add to push them over the top. With the market value being where it is right now, there should be no hesitation. Jim Rutherford and the brass should be salivating over what they can bring back.
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There’s plenty of interest for players on the roster. JT Miller’s price is astronomical right now and it’s still yet to be seen if a team bites on him. He’d make any franchise that much better. Brock Boeser, for all his struggles, is still a young top 6 piece even with a slightly high qualifying offer. For teams like the Penguins, he could be the wingman for Crosby’s final hurrah.
Garland has also drawn interest all around the league. If the right offer comes, for a price that is more than worth it, he too should be considered as a trade piece. And for the workhorse himself Tyler Motte, there isn’t a single contender that wouldn’t snap up the chance to slot him into their bottom six. There’s nothing like a guy good in the corners and forecheck who brings energy and heart each and every shift.
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Players like Tyler Myers, Tanner Pearson, Jaroslav Halak, all have drawn conversation about moves. It’s something that needs to happen if Vancouver wants to get better and improve. There isn’t a better time than now, in a market that has seen values inflate.
After the previous transactions set the going rate, the Canucks stand to take advantage of teams desperate to etch their names on the cup. The 2023 draft even outside of Michikov and Bedard looks to be incredibly deep, while near-NHL-ready prospects are definitely in any trade talks with the Canucks’ brass. All the transactions around the league provide plenty of encouragement for them to get a deal done, for a value far beyond normal trade deadlines.
Their mantra should be simple: If you want to win now, you have to give us part of your future.
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This isn’t to say that they should make a trade for the sake of making one. As a whole, this front office group has taken a measured approach with this club thus far and there are no signs to indicate otherwise.
Here is where the crux lies. Bo Horvat is 26 years old. Thatcher Demko too. Boeser is 25 and Pettersson turns 24 this year. There’s no time to hesitate if they want to turn Vancouver into a force to be feared in the years to come. After all, even with advancements in sports science and sports medicine, Father Time is undefeated. A team only has so long before their window slams shut. It would be a shame if the window never even opens for this group.
What separates a cup-winning team from a good team is depth and the flexibility to adapt. Vancouver is not there, not yet. The cornerstones are laid but stood upon it is a rusty patchwork of haphazard mixed-messaging. With shrewd moves that bring in young talent to contribute sooner rather than later, there is an opportunity to grow into something much sturdier. But there’s only so much time to do so before the cornerstones become old themselves. The time to capitalize is now, to build a juggernaut down the road.
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Are the Canucks content with simply being okay? I would think not.