Two words; Trade. Deadline. The most exciting day on the NHL calendar.
Well, not if the Senators decide to trade Erik Karlsson tonight instead.
Let’s start with what we already know. The Canucks are a team in selling mode with a small selection of assets that teams are going to take a serious look at, including Thomas Vanek, Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton.
For precautionary measures, the Canucks elected to scratch Vanek before tonight’s game against the Coyotes, a game that lacked excitement but ended in a 3-1 Vancouver victory. Daniel Sedin continued his hot streak with two more goals, Jacob Markstrom was nearly flawless in a 41-save performance and Darren Archibald made no mistake on a beautiful feed from Brandon Sutter to seal the victory.
Darren Archibald out here telling the Canucks he wants that job next year pic.twitter.com/KmdoKvH8ON
— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) February 26, 2018
Who needs Vanek, am I right?
Erik Gudbranson’s name was crossed off the trade list last week, after signing a three-year extension worth $12 million. That contract was offered to him by another recently resigned member of the Canucks, general manager Jim Benning. Like Gudbranson, Benning had his job extended until the 2020-21 season, and this year’s deadline should give us a clear indication on whether he’s truly figured out the direction of the franchise.
Before last season’s deadline Benning arguably made some of the best moves of his GM career, turning fan favourite Canucks Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen into highly touted prospects Jonathan Dahlen and Nikolay Goldobin. A year later, the pressure is on him to work that magic again.
But what would truly constitute a successful Deadline Day for the Canucks?
For me, it comes down to keeping their options open. Benning and Trevor Linden’s regime has always seemed unwilling to make deals involving players with term, like Tanev or Alex Edler. They don’t ever seem to take a serious look into acquiring a player from one team and flipping him to another, like Nashville did today with Mark Letestu.
And my biggest concern of all, for a team sitting in the league’s basement, the Canucks have no additional picks in the upcoming draft. In fact, they’re missing their own fourth rounder, which they sent to the Penguins in the Derrick Pouliot deal.
If Canucks management truly wants to come out of Monday’s deadline having done all they can to improve the club’s future, they need to get creative. If I could give Benning and Linden my advice, it’d be this; look at every possible option (including deals surrounding other teams), don’t be afraid to deal more established players if the price is right and try to grab all of those sweet, sweet draft picks you can.
There’s plenty of ways the Canucks could win on Deadline Day, but one thing’s for sure; standing pat can’t be an option.
The Gud, the Bad and the Handsome
Erik Gudbranson won’t be going anywhere on Monday, and it’s no secret that his new three-year deal has divided fans and media alike for a number of reasons, be it the length, the price and/or the reasoning behind it.
So let me try and navigate this cactus maze as best I can.
First, the term. For the people who wanted him gone at the deadline, three years is probably the best you could’ve hoped for. Gudbranson had made it clear early in the negotiations that term was an important part of signing this deal, so it wasn’t going to be anything less than that.
The $12 million price tag is where I see this contract coming back to bite the Canucks, especially since Gudbranson will likely remain a bottom pair defender. But as an extension is concerned Gudbranson will make just half a million more than he has this season, so it’s not an outrageous change.
But the reasoning is where most of my intrigue comes from in this move. Benning’s main arguments for bringing Gudbranson back have seemed to be his importance in the locker room, the difficult trade market and the toughness factor he brings.
Gudbranson is definitely a big guy who can dish out some hard hits when he wants to, but being the club tough guy has never really been his style. While the Canucks likely do need an upgrade in the size and grit department, Gudbranson doesn’t strike me as the man for the job.
Even though he’s described as stay-at-home defensemen, it’s tough to argue he’s overly effective in that area too. Especially considering he was on the ice for eight of the 11 goals scored against the Canucks in the first two game after inking his extension. Yikes.
With that in mind it seems most likely that Vancouver resigned Gudbranson based on what we don’t see in the locker room. I’ve heard a lot in recent weeks about how well liked he is among his Canucks’ teammates and his leadership qualities, and if that’s how the team justifies resigning him, it wouldn’t be the worst reason for a team in transition. But if Gudbranson’s cap hit ever gets in the way of better young defenders cracking the lineup, this deal could go sour very quickly.
It’s no secret that Thomas Vanek is the Canucks best asset available during tomorrow’s deadline, and one potential suitor that he was linked to during last night’s Hockey Night broadcast was the Anaheim Ducks. But for all the other teams who’ve looked at Vanek, it entirely depends on where the more high-profile dominoes fall.
Names like Mike Hoffman and Evander Kane are going to be the big draws for teams looking for a new winger, and that leaves Vanek as the second option for the teams that can’t close on the bigger names. With all likelihood the Canucks should end up getting a deal done, and I’d be surprised if a draft choice isn’t part of the return. It could end being as high as a second or third rounder, but if a prospect is in the package any pick included probably wouldn’t be higher than a fourth.
At the end of the day, any trade involving Vanek will go down as a win for Canucks management, considering the smart move the team made by signing him back in September. If he does leave, it’ll be as Vancouver’s second highest scorer this season and one of the bright spots in a tough 2017-18 Canucks campaign.
Serious question here; how possible do you think it is that Thomas Vanek would return to the #Canucks in the offseason even if he’s traded?
— Lachlan Irvine (@LachInTheCrease) February 26, 2018
There’s still a chance that Vanek will come back in the offseason and do this all over again at next year’s deadline. But if not, we’ll always have the breakaway slappers to remember him by.
Around the Rinks: Deadline Edition
With everything going on before tomorrow’s deadline, let’s take this time to recap some of the biggest stories right now.
- The Bruins added Rick Nash to their already staked lineup today, acquiring him from the Rangers for a large package that included Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and Ryan Lindgren. The Bruins are prepared to go all in this season, and adding Nash will give them some bonafide extra scoring depth. The Rangers made their “Clearance Sale” known earlier this month, and Spooner will be a great fit in New York’s next core group.
- Remember the Canucks’ fourth rounder from earlier? Its found its way to Sin City as part of the return involved in the massive Derick Brassard deal. Essentially, the Golden Knights got the draft choice by picking up part of Brassard’s cap hit for his new team, the Penguins, while his old Senators team gets another trade chip in defensemen Ian Cole along with a package of picks and goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson. While it’s a good trade for all teams concerned, I do have one question; why are teams still helping the defending two-time champions? At this rate the Pens might keep the Cup in Pittsburgh until 2025.
- During Hockey Night in Canada’s “Saturday Headlines” segment the analysts discussed the belief that Max Pacioretty wants a move out of Montreal and how Erik Karlsson and the Senators both want to make a trade happen. These will obviously be the biggest stories to watch tomorrow, although if I were a betting man, I’d expect a Karlsson trade is more likely to happen in the summer than tomorrow. But hey, anything is possible on Deadline Day.
- A big congrats is in order for everyone on Team Canada for their amazing showing at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. I’ve never had so much fun waking up at 3 a.m. than watching some the best athletes in the world make us proud. Great work, guys.
LITC Update: Trade Deadline and Planning for the Future
The Trade Deadline here, and for me that means a day to sit back, down several cups of coffee and furiously type up analysis for every single deal of the day. So I hope you’ll join me tomorrow for Lach’s Trade Deadline Blog Extravaganza where I’ll be covering all the moves and rumours of the day on one convenient page. I’ve never done a “live” blog before, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
As the blog itself goes, I recently realized that my ad blocker has been hiding the fact that ads were showing up on the site. Having annoying ads was something I intended to avoid by becoming a SeatGeek partner instead of joining an advertisement program, and I intend on keeping that promise. So I recently upgraded my WordPress account to the basic paid package, which (actually) gives everyone an ad-free experience!
The future of the site I contemplated a lot before making the upgrade decision, and I’m planning to make a big announcement about it sometime soon. But for now, I can’t wait to cover tomorrow’s deadline and I hope it’ll give you a window into what I have planned for the future of the LITC Blog.
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you back here tomorrow for a day of trades and insanity! – Lach
What do you hope the Canucks game plan is for tomorrow’s deadline? Leave a comment below!