Unlikely playoff push complicates trade deadline for new Canucks front office

Unlikely playoff push complicates trade deadline for new Canucks front office
Photo credit: The Canadian Press

The Vancouver Canucks have not made Jim Rutherford’s job easy.

The team languished at the bottom of the Pacific Division standings when Rutherford was appointed president of hockey operations in early December. Now the Canucks (30-25-7) sit three points out of a playoff spot, complicating whether Vancouver will be buyers or sellers ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Head coach Bruce Boudreau said he’s offered to help the front office in any way he can, but hasn’t been talking to management much.

“I think Jim and (general manager Patrik Allvin) have a really good nose for what this team needs,” he said. “I think they like the way things are going. We know we go through a gauntlet after this weekend of teams. But I’ve come to the conclusion that you can beat anybody on any given night.”

J.T. Miller was expected to be Vancouver’s biggest trade asset heading into the deadline.

The versatile 29-year-old forward not only produces, putting up 73 points (24 goals, 49 assists) in 59 games this year, but he comes with a tantalizing deal — a US$5.25 cap hit for this season and next.

Vancouver’s unlikely to move Miller before Monday, though. As the team’s top scorer and a locker-room leader, he’s too crucial to the team’s post-season push.

Several Canucks players are still rumoured to be on the trade block, though, including Brock Boeser.

The 25-year-old right-winger has amassed 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 55 games this year and carries a cap hit of $5.875 million. While he’s been a fairly consistent contributor in Vancouver, Boeser has yet to crack the 30-goal mark in five NHL seasons.

He’s also set to become a restricted free agent this summer and his $7.5-million qualifying offer could scare away potential takers.

Another forward who could draw interest is Conor Garland.

The 26-year-old winger came to Vancouver from Arizona with defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson in a massive deal ahead of the entry draft last summer, then inked a five-year deal with an average annual value of $4.95 million.

A slippery player who’s known to spin his way into open ice, Garland has 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 56 games for the Canucks and is on pace to top the career-high 39 points he tallied with the Coyotes in each of the last two seasons.

Teams in search of a more defensive forward could be looking to pick up centre Tyler Motte.

The Canucks have found big value in a shutdown line headlined by the 27-year-old centre this season but the speedy skater has left his mark on the score sheet, too, notching 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 46 games.

At a cap hit of $1.225 million, Motte is a value add. He’s also likely to demand a pay raise when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

One defenceman Vancouver may get calls about is Luke Schenn.

The 32-year-old two-time Stanley Cup winner returned to the Canucks from Tampa Bay as a free agent this season, signing a two-year deal with a very reasonable $850,000 AAV. In 46 games, he’s proved to be reliable on the blue line, tallying nine points (three goals, six assists) with 36 penalty minutes and a plus-minus rating of plus-13.

In any potential deal, Rutherford and his team will be looking further ahead than this season, regardless of whether playoffs are in the picture.

The Canucks are right up against the cap and both Rutherford and Allvin have said the club needs to shed salary in order to be competitive moving forward.

Vancouver also possesses a shallow prospect pool and the team is likely eager to collect young talent and draft picks.

The need for a younger, deeper blue line now won’t escape management’s attention, either.

In Rutherford and Allvin’s first trade deadline with the Canucks, the wish list is long and the prospect of playoffs looms large.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2022.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!