The Canucks’ recent slide down the league standings, combined with their even more recent shutout of the Columbus Blue Jackets, has reignited the “to tank or not to tank” debate once again. While fans on both sides of the divide can agree that they don’t want the Canucks shilling out assets for trade deadline rentals, they differ on how much renting out the Canucks should do themselves. While continuing to attempt a playoff push is a noble goal that can positively impact the development of young players, I’m here to argue that becoming a “seller” at the deadline is the best course of action for the Canucks this year. The circumstances both around the league and within the franchise have aligned to create a scenario in which the team’s future could greatly benefit from the current trade market.
The Candidates To Be Traded
Hansen is easily the most discussed potential trade chip for the Canucks. This is largely due to the upcoming Expansion Draft, but also due to the large return he could possibly garner. Hansen has one year remaining on his high-value contract, and is one of the more versatile players in the league. Also elevates his game in the playoffs.
The market for goaltenders at the deadline depends entirely on context. Sometimes, there’s a need for them and sometimes there isn’t. If there is any sort of demand for goalies, Miller will be a highly sought-after commodity. Of all the UFA goalies, Miller has been among the best, with arguably only Ben Bishop a better target for a contending team.
Burrows is a player whose value may be inflated by the relative dearth of quality UFAs available at the deadline. Like Hansen, Burrows is versatile and elevates his performance come playoff time. The Montreal Canadiens seem like an ideal fit, and they reportedly have interest in him.
Jayson Megna/Michael Chaput/Jack Skille/Reid Boucher
If any team shows interest in acquiring any of these players for any sort of return, the Canucks should be all over it. You never know which depth player has caught the eye of an opposing GM. Chaput seems the likeliest candidate to go, but Boucher could have some interest, too.
With two years remaining on his contract after this year, Edler is not a traditional rental at all, but with few rental D available, a contender may look to acquire him anyway. His relatively inexpensive contract will make it easy for other teams to fit him in, and there are few teams that couldn’t benefit from his addition. At 30, Edler might not fit in with the Canucks’ future plans.
As an upcoming RFA, Gudbranson isn’t a traditional rental, either, but it at least makes him a no-commitment acquisition for a playoff-bound team. The Canucks played their best hockey with Gudbranson out of the lineup, and the emergence of Nikita Tryamkin (and to a lesser extent, Luca Sbisa) may have made him redundant. Would still return a decent package.
Sbisa has had a renaissance year, and that may have increased interest in him from around the league. If the Canucks allow Biega to play a few more games and thus hit the minimum for expansion requirements, Sbisa could be in play despite having one more year on his contract. A contending team that needs a defenseman to fulfill said expansion requirements would be ideal.
Philip Larsen/Alex Biega
Like Megna, Chaput, and Skille, if the Canucks can get anything in return for these players, they should. You never do know what sort of defensive depth teams will be looking for heading into the playoffs. One caveat: if Sbisa is traded, the Canucks will need to hang on to Biega.
The Need For Draft Picks
The Vancouver Canucks have only made 20 draft selections in the three drafts within the Jim Benning era. While this isn’t exactly a small number, and is relatively average, it is lower than expected for a rebuilding team. My own research has shown that teams that successfully retool often do so with a bulk of draft picks, a strategy that combined with good scouting ensures a constant influx of young talent. The Canucks organization appears to have the scouting prowess, but it doesn’t yet have the windfall of draft picks. This deadline could change that. A reportedly weaker draft class in 2017 may even make teams more willing to part with picks.
Lack of Prominent UFAs
The trade deadline market is often heavily affected by the availability, or lack thereof, of prominent upcoming unrestricted free agents. This year, the UFA market is especially light. Most of the big names, like Brent Burns, have already re-signed, leaving a sparse list of potential pickups. Kevin Shattenkirk is the biggest name, but has a rumoured desire to only sign in select cities. Many of the other top UFAs are either extremely likely to re-sign with their current teams (Joe Thornton, Alexander Radulov, Mike Fisher) or on a contending team that won’t sell (TJ Oshie, Brian Campbell, Jaromir Jagr, Nick Bonino) or a goalie, with a limited market (Ben Bishop, Brian Elliot).
This leaves the Canucks sitting pretty if they decide to sell, as players like Burrows, who might not otherwise attract a lot of attention at the deadline, suddenly look like desirable acquisitions. It also means that teams that would otherwise be seeking UFA rentals have to settle for players with term remaining, like Hansen or Edler.
The Seller’s Market/Parity
Some would say the greatest accomplishment of the post-lockouts era has been leaguewide parity, and that is on full display in 2016/17. Just look at the Canucks, who only a couple of weeks ago were flirting with a playoff position, and now find themselves near the bottom of the league. By the time the deadline rolls around in less than a month, the playoff picture will still be murky and many teams will still believe they are in the hunt.
This creates a seller’s market, as the small number of teams giving up on the playoffs makes potential acquisitions a scarce commodity. This allows the few sellers to auction their pieces between a large number of would-be contenders, and thus jack up the prices. Players that would normally go for a third rounder now garner a second, and a player that would usually cost a second suddenly returns a late first and a prospect. This is the perfect time to decide to become a seller.