The Vancouver Canucks Trade Deadline Primer

By: Trent Leith / March 7, 2024  

The Canucks are certainly buyers this year and as we approach the Trade Deadline on March 8th, all we can do is speculate on what the Canucks might, or might not do.

Jim Rutherford and Patrick Allvin have now jumped the deadline in both seasons they have been at the helm of the team, making moves before the final hour. In the 2022/23 season they traded away Horvat and later brought in Hronek. This year they brought in Elias Lindholm to try and bump the team during the All-Star Break. The jury is still out on how that acquisition will work out, but all signs point to management not being done just yet.

Tyler Toffoli

Tyler Toffoli is coming to the end of the four-year $4.25M contract he signed after his brief stint in Vancouver in 2020. Toffoli only played 10 games in Vancouver before the season was shut down due to the pandemic.

In his 10-game stint, he put up six goals and four assists while playing largely with J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson. Toffoli claimed to love his stay in Vancouver and hoped to stay in the city, but he was not offered an extension and he left for Montreal on a very affordable contract.

The next season, he played eight games against the Canucks and scored eight goals and put up five assists. Toffoli really rubbed the Canucks’ nose in their mistake to let him walk.

But now here we are, asking ourselves “Who will play with Pettersson?” and Toffoli is on a team likely to miss the playoffs. There isn’t much mental gymnastics that has to occur to see the fit if the price is right.

Jake Guentzel

The big ticket this year at deadline time has been Jake Guentzel from the start. The, will they? Won’t they? the Penguins have been going through flirting with playoff contention appears to have reached a head. Word is they will. Guentzel is not going to be cheap for the team who acquires the 29-year-old winger.

Guentzel has 22 goals in 50 games this season and has 52 points, playing on Crosby’s wing. This comes despite the Penguins’ atrocious powerplay this season. It is no secret that Guentzel is one of the best wingers in the league.

Rutherford and Allvin are not shy about acquiring players they have formerly had in Pittsburgh, and Guentzel falls into this category. Guentzel will be looking for a long-term contract following this season, and this would make him a pure rental unless you are comfortable paying him well into his 30s.

Conflicting reports are out there whether the Canucks are still in or have been priced out.

Only time will tell if the Canucks can land the big fish or not.

Lindholm on The Trade Block?

Chris Johnson reported on Tuesday that the Canucks are involved in trade talks for Guentzel, and as part of the deal, would consider flipping Lindholm to the Bruins to make it happen.

Kevin Weekes has speculated similarly.

The Bruins have long been linked to Elias Lindholm before the Canucks snatched him up in late January. However, the fit with the Canucks hasn’t been right.

Lindholm has played 15 games in Vancouver and has only four goals and two assists to show for it. Lindholm has bounced around the lineup, not finding a true fit with any of the line combinations he has played with. Since acquiring Lindholm, the Canucks have fallen into their worst slump of the season. Since Lindholm joined the team, the Canucks have had a 7-6-2 record.

The fit isn’t there, and that is one of the advantages of signing a player long before the deadline. The Canucks have a chance to try and find a better fit should they be so inclined. This is a luxury that isn’t afforded to you when you make a trade right at the deadline. If a new player doesn’t fit their new team, tough deal. There is no moving them after the deadline. But when a team gets their work done early, like the Canucks did, it gives them a second chance at an upgrade.

Tidy work I say. Let’s see if they flip him, or stand pat.

Jason Zucker

The Canucks have also been linked to Jason Zucker of the Arizona Coyotes.

Zucker is a 32-year-old winger who, you’ll never believe this, played for Rutherford in Pittsburgh. Zucker has had some ups and downs in the last couple of years. In 2022/23, Zucker scored 27 goals and had 21 assists, but this season he only has nine goals and 16 assists.

Zucker seems to be lower on the wish list for the Canucks, more of a consolation prize if they aren’t able to land Guentzel.

Phil Kessel

Phill Kessel has been training in Abbotsford for a potential return to the NHL and the Canucks seem to be the front runners for the player. Both player and team want this to work out in Vancouver. So what is the hang-up? Well, it could be a couple of things.

First, the Canucks have mentioned on multiple occasions that Kessel has some fitness targets to meet on and off the ice, which is fair. Kessel hasn’t played in a professional hockey game since last season’s playoffs when he won a Cup with the Vegas Golden Knights. All reports are, he is hitting those fitness targets, so no worries there.

The other thing is simply timing. Former Canucks executive, Jonathan Wall mention on Twitter in February, “If I’m a betting man, Canucks sign Phil Kessel to coincide with the roster limit raising on deadline day”. “Saves a recall down the stretch and keeps kids in Abby for cap flexibility and a playoff run. The recall rule definitely adds complexity to end-of-year planning,” he explained.

Signing Phil the Thrill on deadline day means he doesn’t take up a roster spot now, he won’t need to be assigned to the AHL and he won’t cost the team a recall spot post-deadline.

This is purely speculation, but he points out a very logically sound argument as to why things have gone quiet on the Kessel front, at least for now.

Podkolzin Showcase?

Podkolzin recently got his first call-up from the AHL this season. Podkolzin is taking the Höglander route back to the NHL. He has been doing everything the club has asked of him, and as a result, he got a call-up when Bains was sent back to the AHL after his stint.

Podkolzin has been rumoured to be a potential trade piece for upgrading the team this year. Is that why he has been called up? To let other clubs see him in NHL action? Or is it simply that Bains wasn’t ready and Joshua is still a ways away from returning? Some will say both.

On Wednesday, Podkolzin was assigned to Abbotsford again.

However, it has been reported this is simply a paper transaction to retain flexibility before the deadline. This is similar to how the Dallas Stars have been papering Stankoven back and forth from the AHL and NHL, despite remaining with the Dallas Stars.

Is Podkolzin a piece the Canucks can afford to lose? Podkolzin was drafted 10th overall in 2019 and has yet to find his ceiling at the NHL level.