By: Brayden Fengler / March 7, 2023
Well, the NHL trade deadline has passed and with it, another window of opportunity for the Canucks to make sizable moves has closed behind them. Vancouver wasn’t absent from the trading scene, but the pieces they did move, and the ones they acquired, were not necessarily what some Canucks fans had in mind.
In late February, we here at StadiumChinatown.ca published our “On the Block” article, highlighting the players that Vancouver may look to move on from. With the exception of Luke Schenn, who was basically a given, Vancouver did not follow through with the other predicted trades.
Both Boeser and Demko, despite the rumours he wanted to leave Vancouver, remain Canucks. Even players like Burroughs, Rathbone, and Ferland, stayed put past March 3rd. So what moves did Vancouver end up making, and were they worth it?
Lockwood for Kravtsov
The Canucks first move was their trade of William Lockwood for Vitali Kravtsov of the New York Rangers. Lockwood is heading to New York as a former Abbotsford Canuck rather than a Vancouver Canuck. The right winger has played only 13 games for the main squad this year and had been dressing in the Johnny Canuck jersey since the end of January.
By getting Kravtsov, the Canucks are netting a slightly younger and notably taller right winger, in a low-stakes move that, for the most part, seems like an equal gamble for both teams.
The two players have shown similar production during their NHL stints, and have been given near-equal deployment by their former teams. This move is likely based on hopes from both teams that a change of scenery will increase the value of their new winger.
Stillman for Bloom
The Canucks made another one-for-one swap in late February, trading the much-maligned Riley Stillman for forward prospect Josh Boom of the Buffalo Sabres.
After taking on $875k in cap space in the Kravtsov exchange the Canucks would end up shedding more than that with the Stillman deal, moving $1.35M off their books.
Moving out Stillman is a positive for the Canucks, it’s never bad to shed over $1M in cap space, and it’s even better when the player moving out has been fundamentally harmful to the team’s defence over the course of the season. Tyler Myers gets a lot of grief for his defensive blunders, but Myers often finds ways to keep himself integral to the Canucks game plan one way or another; by being physical or standing up for himself or his teammates.
Although it’s hard to say if Josh Bloom, a third-rounder from 2021, will turn into a winger that the Canucks can utilize in a year or two, getting Stillman out of the picture makes this trade worth its while as is.
Schenn for a pick
We dove deeper into the Schenn move in a piece published early last week. So we recommend checking that out if you want to know more about the biggest move the Canucks made directly leading up to the deadline.
Schenn’s physicality has already been missed in Vancouver, most clearly demonstrated in his recent return to Rogers Arena with his new club, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even though the Canucks uncharacteristically dominated a superior Leaf’s team, Schenn did not hold back in his physicality towards his former team.
Although this side of Schenn is now something that the Canucks are missing, the Canucks don’t need this type of player right now and were wise to move him to a team that could better utilize his services in exchange for value coming back their way.
A third-round pick is hardly a jackpot, but Schenn is entering Free Agency after this season, and it seems like the Canucks did him a solid with the move. The timing was considerate to Schenn’s family considering his wife’s pending pregnancy, and he’s being sent to a “contender” that may allow him to utilize his service on a cup run.
Schenn likes it in Vancouver, so we may see him back before the start of next year. If that’s the case then an extra third-round pick, in exchange for loaning his service to Toronto, is not bad.
Picks for Hronek
This trade made just two days out from the deadline, is where the Canucks moves switched from low stakes and well-executed to potentially troublesome. The Canucks sent the Red Wings a 2023 2nd round pick, as well as the 2023 conditional 1st-round pick that they just received from the Islanders in the Horvat deal, thus ending the speculations around how the Canucks were going to be able to utilize or leverage that pick and its conditions.
Filip Hronek is a 25-year-old right-shot defenceman, a position that the Canucks have routinely been unable to fill significantly. The Czech Republic-born defenceman has been active for the Red Wings this season, having earned 38 points in 60 games. However, his CF% lags below 50%, which isn’t exactly music to the ears of Canucks fans, who have already been watching their team scramble for control of the puck in defending situations all year.
Hronek is a sizable investment for Vancouver, coming in with a $4.4M cap hit this year and next, until his contract is up at the end of the 2023-24 season. This trade is a risk but does have a few silver linings. One being Hronek’s proven ability to produce offensively and the other being the low commitment in regards to term. Hronek may end up being a good fit for this rebuilding Canucks team in the short term if his defensive game can improve.
Lazar for picks
Curtis Lazar being shipped away was one of two moves that the Canucks made on deadline day itself. Lazar went to the Devils in exchange for a 2024 4th-round pick. A clear-cut and simple move for the Canucks, as they shed $1M in exchange for a pick, and offloaded a centre, whose impact in Vancouver was subtle at best.
Lazar entered the Vancouver scene in time for this season and was another victim on the Canucks search for a reliable 3C like Jason Dickinson before him. The Canucks offensive problems don’t start and end in the middle, but Lazar’s inability to contribute to any secondary scoring put the writing on the wall fairly early in the season that he was not the answer to the Canuck’s problems.
Future Considerations for Kalynuk
The Canucks then rounded off deadline day by circling back to the New York Rangers and sending Abbotsford Canuck Wyatt Kalynuk to New York in exchange for the famous player known as “Future Considerations”. Kalynuk, a 25-year-old left-shot d-man never got the call-up to Rogers Arena, likely because it was the one rare area of strength for this organization.
There was never a path for Kalynuk in Vancouver, so it made sense to part with a player like him, even if only for “Future Considerations”. I’m of the mind that it’s always better to make moves of this nature if you can because even if the return isn’t high, it almost always beats letting these players stagnate in one team’s farm system.
Was Tidy Business Done?
The Canucks did not break the mould with this trade deadline. Just like the one before it, the Canucks made low-steak moves and refused to budge on any big names.
J.T. Miller was reported to have been the eye of the Pittsburgh Penguins for some time, but despite the unexpected interest in the expensive Vancouver player, Rutherford and Co. decided to keep J.T. on the west coast. Apparently, any potential deal in this respect would’ve seen the Canucks get very little in return with the expectation of being able to remove Miller’s money from their books.
I guess it all comes down to how much the Canucks value cap space over assets. Both are important, but it seems that right now freeing up cap space is not enough to warrant parting with a contract that will no doubt age poorly.
At the end of the day, the Canucks moved out $3.2M at the deadline but added $5.275M with the Hronek deal being the main culprit.
Quick maths will tell you that the Canucks did not move out any major money at this deadline, nor did they wheel and deal for any impressive returns above standard market value. It seems crazy that even after Allvin and Rutherford’s second deadline, we’re no closer to knowing what the plan really is.