A Canucks Trade Deadline Wishlist

By: Trent Leith / January 30, 2024  

At the time of writing this article, the Canucks sit atop the NHL standings, are the first team to reach 69 points (nice) and for the first time all season, hold the NHL top spot via points percentage as well (.719%). The Canucks are lighting the NHL on fire, and the crazy part is, their best players aren’t even at the top of their game right now.

The NHL is slowly approaching the trade deadline, and as we know, Rutherford and Allvin are no strangers to getting a jump on the market. But what will they be looking for? After a few games of sub-par play from the Lotto Line, they were broken up for the game on Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues. Does that mean the priority is to get Pettersson a game-changing, top-of-the-line-up winger? Is it still plan A to get a bonafide top-six centreman to create some flexibility in the top of the lineup? Or with Carson Soucy out for 5-6 weeks with a broken hand, does it remind management that maybe some more depth defence is key?

Depth Defence

Carson Soucy found himself on IR again on Jan 20th with an injured hand and per coach Tocchet, he will be out for 5-6 weeks. That means Noah Juulsen draws back into the line-up. Funny enough, the 26-year-old journeyman has played more games this season than Soucy despite being farther down the depth chart.

It took Juulsen to find his footing this season, but as of late, he has been a steady, bottom-of-the-lineup defender. However, it is no secret that he is a seventh defenceman. Not to take anything away from Juulsen, but simply put, with a healthy blueline, he is in the press box most nights.

With the Canucks playing so few games with their top six defenders all healthy, it would not raise some eyebrows to see the Canucks pick up some insurance on the back end before the deadline.

One person who always seems to pop up in trade rumours is Chris Tanev, who never wanted to leave Vancouver in the first place. Now, with new management firmly in place and the Canucks on the upswing, it would be no shock to find the team Dad back in the locker room. In fact, Rick Dhaliwal of Donnie and Dhali on Check TV has mentioned Captain Quinn is pushing for his surrogate father to return.

“Quinn Hughes has gone to bat for him this year and told management that Tanev is a guy you guys should target… And Tanev loves Vancouver, I know for a fact that if he became a free agent on July 1st, Vancouver would be very, very, very, very high on his list of potential places to go. But how do you get him out of Calgary?”

Well, personally, I would trade assets to Calgary to do it. But that is just me. Tanev would be a great fit, we know that. He had great chemistry with Hughes in the past and would give Tocchet more options on the back end to split up Hronek and Hughes should he see fit.

If not Tanev, the Canucks should be eyeballing a third-pair defender that can play up the line-up should they be called upon.

A New Bestie for Petey

We all love the Lotto Line, that is no secret. But is it sustainable? After a few games of trying it, Tocchet seems to have shelved it once again, and you can’t blame him. The Lotto Line is the exact definition of “putting all your eggs in one basket”. Just like Draisaitl and McDavid, together they are almost unstoppable, but you gotta spread it around sometimes.

So if the Canucks are going to keep the Lotto Line as a secret weapon to pull out in a pinch, Pettersson is going to need some new wingers. As much as we all love Kuzmenko’s smiles, he just isn’t cutting it this year. He has not been consistent enough. Kuzmenko is tenth on the team in scoring, tied with Garland (who has more points). As a player whose biggest strength is goal scoring, scoring eight goals is simply not good enough.

Mikheyev has been fine, he was never going to be the goal scorer or playmaker on that line anyway, he was always going to be the motor racing in on the forecheck and winning board battles. Mikheyev’s speed isn’t at the level it once was, but his offseason surgery could partly be to blame for that, and despite the speed reduction, he has achieved his goal on that line. However, Mikheyev’s fine play has not been enough to make up for Kuzmenko’s shortcomings, and as a result, Pettersson is struggling to produce at the levels he is capable of.

We say that Pettersson erupted offensively when playing with Miller and Boeser, it is because he didn’t have to drag players along to play at his level, he was playing with the other two best forwards on the team. If Miller and Boeser are going to remain on a separate line most of the time, the Canucks need to get a player like Guentzel or someone similar. A high-octane winger who can play at Pettersson’s level and complement him better than his current Russian partners have been.

2C for Me

Or, do you stick with a formula that has worked with a large sample size, has proven to be among the league’s most dangerous over large stretches and keep the Lotto Line together full-time? To do that, if you want to be taken seriously as a contender, you need to upgrade down the middle. No hate to Pius Suter who single-handedly dragged the Canucks to overtime to claim a point on Wednesday, but a player who has only reached 15 goals once in his career isn’t exactly the one-two punch that Stanley Cup winners tend to have.

If the Canucks can land a two-way centreman that could take tough matchups and leave the Lotto Line to feast on second lines, that would be the best recipe for success, especially if you believe the Lotto Line can work long term.

Bonus points if this player can play the wing as well, that would give you the flexibility to upgrade on Pettersson’s wing and keep the Lotto Line together if they want. The flexibility to mix up your lines in the top six while not failing to water down the talent is a huge weapon in the salary cap era.