The Vancouver Canucks have one of the worst defences in hockey, and I’m not just saying that to be grumpy.
At this juncture of the 2018-19 season, the Canucks allow the third-most scoring chances at even-strength and are bottom third for high-danger chances against. They’re lucky that Jacob Markstrom has provided them with above average goaltending at this point in the season.
Whether you like Markstrom or not, the numbers point to a goalie that’s keeping his defensively-flawed team afloat. Despite giving up the third-most scoring chances at evens, It’s a small miracle that the Canucks only allow the 19th-most goals from scoring chances.
Time to raise a banner?
Jacob Markstrom ROBBED Nick Bjugstad of a goal, and Bjugstad’s reaction was priceless pic.twitter.com/daNkFIISls— Bar South N Celly™ (@BarSouthNCelly) January 14, 2019
Markstrom’s save percentage on high danger chances at evens is 22nd in the league among 76 goaltenders who have played more than 250 minutes at five-on-five.
The Canucks entered this season with the hope that some of their underperforming defencemen would, well, perform. Now that those questions more or less been answered, it’s time to start looking at who might remain a part of this team.
Here’s a look at the odds of each Canucks defenceman on whether they will be traded or not at the upcoming deadline on February 25th.
Slim to None
There’s no doubt that Richmond native Troy Stecher is among the fan-favourites on this roster. There’s also little doubt that no one gives more effort than Stecher on a game-to-game basis.
Among all Canucks defenceman, you could argue that no one is more underrated than Stecher. Hell, even his own coach seems to underutilize him. Only Alex Biega averages less ice time than Stecher among Canucks defencemen.
Since he’s underutilized and undervalued, there’s absoultely no point trading Stecher. Along with the next guy, he’s the least likely to be traded among current Canucks defencemen.
Odds of being traded at the deadline: 1%
Patiently awaiting his opportunity to get back into the line-up, Biega has now gone a month without game action. He’s a player that you notice due to his hustle, but has obvious limitations. He’s probably a player that could pass through waivers without getting claimed, although teams are always looking for cheap depth defencemen around the deadline.
Odds of being traded at the deadline: 2%
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance...
The revival of Ben Hutton this season has been partially forgotten after a dreadful stretch that he spent alongside Erik Gudbranson. Since Hutton has been paired with Troy Stecher, his game has looked much better. There’s even an argument to be made that Hutton and Stecher are the Canucks best pair, even if that’s more of an indictment on the organization rather than praise for Stecher and Hutton.
If there’s any chance that Hutton gets traded, it’s due to his impending contract status. Will Hutton demand more than Erik Gudbranson, something in the $4.5 million per year range. Just spitballing, but there’s no reason why Hutton shouldn’t command that as his starting point. It’s also fair if the Canucks don’t want to match that. Chances are they get something done, but Hutton is an intriguing piece to move if contract talks stall.
Odds of being traded at the deadline: 15%
Ever since the calendar flipped to 2019, sports talk radio in Vancouver hasn’t gone a day without mentioning Alex Edler and his looming UFA status. He would be an excellent trade chip for this organization, just don’t expect him to actually be traded.
Edler has never indicated that he wants to leave Vancouver. Even if Canucks management tells him they aren’t going to re-sign him (which i doubt they would do), Edler could still just block a trade and hit free agency.
Not only is a trade unlikely, but it seems like the Canucks want to keep Edler. Although Jim Benning said he hasn’t met with Edler’s agent yet (WTF), he did mention on Sportsnet 650 that Edler has been a great role model to Elias Pettersson. Chances are Edler gets signed to an extension, but a trade, perhaps to a nearby Pacific Division team, isn’t completely out of the question.
Odds of being traded at the deadline: 20%
I think the Canucks have to take a long, hard look and ask themselves: “do we really want to keep bringing back the same defencemen over and over again?
The blueline depth undoubtedly needs to improve, but does this defence look that much different if Tanev & Edler remain here for the forseeable future? Of course, Tanev and Edler aren’t getting any younger either.
If the Canucks wanted to trade Tanev, they should have done so at the 2016 or 2017 deadline, when his value was greater. That being said, he’s still a responsible defenceman who can effectively play against the opposing team’s best forwards. He needs to avoid the heavy minutes but can comfortably slot into a second pairing role.
I do think Toronto could still be a fit, even after the Jake Muzzin deal. That being said, it would be a hard trade to swing with that hefty Nikita Zaistev contract eating up cap space. Other playoff teams that could use a boost on the right side include the Washington Capitals and Dallas Stars.
While a Tanev trade would net some good assets, it seems like Tanev has always been a player who’s undervalued around the league. That hasn’t changed much, and there’s a good chance at the Canucks see more value in him mentoring a guy like Quinn Hughes, especially since he’s signed for one more season at a reasonable cap hit.
Odds of being traded at the deadline: 25%
With Erik Gudbranson, the odds are that Jim Benning probably doesn’t want to admit defeat in this mistake to acquire the flat-footed, offensively-anemic rearguard. He traded palpable assets to acquire Gudbranson, and doubled-down by signing him last spring.
That being said, I just don’t know how much longer this team can continue to play Gudbranson if he keeps underperforming this noticeably. It’s been noted several times that he’s one of the worst defencemen in hockey, and his ice time is beginning to reflect that.
Last year, the rumour was that the Canucks could perhaps get a second and a fourth-round pick for Gudbranson. If they could escape with a third rounder and rid themselves of that contract, it would be a win for the organization.
Odds of being traded at the deadline: 30%
The odds of Derrick Pouliot being on this team to begin the 2019-20 season with the Canucks is slim. Unfortunately, the odds of trading him at the deadline aren’t that much higher.
It’s painfully clear that Pouliot isn’t an answer on this defence, but unfortunately other teams in the NHL probably see that as well. Pouliot also doesn’t have the “pedigree” like a Del Zotto or a Gudbranson, meaning that he won’t be dealt just based on experience.
Del Zotto only fetched Luke Schenn and a 2020 7th rounder. Any deal involving Pouliot probably isn’t bringing back anything more than that.
Maybe if Jim Benning just sends this clip to every general manager in the NHL, he could get a mid-round pick for Pouliot...
Pouliot with the dangles and the beauty pass to to put #Canucks up 2-1 pic.twitter.com/hptijX2z9u— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) January 19, 2019
I think the only way Pouliot gets moved is if he’s flipped for another struggling young-ish player. That, or it’s a salary dump and a middling pick, similarly to the Anders Nilsson deal.
Odds of being traded at the deadline: 33%