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Why the Canucks Need to Focus on Being Sellers

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The Western Conference playoff race might be a joke. It also means there are less sellers on the market.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Los Angeles Kings
Feb 14, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Vancouver Canucks center Markus Granlund (60) takes a shot on goal in the first period against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline less than a week away, the Canucks status as a buyer, seller, or bystander should be crystal clear. While their place in the standings points to this team staying put, their true status should be that of a seller.

Despite that, we’re starting to hear rumblings that the Canucks could do the opposite of being a seller.

Look, Marcus Johansson is a good player in his own right. He’s 28 years old and profiles as a solid middle-six player who can move up the lineup.

Johansson also has a spotty history with injuries and will cost assets to acquire. Is this really the type of move the Canucks want to look at making while they already have millions tied up in bottom six guys like Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle?

Rumours and rumours and need to be taken with a grain of salt, but the fact that the Canucks are chasing players of this ilk is a troubling sign. Really, this team needs to focus on selling assets in a market where there aren’t many defined sellers.

2019 is a Good Time to Sell

In Gary Bettman’s NHL, every team has a chance to win. The turtle race in the Western Conference is a prime example of that.

Parity in the NHL means that there are fewer defined sellers than ever before.

In the Eastern Conference, I think you can safely say that the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are all sellers. Above them? The Florida Panthers are 11 points out, but they’ve played the fewest games in the NHL and and are 8-4-0 in their last 12. They could fool themselves into being in the playoff picture.

The Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres are both six points back, but Philadelphia is rolling while the Sabres are under pressure to push for playoffs after a hot stretch in November.

In the West, things are even murkier with the last-place Los Angeles Kings only eight points back of the playoffs. However, I think it’s safe to assume that the Kings and floundering Anaheim Ducks are sellers. The Arizona Coyotes should have that mindset as well with the number of injuries hampering their success.

After that? The Edmonton Oilers probably aren’t in sell-mode based on the state of their franchise. The other non-playoff teams, Chicago and Colorado, both have to be feeling good about their chances of making the postseason and aren’t in seller territory right now. If anything, they might buy pieces to help them keep pucks out of their net.

Canucks Deadline Sale Isn’t Likely, but Should be Considered

So in summary, you have six teams (Ottawa, Detroit, NYR, New Jersey, Los Angeles, and Anaheim) who should be thinking of selling. That leaves most of the NHL thinking postseason, including the Vancouver Canucks.

However, it doesn’t take rocket science to see that the Canucks aren’t a real contender. Not that any of the Western Wild Card teams are, but it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Canucks make any noise in the playoffs. Elias Pettersson and Jacob Markstrom could steal some games, but you could argue that the Canucks have the worst defence in hockey right now. That’s not going to get you very far in the playoffs, and it’s probably going to prevent the Canucks from making the playoffs period.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at San Jose Sharks
When your second pair on defence is Alex Biega (pictured) and Derrick Pouliot, you should know that you’re not a true playoff contender.
Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

Even if they are going to push for the playoffs, would selling off some of their depth players really hamper their odds? How important are the contributions from guys like Loui Eriksson and Erik Gudbranson right now? How about Brandon Sutter, who’s arguably been passed on the depth chart by Adam Gaudette?

The Canucks admittedly don’t have many prime assets to sell. This isn’t shaping up to be like the 2017 deadline where they sold Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen for assets. Here’s a look at players the Canucks should consider moving on from if they were to be sellers.

  • Loui Eriksson
  • Brandon Sutter (although his injury likely nixes any trade value)
  • Tim Schaller
  • Markus Granlund
  • Tyler Motte (if they don’t plan on re-signing him)
  • Nikolay Goldobin (if they don’t plan on playing him up in the lineup)
  • Erik Gudbranson
  • Derrick Pouliot

There’s not a lot to be gained from trading these players, but Jim Benning needs to be making phone calls to learn their values, especially in a market where there are so few sellers. Even if they trade just a couple of these guys for middling prospects or mid-round picks, that should be viewed as a win for the Canucks.

Benning has only talked about making hockey trades, but why not flip a guy like Granlund for a mid-round pick? Why not try and put Schaller in another position where he could succeed (Hello, Boston).

The bottom line is that this team isn’t a Cup contender, and they need to consider selling assets prior to a trade deadline that lacks defined sellers.