The Vancouver Canucks had some positives come out of the 2018-19 season. Whether it be Elias Pettersson, Jacob Markstrom, Quinn Hughes, or Bo Horvat, there were some bright spots in a season that cratered as it wrapped up. However, where these bright spots were mixed in with dissapointments was on the wings. There’s a bit of a log jam on the flanks, and management will be required to make decisions regarding who they bring back next season.
Josh Leivo may be one of the better stories of the season, and may go down as one of Benning’s better acquisitions overall. Acquired for fringe AHL forward Michael Carcone from a Maple Leafs squad that couldn’t make room for him, he performed well in his time with the Canucks. With a repsectable ten goals and 18 points in 49 games, along with strong defensive metrics, he looks to be capable of being a regular contributor. While his upside may be simply that of a middle-six forward, he nonetheless separated himself from the pack and more than deserves a new contract this off-season.
Canucks fans were so excited to merely be out of the Erik Gudbranson era that no one really thought about — or cared — what they got in return. Turns out, he may actually be a pretty solid player. In 19 games with the Canucks, he potted nine goals and 12 points, and proved to have chemistry with Horvat. At 26-years-old, some may question whether Pearson is prime for the rebuild, and that may be fair. However, in heading into next season, Pearson will make for a solid regular in the top-six.
It’s not entirely clear why Benning traded for Spooner. It’s also not entirely clear if Spooner is even better than Sam Gagner, who they traded for him (he’s probably not), or that he’s even a different person. He scored just four points, and while showed some semblance of skill, never looked particularly inspiring. He’s someone the Canucks could lose with little regret. That said, he still has one year left on his deal, so waivers may be required, or there is the possibility he sticks around as a depth forward.
Verdict: Probably not.
The namesake of the ‘Sea of Granlunds’, the 25-year-old has had a perfectly fine campaign. 12 goals in 77 games is a decent, if uninspiring number. That, however, is just the problem with much of this forward group. He’d be perfectly fine as depth, but at this point, the team needs a fresh start, and what Granlund represents is very distant from change.
In some respects, 2018-19 has been a succesful campaign for Virtanen. He scored a career high 15 goals, and started an internet sensation (#ShotgunJake) in doing so. It also means he has trade value, on a roster that doesn’t have many trade chips. An ideal scenario would be to flip him as part of a package for a younger blue liner (some have thrown the name Dante Fabbro around). If this is possible — and it likely will be — it should be taken up.
Oh, Goldobin. Everyone’s favorite Canuck, who no one has any hard opinions about. It was a rough end to the season for Goldobin, who was marred by a streak of healthy scratches. His production was perfectly fine — 27 points in 63 games — but at this point it’s hard to see Travis Green finding a place for him. He’s just not a fit, and it’s time to move on.
The fact that Tyler Motte — the return for Thomas Vanek last season — made the team was, in and of itself, fairly impressive. What has followed has been fine, but probably overrated by many. Despite nine goals, Motte has been an ineffective fourth line winger at best, and a possession disaster at worst. Motte can be the new Jayson Megna or something I guess — a fringe NHL forward who goes between Utica and Vancouver. Beyond that, I’m not sure it should be of great importance to bring him back.
What was once seen as the low-risk signing of the 2018 summer has become a much-maligned move by the fanbase at large. Pegged as a player with sneaky offensive upside and who plays with grit, Schaller did very little of either. He scored just ten points in 47 games, and was largely ineffective. At an AAV of $1.9 million, his contract is an inconvenient though far from crippling one. Schaller is, as with many of his peers, an inconsequential player that the organization needs to find a way to move on from.
The Loui Eriksson experiment has been a thorough disaster since his arrival in Vancouver. While this past season was his best in terms of raw numbers — 11 goals and 29 points — it was nonetheless far from impressive. Eriksson simply cannot keep up with an increasingly speed- and skill-based league. While his contract — $6 million caphit for three more seasons — is a major burden, he no longer has a full No Movement Clause. Some have theorized that management could threaten him with a move to Utica. While perhaps not ideal, they have to find a way to shed his contract and his roster spot, as he has not been effective in most capacities as a Canuck.
While some argue that Baertschi is an integral part of the Canucks’ offensive core, I would argue that this is misguided. He has a career-high of 35 points and 18 goals, while never playing a full season. Of course, this is not necessarily Baertschi’s fault, but it is nonetheless unfair to expect him to produce like a top-six winger. He has the profile of someone moving on from. The problem is in how. Due to his injury troubles, the Canucks would be unlikely to get anything of value for him. As such, it makes more sense to simply keep him around in a middle-six capacity and hope for the best — his decreased value simply makes it not even worth the time to ship him out.