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If the Canucks want to get tougher, chase these guys instead

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Milan Lucic carries too much baggage, but these targets might make more sense.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks
Apr 23, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; Vegas Golden Knights right wing Ryan Reaves (75) reacts against the San Jose Sharks during the second period in game seven of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center at San Jose.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

So it seems as if Milan Lucic is the flavour of the week in Vancouver right now.

The rumours make all too much sense on the surface. Jim Benning chased Milan Lucic in 2016, before the Vancouver native signed a seven-year, $42 million deal with the Edmonton Oilers. Benning then settled on signing Loui Eriksson to squeeze some juice out of the Sedins before they retired.

Fast-forward to three years later and the Sedins have retired. Eriksson, instead of taking blame for his lack of effort and production, called out his head coach instead. Lucic has gone from a top-six power forward to a replacement-level fourth-line player.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers
Apr 4, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Milan Lucic (27) tries to screen San Jose Sharks goaltender Aaron Dell (30) during the third period at Rogers Place.
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Yeesh.

Now, there is smoke in regards to a Lucic for Eriksson swap. While some might want to see Lucic try and revive his career in Vancouver, there are some glaring red flags that should prevent this from happening.

  • Lucic would need to be protected in the expansion draft.
  • His contract will be a headache once Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes want to sign long-term.
  • He isn’t very good anymore.

The one reason why Benning (and some of his loyal followers, the Benningists, if you will) want Lucic is because he’s is still one of the toughest customers in the game. The Canucks still have a tendency to get pushed around, and players such as Pettersson, Hughes and Brock Boeser remain vulnerable.

However, if the Canucks really want to chase a tough guy, taking on Lucic’s monstrosity of a contract shouldn’t be the answer, even if it means getting rid of “Lazy Loui.”

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Colorado Avalanche
Feb 20, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov (16) and Winnipeg Jets center Adam Lowry (17) at the Pepsi Center.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Lowry

2019-20 Cap Hit: $2.916 million (under contract until 2020-21)

2018-19 Stats: 78 GP, 12-11-23

You’re going to see a trend throughout most of this list. The Winnipeg Jets are one of a handful of teams with a sticky salary cap situation to navigate. With players like Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor needing new contracts, the Jets are going to have to find ways to clear cap room.

While Matthieu Perreault might be the contract that Winnipeg would rather rid themselves of, Adam Lowry would be a more attractive target.

Lowry is 25 years old, one of the most successful centres at taking face-offs over the last two seasons, and hits like a truck. That said, he is expendable. The Jets have two young centres in Jack Roslovic and Mason Appleton who could step up into Lowry’s third-line centre role.

To acquire a player like Lowry, perhaps the Canucks could take on Dmitri Kulikov (who has a no trade clause where he submits a six-team no trade list) to make the deal more affordable. Still, they might have to part with a B-prospect, such as Tyler Madden, to swing a deal like this.

NHL: Boston Bruins at Tampa Bay Lightning
Mar 25, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center J.T. Miller (10) during the second period at Amalie Arena.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

J.T. Miller

2019-20 Cap Hit: $5.25 million (under contract until 2022-23)

2018-19 Stats: 75 GP, 13-34-47

Tampa Bay is another team who’s up against the cap, and one way to make room would be trading J.T. Miller and his cap hit of $5.25 million. It’s probably not something the Bolts want to do, but a shoe will have to drop if they want to re-sign Brayden Point and/or try and sign Erik Karlsson.

Miller is an incredibly reliable second-line forward, one who crashes the net and gets in on the forecheck. He would look pretty good on the left wing with either Pettersson or Bo Horvat.

On this list, Miller is an outlier in the sense that he’s a second line player. The Lightning won’t be giving him away for free, but the Canucks could sweeten the deal (and up their “grit quotient”) by taking on the last year of Ryan Callahan’s contract as well.

It’s hard to see a deal like this happening since the Canucks lack assets, but perhaps trading someone like Sven Baertschi and a draft pick in 2020 would get the deal done, if Callahan was included. It also should be noted that Miller can submit an eight team no trade list, while Callahan has a 16-team trade list.

Cedric Paquette

2019-20 Cap Hit: RFA ($1 million cap hit in 2018-19)

2018-19 Stats: 80 GP, 13-4-17

If the Canucks want to pay less for some physicality in the bottom-six, perhaps they try trading for 25-year-old Cedirc Paquette. A staple on Tampa’s fourth line, Paquette is notoriously a pain to play against.

He hit a career-high with 13 goals last season, and was a prominent factor in Tampa’s top-ranked penalty kill last season. Paquette was also one of the league-leaders with 269 hits.

There’s no doubt that the Canucks fourth line would get a lot meaner with the addition of Paquette (and the subtraction of Eriksson...). Even though Paquette is currently unsigned, Tampa might elect to move on rather than giving him a raise.

Miles Wood

2019-20 Cap Hit: $2.75 million (deal expires at the end of next season)

2018-19 Stats: 63 GP, 10-14-24

Compared to other players on this list, Miles Wood is also an outlier in the sense that he’s not on a cap-strapped team.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

The Devils need to get to the cap floor, and they need more talent at forward. Perhaps the Canucks can send some combination of Eriksson, Baertschi and Goldobin to the Devils. It might be a stretch, but Baertschi and Goldobin alone improves their forward group. Plus, Baertschi could play alongside fellow countryman Nico Hishier.

Wood is more of a valuable asset at only 23 years old, but you could argue that perhaps the Devils prefer 27-year-old Blake Coleman. The two forwards play a similar style, although Coleman is coming off of a 22-goal, 36-point season.

Ryan Reaves

2019-20 Cap Hit: $2.775 million (under contract until 2021-22)

2018-19 Stats: 80 GP, 9-11-20

If the Canucks are looking to get tough, you can’t get much tougher than Ryan Reaves.

One of the league’s toughest players likely loves live in Sin City, and he just enjoyed his best offensive season with career highs in goals and points.

That being said, the Vegas Golden Knights are already right up against the salary cap. While they probably want to keep Reaves, he’s not a player they have to hang onto. They also have a cheaper version of Reaves in William Carrier, who led the league with 5.4 hits per game.

What the Canucks should chase if they want Reaves, is Colin Miller. The seldom-used defenceman makes $3.875 million for the next three years, he’s a right shot, and he puts up points.

With Vegas so close to the cap, it’s hard to see what they could take on. They haven’t been shy about acquiring Russian players, so perhaps they would take on Nikolay Goldobin and a 2nd round pick in 2020? That would automatically give them $6.6 million in cap relief, and perhaps that number drops to $5 million if they give Goldobin the ol’ one-year “show me” deal.

The bottom line is, there are options out there that won’t hinder the Canucks for years. All Benning has to do is hang up on Ken Holland (unless he’s offering Tyler Benson or Jesse Puljujarvi), and start phoning other general managers.