The Vancouver Canucks had a terrible 2020-21 season where everything went wrong, yet somehow this year’s first 19 games have been even worse.
The Canucks are second-last in the Pacific Division — just ahead of the expansion Seattle Kraken — and are already being given around a 5% chance of making the playoffs by many in the industry.
This is the culmination of eight years of work by general manager Jim Benning, which has cost the organization multiple high-draft picks and all of their cap flexibility. The pressure is on for Benning and his team as fans become more vocal in voicing their displeasure.
If Benning wants to keep his job, something is going to need to change and from his perspective, the easiest way forward would be to make a trade. Shaking up the roster would be a last-ditch effort to save the season, and in turn, his job.
However, making a trade would be a delicate balancing act for Benning who would need to deal someone that would fetch a strong return without ruining team morale. Sharks will be circling in the water as they watch the Canucks season go up in flames and they take note of Benning’s spotty trade history.
So when general managers come calling, what trade pieces would make Benning hang up the phone immediately? How many truly untouchable players are left on the Canucks roster after the team’s performance over the past year and a half? Here are the untouchable players that should be off the table in all talks, and those that are available for the right price.
While these players are key players for the Canucks and may have at one point been thought to be crucial parts of the core, if the price was right then Benning shouldn’t be afraid to pull the trigger.
The player that might be the most likely to get traded on this list, Miller has been one of the Canucks most productive players ever since he was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He’s been great once again this season and currently leads the Canucks in points. No matter if he’s showing up on the scoresheet or not — and he has been most games this season — his effort is always obvious.
With a cap hit of just $5.25 million for one more year after this one, Miller would be a great pickup for a team that wants a legitimate top-line forward.
When Boeser is on his game, he’s a lethal goal scorer with a shot that keeps opposing goalies up at night. While he’s struggled to find his game this season, he’s still a young and dynamic player.
He’s just 24 years old and already has over 100 NHL goals. The reason why the Canucks might be open to trading him is the $7.5 million qualifying offer that they will need to extend this offseason to retain negotiating rights.
Brock Boeser agent Ben Hankinson : I do not believe Brock will be traded but he knows it could happen. It is apart of the business. Brock does have faith in the Canucks team and his teammates to get through this.— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) November 23, 2021
In addition, he could also bring back a pretty package. His name has been in trade talks for a few years now and the pressure may be too much for Benning to ignore.
The Canucks highly-anticipated rookie has shown flashes of brilliance so far this season and has become a fan favourite because of his eagerness to finish his checks. He’s scored pretty goals, made nice passes, and looks like he can become a very good NHL power forward.
However, Podkolzin should still be available if the deal was right. He isn’t a prospect on the same level that Pettersson, Hughes, or even Boeser was and could be an attractive trade piece for a team in need of a solid prospect.
The following players should be off the table no matter what is being offered.
Despite another slow start this season, Pettersson is still among the best young players in the league. He’s had one of the best starts to a career of any Canuck ever and constantly dazzles with his creativity.
Some fans may want to see Pettersson’s name floated in trade talks because of his slow start and the fact that he would return a massive package. Still, he’s a first-line centre at just 23 years old, and that doesn’t change because of a weak 20 games.
Hughes is one of the Canucks two most important players and has had a strong start to this season despite the greater struggles experienced by the team. The Canucks look completely different when he is on the ice as he creates offence from the backend.
After some struggles in his own end last season, Hughes has bounced back nicely and once again looks destined to be one of the best defencemen in the league for years to come. These type of players don’t grow on trees.
There’s a good argument to be made that Demko has been the best player on the team this season. The way that the roster is currently constructed, they have no chance of winning games if they don’t get the superstar goaltending that Demko brings.
The Canucks have watched him grow from a prospect with potential into a legitimate number one goaltender, and there’s no reason to give up on him now.
These last three players were harder to judge but after some thought they should all be off the table. Höglander came into Canucks training camp last season and stole a spot in the top-six that he hasn’t relinquished yet.
He’s an absolute animal at 5-on-5 and regularly has the best analytics out of all Canucks skaters. With some more power play time and some work on his finishing touch, Höglander could be one of the Canucks premier forwards in the near future.
However, the factor that pushed Höglander into this section is his cap hit. The Canucks have no cap space to play with and the fact that he is still on his ELC for another year after this is huge.
Garland was acquired this offseason from the Arizona Coyotes and then signed a new contract during the offseason. He’s been great thus far but once again it’s the contract that pushes him over the top.
Garland may be the only player not on an ELC that provides significant surplus value. His cap hit is just $4.95 million until 2025-26, a steal for a player that has shown the ability to produce at 5-on-5.
Last but not least, it’s captain Bo Horvat who shouldn’t be traded. Besides his large role in the dressing room and his identity as the heart of the team, Horvat also can play multiple roles. He can be used as a matchup centre as well as an offensive weapon.
He’s also one player who has consistently shown the ability to step their game up during the postseason. No matter if it was during his rookie season against the Calgary Flames or in the bubble against the St. Louis Blues, Horvat always shows up in big moments.