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Two potential targets in a Jake Virtanen trade

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Can the Canucks deal Virtanen for another marginalized player before the deadline?

NHL: MAR 24 Jets at Canucks
Vancouver Canucks Right Wing Jake Virtanen (18) on ice against the Winnipeg Jets during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on March 24, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Editor’s Note: Please welcome Harsunder to the Nucks Misconduct team!

With less than two weeks remaining until the NHL trade deadline, one player who has been popping up in trade rumors as of late is Jake Virtanen.

Drafted 6th overall in the 2014 NHL draft, the gritty winger from Abbotsford has failed to meet the expectations the team and the fanbase hoped for. In 310 career games, Virtanen has tallied 54 goals and 99 points. Consistency has long been an issue for the 24-year-old and he still continues to have great difficulty rippling the mesh, doing so just four times in 31 games this year.

In spite of all this, there are some reasons for optimism regarding Virtanen’s future. Teams seem to be intrigued by his size and speed, which is why we’ve seen his name in the rumour mill on a couple of occasions this season.

Regardless, the biggest factor which is causing teams to shy away from acquiring Virtanen, is his backloaded contract, which owes him a cash payout of $3.4 million with an AAV of $2.55 million next season. Recently, it was reported that the Vancouver Canucks and the Anaheim Ducks had discussions regarding a swap of Jake Virtanen for Danton Heinen. However, the talks fell off and the chances of this deal happening seem dead in the water.

Nonetheless, there can be a fit if the money works for both teams in a potential “hockey” deal, as such, let’s look at a couple of potential targets for the Vancouver Canucks to pursue, in a one-for-one trade involving Jake Virtanen.

Florida Panthers v Columbus Blue Jackets
Marcus Nutivaara #65 of the Florida Panthers skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 28, 2021 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

Markus Nutivaara

12 GP, 0-3-3

2021-22 cap hit: $2.7 million (deal expires next season)

Despite respectable underlying numbers, Marcus Nutivaara has been unable to get into the Florida Panthers’ line-up with regularity this season.

Having played in 253 games split between Florida and Columbus in his 5-year NHL career, Nutivaara has posted a respectable 17 goals and 63 points. A left-handed shot who likes to patrol the right side of the ice, the 26-year-old is a low-event player with strong defensive awareness.

The money and term also make sense for both parties in such trade, as both players have a year remaining on their deals after this season and Nutivaara’s annual average salary is just $150,000 more than Virtanen’s. In addition to that, Nutivaara is owed $3.3 million in real dollars next season, similar to Virtanen’s salary of $3.4 million.

According to a report from James Cybulski of Sportsnet 650, the Canucks and Panthers have indeed had discussions regarding such a trade scenario. It will be interesting to monitor where these talks go and whether a deal could be made as we approach the April 12 trade deadline. One thing to note though is that the long-term injury to Aaron Ekblad might make Nutivaara more valuable to the Panthers in the short-term.

Philadelphia Flyers v Buffalo Sabres
Colin Miller #33 of the Buffalo Sabres retrieves the puck off the boards during an NHL game against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 29, 2021 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.
Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Colin Miller

32 GP, 3-3-6

2021-22 cap hit: $3.875 million (deal expires next season)

Another intriguing trade candidate is right-handed defenceman Colin Miller.

With 329 games of experience, Miller has notched a total of 26 goals and 116 points. Not only is Miller an interesting candidate to ride shotgun beside Quinn Hughes, he brings a decent 2-way ability which the Canucks desperately lack in their top 6.

Other than Nate Scmidt, the Canucks don’t have anyone on their backend who they can trust in both ends of the ice in all situations. Miller’s stellar defensive ability makes him just that type of player. Over his 6 years in the league, Miller has posted a stellar Corsi percentage of 55.1% average.

On a struggling Sabres team this season, Miller is the only regular defenceman on Buffalo’s roster with a Corsi percentage above 50%.

Additionally, this is another scenario where the cap and term work out for both parties involved. While the AAV in Miller’s contract is considerably higher than Virtanen’s, he’s only due to make $450,000 more in actual dollars next season.

On paper, this deal makes some sense for both teams. Buffalo has been having great difficulty getting some goals from the wing this season while Vancouver has been having trouble staying out of their zone.

To conclude, I strongly feel that the Vancouver Canucks should use a Jake Virtanen deal as an opportunity to improve their defense. The team has constantly struggled to prevent high-danger scoring chances for a number of years now. As long as there is a fit financially, the Canucks should seriously consider pursuing a defensively responsible defenseman in exchange for Virtanen.

What do you think? Are Nutivaara and Miller good trade targets in a Jake Virtanen deal? What other players make sense for the Canucks? Let us know in the comments down below!