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7 Canucks Pre-Expansion Draft Thoughts: Dickinson Dilemma, Beagle Bump, Lind vs. Lockwood and Hello, Adam Larsson

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Just some thoughts on the Canucks heading into the Seattle expansion draft.

Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks
Adam Larsson #6 of the Edmonton Oilers checks Tanner Pearson #70 of the Vancouver Canucks during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on May 4, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

The Vancouver Canucks got a passing grade for their work prior to the roster freeze by snagging third-line centre Jason Dickinson from the Dallas Stars for a third-round pick.

Now, all they have to do is sign their two best players, find a replacement for Alex Edler, a partner for Quinn Hughes, and another top-nine winger all while trying to shed some valuable salary-cap space. Good luck Jimbo!

The rest of July is going to be a hectic time for this team as they look to improve heading into next season. Before the madness begins, here are some musings as we twiddle our thumbs prior to the expansion draft.

NHL: MAR 30 Stars at Canucks
Dallas Stars Center Jason Dickinson (16) skates up ice during their NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on March 30, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 3-2 in a shootout.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

1. Why Dickinson might not save Horvat from tough match-ups

The trade for Dickinson was widely applauded, and deservedly so considering the acquisition cost. However, the Canucks have to be careful in their own evaluation of the player.

Dickinson is an elite shot suppressor, but it’s worth noting that he wasn’t Dallas’ top shutdown centre. That responsibility fell onto Radek Faksa.

This idea that Dickinson is going to come in and save Horvat from the touch-matchups is probably a little far-fetched. He’s certainly earned a shot at that role, it’s just not something he’s done with regularity in the NHL.

2019 NHL Draft - Portraits
Vasily Podkolzin, tenth overall pick by the Vancouver Canucks, poses for a portrait during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada.
Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

2. Does Dickinson addition change plans for Podkolzin?

If the Canucks do plan on using Dickinson as their go-to, shutdown centre, how feasible is it that Vasili Podkolzin starts on his wing?

The Canucks top prospect has been praised for his hockey sense and two-way ability, but beginning your NHL career on a matchup shutdown line is a tough assignment, even for the best of prospects.

If he doesn’t start on the third line, do you move him up to the second line to play with Horvat and Hoglander? Is it fair for Horvat to support 20-year-olds to start the season? Is it fair for Podkolzin to be counted on in a top-six role out of the gate? There’s no simple solution here, and it will be fascinating to see how this all shakes out.

Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks
Could Jay Beagle provide value to the Kraken as a locker room leader on a team with 23 new faces?
Getty Images

3. Why Beagle going to Seattle is the Canucks’ best-case scenario

The reported interest in Braden Holtby bodes well for another veteran that the Canucks left exposed.

Jay Beagle has one year left on his contract with a $3 million cap hit. If the Seattle Kraken value an experienced veteran like Holtby, could they also have their eye on a guy like Beagle?

Despite his ineffectiveness at even-strength, Beagle does have value as a respected veteran and locker room leader. For a Seatle organization that is bringing in 23 new players, that could have some value. Beagle is exactly the type of veteran you might want to have around to help the group gel.

I do think the best-case scenario for the Canucks is that the Kraken select Beagle, not Holtby. The Canucks can buy out Holtby (barring a trade) and get some decent cap savings, whereas there’s no benefit to buying out Beagle. Shedding Beagle’s full salary and buying out Holtby would give the Canucks an additional $6.8 million in cap space heading into the offseason.

Juicy.

Carolina Hurricanes v Nashville Predators - Game Six
If the Canucks move out Beagle and Holtby’s cap hits, could they afford another talented middle-six pivot like Mikael Granlund?
Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

4. The mission to find another centre

Another reason why Beagle going to Seattle would be good for the Canucks...this team really should find an upgrade for the 35-year-old if they want to notably improve next season.

Ideally, Dickinson would be better suited in a fourth-line role. If you’re able to shed Beagle’s salary and buyout Holtby, could the Canucks pull off something like signing a Mikael Granlund or an Alex Wennberg?

Both of those players are defensively responsible and can score. While you’ll see down below that this is probably impossible to pull off, being able to add a Granlund or a Wennberg would really open up some doors for the Canucks among their forward group.

5. If Lind sticks around in Vancouver...

...would you rather have him or Will Lockwood in the line-up?

Although Lind has a higher ceiling, Lockwood is arguably better suited for a fourth-line role. It doesn’t hurt that Lockwood looked better than Lind in extremely limited minutes last season.

Poll

Who has a better shot at being in the Canucks line-up on opening night?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Kole Lind
    (81 votes)
  • 67%
    Will Lockwood
    (168 votes)
249 votes total Vote Now

6. Hello, Adam Larsson

With the Edmonton Oilers unlikely to re-sign Adam Larsson because, well, Edmonton, it’s intriguing to envision Larsson alongside Quinn Hughes on the Canucks top pair.

For all the flack Larsson got following the Taylor Hall trade in 2016, he has been a reliable top-four defenceman for the Oilers. He had some of the best shot suppression stats for Edmonton last season, despite heavy defensive zone usage and the fact that his two most common partners were Kris Russell and William Lagesson.

Suggestions among Oilers reporters have his contract offer somewhere about $3.5 to $4ish million per season on a four-year deal. There are also suggestions that he could get somewhere between Chris Tanev money (four years, $4.5 million per season) to a five-year, $5 million per season deal if he hits free agency.

A 5x5 deal would be a bit rich for the cap-strapped Canucks, but it’s hard not to be infatuated with the idea of Larsson playing with Hughes on the top pairing for the foreseeable future.

7. One more pre-expansion draft rosterbation exercise...

Based on the suggestions above, could the Canucks actually fit another centre like Granlund or Wennberg AND Adam Larsson under the salary cap?

Without seriously moving some money around, the answer to that question is a definitive “no.” It’s really only possible if A) Beagle is claimed by Seattle, B) the Canucks buy out Holtby and C) Schmidt’s cap hit is moved for someone like Markus Nutivaara.

Even, then, the Canucks are probably better off spending their excess cap space on a second-pairing, left-shot defender to replace Alex Edler. 27-year-old Jake McCabe is probably their best target on the free-agent market. He was a top-penalty killer for the Sabres, and should come in at a reasonable cost after making $2.85 million last season. Derek Forbort, Ryan Murray, Jon Merrill and Patrik Nemeth could also be cheaper free-agent considerations.

Below is another look at what the Canucks could accomplish this offseason. The bolded players all need new contracts, and they’re either team-controlled restricted free agents or new additions.

JT Miller ($5.25M) — Elias Pettersson ($7M) — Brock Boeser ($5.875M)

Tanner Pearson ($3.25M) — Bo Horvat ($5.5M) — Nils Hoglander ($891,667)

Michael Bunting ($1.25M)Jason Dickinson ($2.75M)Vasily Podkolzin ($925K)

Tyler Motte ($1.2M) — Derek Ryan ($1M)Ondrej Kase ($1M)

Extras: Matthew Highmore ($725K), Zack MacEwen ($825K)

Buried: Loui Eriksson ($4.875M), Antoine Roussel ($1.875M)

Bought out: Jake Virtanen ($50,000), Braden Holtby ($500,000)

To Seattle: Jay Beagle

LTIR: Micheal Ferland

Defence

Quinn Hughes ($7M)Adam Larsson ($4.75M)

Jake McCabe ($3M) Markus Nutivaara ($2.7M)

Jack Rathbone ($925K) — Tyler Myers ($6M)

Extras: Mark Pysyk ($800K)

Goalies

Thatcher Demko ($5M)

James Reimer ($1.5M)

Roster size: 23

Cap Hit: $80,125,659

Cap Remaining: $1,374,341

Some of these suggestions, such as signing Michael Bunting, Derek Ryan, Ondrej Kase and Mark Pysyk were made previously on the blog. The purpose of this is just to illustrate that while the Canucks have serious cap issues, there are ways to improve. It won’t be easy however, which is why the rest of July will be terrifying fascinating to watch unfold.