With the Canucks entering a hectic and intense offseason, many decisions need to be made by the team’s management group in order to take this franchise to a level of playoff contention for next season.
As a young and upcoming team with loads of potential upfront and between the pipes, one of the issues that has been a predominant factor in the Canucks’ lack of success has been their mediocre blueline. Drafting a gem in Quinn Hughes with the 7th overall pick in 2018 provided a good base for the Canucks to start building their blueline from, but this team needs so much more.
After a surprising and encouraging run in the bubble last year, Jim Benning essentially replaced Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher with Nate Schmidt and Travis Hamonic. With Schmidt, the Canucks hoped that this would not only result in the Canucks getting more offense from the blueline, but it would also help them on the defensive side of things.
Having played with Alex Edler this season to form a shutdown-type second pair, Schmidt didn’t really live up to expectations. While he was the Canucks’ most dependable D-man behind Hamonic, Schmidt saw a significant drop in his defensive play as well as his offensive production, scoring just 15 points in 54 games played last season.
While nothing is confirmed as of yet, recent reports from Rick Dhaliwal suggest that Schmidt may want out of Vancouver. Despite the fact that he had a bit of a down year, there are many teams around the league who would be interested in trading assets to acquire Nate Schmidt’s services. As a team that is up tight against the cap entering a crucial offseason, the Canucks should definitely explore the option of trading Schmidt for future assets and replacing him with a cheaper option for the top 4. Below, we’ll explore which teams would potentially be interested in acquiring Schmidt and what our best guess is in terms of the return.
Team #1: Philadelphia Flyers
After Matt Niskanen announced his retirement from the league last fall, the Philadelphia Flyers have had a gaping void on the right side in their top 4. With Schmidt being a top 4 guy who predominantly patrols the right side of the ice, it’s quite likely he is a guy Philly would like to take a flyer on...(cue the applause...or the crickets...). While Schmidt is a reliable top 4 D, it is more likely than not the Canucks would have to take some sort of cap back to facilitate a deal with the Flyers. With that in mind, let’s look at what the Canucks can potentially receive in such a deal.
There are quite a few options available from Philadelphia if the Canucks had to take back some cap, but ultimately the main goal for Vancouver should be to shed as much cap as possible. Taking back Shayne Gostisbehere is also an option but ultimately his $4.5 million cap hit is too rich for a team that already has a decent amount of offensively inclined blueliners. The best-case scenario for the Canucks would be to obtain Scott Laughton to fill their 3C hole, but seeing as though the Flyers just signed him to a long-term deal recently, it’s almost certain he’s not on the table.
With these 2 options scratched out, the player who makes the most sense for the Canucks is Oskar Lindblom.
Trade proposal: Nate Schmidt for Oskar Lindblom and a 2022 3rd round pick
Similar to Schmidt, Oskar Lindblom is coming off of a down season. Ever since his amazing return to the ice in the bubble after a battle with bone cancer, Lindblom has tallied 8 goals and 6 assists in 50 regular-season games, which has not quite been up to standard with his $3 million cap hit.
However, at just 24, Lindblom still has room to grow and it is important to mention that he is only a year removed from a season where he was on pace for 30 goals and 49 points.
Based on his lack of production last year combined with the Flyers’ desperate need to find a right-side D-man for their top 4, it would be very good if the Canucks can pry at least a 3rd round pick from Philly alongside Lindblom. Regardless, this is a deal that helps both teams ignite a spark into their lineup, as the Flyers receive a dependable top 4 D to patrol the right side while the Canucks receive a good young winger to spark their 3rd line along with a pick in next year’s draft.
Team #2: Florida Panthers
Rumored to be interested in Schmidt last offseason, it is evident the Panthers would likely be in the mix again in order to further strengthen their top 4. The Panthers have a plethora of cap space as well as a surplus of relatively young D the Canucks can target. Out of all the defenders the Panthers have on their payroll beyond this season, one of the players who the Canucks may find intriguing is D-man, Markus Nutivaara, who is signed for another year at $2.7 million against the cap.
There were rumors prior to the trade deadline 3 months ago, that the Canucks had engaged in talks with the Panthers involving Markus Nutivvara. Hence, it is fair to assume that the Canucks would like to pry the 27-year-old Finnish D-man from Florida should the two teams engage in talks regarding Nate Schmidt.
Trade proposal: Nate Schmidt for Markus Nutivaara and 2021 #56th overall pick
While the Canucks have the luxury in Schmidt in having a blueliner who can play on either side of the ice, they can get that same value from Markus Nutivaara. Playing behind a solid D-core in Florida, Nutivaara hasn’t quite gotten the opportunity to make a significant impact on the Panthers roster. However, he is a pretty dependable 3rd pairing D-man who you can rely on in both ends of the ice.
On top of Nutivaara, the Canucks should also be able to net the Panthers’ 2nd round pick this year which stands at 56 overall. This would present the Canucks with the opportunity to not only strengthen their prospect pool, but also the draft capital to perhaps move out a pick for expansion “fodder” and potentially help strengthen the team’s blueline or scoring depth.
Team #3: Boston Bruins
Coming off an offseason that saw the Bruins lose Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara to free agency, there is no doubt that Boston would be shopping for a solid top 4 option this summer.
While the Bruins don’t necessarily have a whole lot to offer in terms of high draft picks or top prospects, one of the players on their roster who would be enticing for the Canucks is Jake Debrusk.
Trade proposal: Nate Schmidt for Jake Debrusk
While the rugged winger’s production has taken quite the hit over the last 2 years, at 24 Debrusk still has upside and a change of scenery could do wonders for the Edmonton native. Debrusk has 1 year remaining on his deal at a cap hit of $3.675 million so this deal provides over $2 million in cap relief for Vancouver.
Debrusk is 2 years removed from a season where he rippled the mesh 27 times in just 68 games. Furthermore, his style of play can make him the perfect winger to ride shotgun with Pettersson and Boeser on the 1st line while pushing JT Miller down to the vacant 3C spot. Hence, giving the Canucks 3 scoring lines all containing a decent amount of grit and defensive ability to help the club compete with the best next season.
What do you think Canucks fans? Do you think management should explore the market for Nate Schmidt even if he doesn’t necessarily want out, and if so, which team or player makes the most sense for the Canucks to target in such a transaction? Let me know in the comments down below!