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Could Nils Hoglander be used to acquire an underutilized RHD from the Tampa Bay Lightning?

These two players with falling stocks could perhaps use a change of scenery.

Vancouver Canucks v Tampa Bay Lightning
Nils Hoglander #21 of the Vancouver Canucks looks to pass during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on January 13, 2022 in Tampa, Florida.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It’s still January, but it already feels like Groundhog Day for Canucks fans.

We are almost at the halfway point of the 2022-2023 NHL campaign, and the Canucks seem destined to fall short of the postseason for the eighth time in 10 years.

While the fanbase seems eternally ready for a rebuild, a win-now mindset is still being prioritized by the new regime.

That mentality has made this management group look nervous about making big changes. And although Nils Hoglander is in the AHL, he is a young asset that could be used to shake up the future outlook for this team.

Could Hoglander be an asset who could be used to pry an underutilized, young, right-shot defenceman out of another organization?

Ever since the departure of Chris Tanev via free agency in October of 2020, the Canucks have been searching high and low trying to fill what is arguably the biggest void on their roster, which is the spot next to Quinn Hughes on the team’s first pairing.

While the team has managed to find short-term solutions on that spot over the last two years with the acquisitions of Travis Hamonic, Luke Schenn, and Ethan Bear, they still haven’t been able to find that young defensive RHD whom they need to provide Quinn Hughes with the perfect defensive partner.

Unfortunately for the Canucks, they had the perfect opportunity to fill this hole last offseason, when John Marino was conveniently available for trade out of the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, ultimately after months of rumors and speculation, the Canucks just couldn’t pull off a deal, and Marino eventually ended up being traded to the New Jersey Devils last July, where he has thrived ever since.

To be fair, finding the ideal defensive partner for Quinn Hughes is certainly easier said than done, as young RHD are a very rare and valuable commodity within the National Hockey League. In essence, it is very uncommon for teams to trade away such players without getting something of significant value back in any deal.

Fortunately, the Vancouver Canucks have one rather intriguing asset in their possession who other teams might just be willing to dangle a young RHD for. This is exactly where 22-year-old Swedish winger, Nils Hoglander, enters the equation.

Potential trade involving Hoglander that can help the Canucks find a long-term RHD partner for Quinn Hughes

As mentioned in an article last October where I discussed the possibility of a swap involving Nils Hoglander and Kaedan Korczak, it is fair to say that Hoglander can be deemed an expendable asset, as the organization simply doesn’t seem to be very high on him and probably don’t view him as a long-term fit on their roster.

Although one may assert that the majority of disapproval for Hoglander’s play stems largely from the coaching staff and not necessarily from management, Hoglander would likely be the very first asset the Canucks would dangle if they had the chance to acquire a young defenseman.

The relatively in-depth assessment of the skills and attributes that Hoglander brings to the table is discussed in the aforementioned article about the trade proposal involving Hoglander and Kaedan Korczak. However, as far as personal credentials are concerned, the main benefit that Hoglander would immediately provide for teams that may be interested in acquiring him is that he is already an NHL-quality winger currently playing on an ELC.

Despite scoring 9 points in 25 games with the big club this season, which puts Hoglander on a 30-point pace in a full campaign, the Canucks wisely sent the 22-year-old down to the minors for some extra development almost three weeks ago. Ever since debuting for the Abbotsford Canucks in December, Hoglander certainly hasn’t looked out of place in the AHL, putting up 3 goals and 2 assists for 5 points in 8 games with the baby Canucks, while also compiling together a plus-minus rating of +4.

When all is said and done, there are quite a few teams in the league that would likely view Hoglander as an NHL roster player rather than a prospect, and for cap-strapped teams that need some young help on the wings, there is no question that as a player on an ELC, Hoglander would be an absolute luxury to add to the roster.

As a matter of fact, there is also one particular cup-contending team that fits into that specific category, and that team is the Tampa Bay Lightning. With just over $700,000 of cap space at their disposal, the Lightning don’t exactly have a ton of wiggle room to bolster their roster either before the deadline, or even during the offseason considering the number of players on their team that are due for raises.

The team doesn’t exactly have much help coming in the way of prospects either, and considering that Alex Killorn is very likely to leave via free agency this offseason, it is imperative for the organization to find a young cost-controlled winger who they can easily keep on the roster for many years to come.

Given that Hoglander is on an ELC and is very likely to only get a marginal raise as an RFA this summer, he is exactly the long-term middle 6 solution that the Lightning would perhaps be looking for in order to improve the team for this year and to potentially replace Alex Killorn next year.

As previously mentioned, Tampa Bay isn’t exactly very rich on prospects, and they don’t really have a whole lot of young forwards at their disposal either. However, one thing that the Lightning do have is a plethora of defensive depth, and with the sudden emergence of Nick Perbix this year, the organization could very well be willing to offer the Canucks one of their defensemen in exchange for Hoglander.

With Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, and Nick Perbix making up the top 4 of the defense core, Tampa Bay’s blueline is already set for the foreseeable future. Similar to Hoglander’s situation with the Canucks, the Lightning have a young RHD in their arsenal who isn’t exactly favored by the coaching staff, especially since he’s been scratched on numerous occasions this season.

Enter into the picture, 24-year-old former first-rounder, and son of longtime Colorado Avalanche player Adam Foote, right-shot defenseman, Callan Foote.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Detroit Red Wings
Cal Foote #52 of the Tampa Bay Lightning knocks down Lucas Raymond #23 of the Detroit Red Wings during the third period of an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on December 21, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit defeated Tampa Bay 7-4.
Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

What can the Canucks expect to get in Cal Foote?

When the topic of the Canucks and their defensive woes is taken into consideration, the biggest issue that is brought up is the revolving door of players that the team has tried deploying on the top pairing ever since the departure of Chris Tanev.

The Canucks still don’t have anyone on the roster, or anyone in the system for that matter, who they can pencil in as a potential mainstay on the first pairing with Quinn Hughes.

As such, the fact that the Canucks may very well have the opportunity to essentially get a younger version of Luke Schenn in this trade proposal is indeed very intriguing.

Standing at 6”4 and weighing 224 pounds, Cal Foote has all the tools that can help him develop into a gritty and reliable shutdown defenseman within the top 4 of the Canucks’ blueline.

In 110 games with the Lightning, the 24-year-old has 4 goals and 11 assists for 15 points, In addition to that, Foote also suited up for 13 playoff games in Tampa Bay’s run to the Stanley Cup finals last year, in which he had 2 assists and put up a +1 rating in total.

As a right-handed shooting defenseman who possesses such a rugged frame, there is no doubt that Foote is a valuable asset in this league. However, aside from the physical component of his game as well as his defensive play, Foote has in fact always had a knack for producing offense as well.

In his last season in junior as captain of the Kelowna Rockets, Foote put up 19 goals and 51 assists for 70 points in 60 games, which also got him a spot on Team Canada’s squad in the WJC that very same year where he also performed admirably.

After making the jump to the pros, Foote was able to seamlessly transition his offensive game to the AHL, as he has managed to put up 63 points in 149 games with the Syracuse Crunch, ever since debuting with the team in 2018.

Because of Tampa’s blueline depth, he hasn’t had those same offensive opportunities at the NHL level. Foote has also primarily been used in the defensive zone, as 55.7% of his on-ice assignments have been defensive zone responsibilities in the 19 games he’s played.

Here’s what our friends at Raw Charge had to say about Foote entering the season.

“He is a smart defender that is a solid passer with a heavy shot that he doesn’t use enough. While he can be quick in making decisions, his skating speed is below NHL level and can get him in trouble at times.”

Foote isn’t a perfect player, but there is still untapped potential in his game. If developed properly, he could become a top-four option for the Canucks, and perhaps he could even become the perfect partner for Quinn Hughes.

Final thoughts

It is important to point out that the Canucks may have to sweeten the pot just a little bit in order to facilitate a Hoglander for Foote deal, considering how valuable young RHD tend to be.

However, it is a chance that the Canucks simply have to take, especially if they can manage to pull this trade-off as a one-for-one.

Nils Hoglander and Cal Foote are each young and somewhat established players who have NHL experience and could benefit from a change of scenery. As pending RFAs, both are due for minimal raises that each team can easily afford, and the outline of such a trade helps each organization use a position of strength to help solidify a position of need.

This trade allows the Canucks to take Hoglander from their riches of young wingers in order to acquire a young RHD which is unarguably the team’s biggest need, while on the other end of the spectrum, it allows the Lightning the opportunity to take Foote from their deep defense core and use him to acquire a young and cost-controlled middle 6 winger.

As far as the Canucks are concerned in particular, it is about time they provide Quinn Hughes with a partner who he can form a tandem with for years to come. Considering the amount of untapped potential that Cal Foote still possesses, the chance to play with one of the most exciting blueliners in the game might be just what he needs to unlock some of that potential and become a reliable top 4 defenseman for the Canucks in the near future.

What do you think Canucks fans? Do you think it is time that the Canucks take a gamble by shopping one of their younger players and offering up Nils Hoglander? Is Cal Foote an ideal target for finding a potential top 4 right-handed defenseman? Let me know in the comments down below!