Only 25 days before the end of the NHL operation. Things will begin to move quickly before anyone notices.
25 days left for the NHL trading deadline.
The Canucks, who are back in action this weekend, are in a playoff dispute. They also have some general decisions to make.
There is a team in the recent past that has a story to tell: the 2013 San Jose Sharks. In the season shortened by the lock-ups, they ended on November 17-11, when the month of March came to an end. The deadline for trade that year was April 3.
The Sharks were in a much stronger position than the Canucks and still made moves that kept the future in mind. In the days leading up to the deadline, they traded Douglas Murray, Ryane Clowe and Michal Handzus for six draft picks in return.
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They then made two dealings on deadline, exchanging two draft picks for Scott Hannan and Raffi Torres. At the end of the day they pitched some veterans and came out with four draft picks and were still on the playoffs.
Now the Canucks are not like Sharks, but the point is that you can do business with an eye on the future and still be creative to maintain your club's competitiveness.
The Canucks have three major decisions to consider in the coming days. Let's dive into:
1. What do they do with Alex Edler?
If you're serious about your playoff hopes for this season, it seems silly to trade your best defense.
Alex Edler is doing almost everything for the Canucks, which, as we know, do not have a very deep or good defense body. They are better than last year, but, Ben Hutton apart, a lot of this is about an improved defensive system and not so much about some mutation of his defensive body.
Edler is playing the best defensive hockey of his career. He is killing penalties well and for now is the main option for the point in the power play.
On the other hand, a player who plays well should attract a lot of commercial interest.
If the focus in Vancouver is to build for the future, move Edler out and bring in drafts suggestions, or maybe a prospect – and you can never have too many of them – it seems prudent.
Edler turns 33 in April and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Both are challenges: the first, because defenders usually hit a wall when they are 35, the second because you know his agent knows the first and will get a solid deal, covering more than just a year or two. .
This is a danger for a team like the Canucks. Yes, they need quality players like Edler, but how long is he going to look so good? And is it worth giving a chance to bring in younger talent that could help for years beyond the decline of Edler's career?
2. How will they get Adam Gaudette on next year's schedule?
That is a good question, but it matters in the short term.
Adam Gaudette played a lot in the NHL this year. Coaches say they are doing well with their progress. A dive into the numbers reveals that he needs to improve on the offensive end – the ophthalmic examination suggests his kick can be better – but also that he has been very solid in defense.
He played mostly as a fourth-line center, with wings like Darren Archibald and Tyler Motte most of the time. They were not considered offensive and did not create much.
That said, Gaudette showed enough when he was placed with more dynamic wingers like Jake Virtanen and Loui Eriksson. You can see him pressing for a full-time role right next season.
But there's a problem with that: Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle are blocking the way as third and fourth line centers.
No player has a lot of offensive advantage, and while Sutter suffers from concussion, the Beagle had some strong defensive moments.
If Gaudette is going to stay and play, he's going to have to find a way to skip one of those two.
And since the Canucks have a long-term vision for Gaudette, they are supposed to have a long-term plan for what they will do with the other two defensive centers.
It seems unlikely, but they should consider the idea of negotiating one within this year. Certainly a team out there would be interested in the feats of killing the punishment of Beagle or Sutter.
And the Canucks are in a strong salary cap position for now, so they could handle withholding half of one of the salaries.
Granted they could wait until the summer to deal, but prices are better in trade term.
3. How can they resolve the scoreboard issue?
It is clear that the Canucks want to find another striker, one to play with Elias Pettersson or Bo Horvat.
They do not need to solve this problem before the deadline of the operation and, in fact, it would be prudent to wait until the summer, but what the team clearly does not have in the prospect department is a high quality scoring wing.
Of course, there are hopes for the current wings of Utica Comets, Jonathan Dahlen or Kole Lind, but Dahlen has been like this in his first season in North America, while Lind has just started a regular landing on the Comets AHL line.
It looks like the Canucks will look elsewhere for such a player. They expected Loui Eriksson to be an extreme, but he failed in his 30s and is now basically a solid, though expensive, opponent.
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