NHL Trade Scenarios: 5 Gritty Forwards the Vancouver Canucks Should Consider
The Vancouver Canucks currently sit second in the Western Conference, two points behind the first-place Detroit Red Wings. They are also 17 points ahead of the Calgary Flames for first in the Northwest division.
With just 12 games remaining for each, this essentially guarantees at least a third-place finish in the Western Conference.
With the team's core group of forwards almost entirely still intact from last year, plus the emergence of Cody Hodgson and the acquisition of David Booth, the Canucks have one of the best offences in the NHL.
However, with the questions surrounding the durability of Byron Bitz and the uncertainty of whether or not Dale Weiss is really a full-time NHL player, the Canucks still have one forward spot up for grabs.
If the Canucks want to finally make it over the hump and win their first Stanley Cup in the franchise's 41-year history, they're going to need all four forward lines to contribute.
In this article, I will explore the possibility of the Canucks bringing in one of five gritty forwards to increase the team's scoring depth as well as add some sandpaper to the team's bottom six.
With the Montreal Canadiens almost surely missing the playoffs this year, and his pending unrestricted free-agent status, Travis Moen has found his name in trade talk leading up to the NHL trade deadline.
Although he is currently out with an upper-body injury, Moen would be a great addition to a team looking to make a deep run in the postseason.
The 29-year-old winger is a big, playoff-grizzled player who was key in Anaheim's 2007 Stanley Cup victory. In fact, Moen scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Ottawa Senators.
The Saskatchewan native is the type of heart-and-soul player that a team wins with, and that Vancouver could really use.
I believe Moen would fit in well with Vancouver.
His 6'2", 216-lb body would be very effective on the wing for Vancouver, as size along the boards is something this team has lacked. In 48 games this season, Moen has tallied nine goals and seven assists for 16 points.
Because Moen could potentially walk for nothing on July first, Montreal may be willing to deal him for whatever they can get at the trade deadline. Moen carries a $1.5 million cap hit, so fitting him under the salary cap shouldn't pose too much of a problem.
I believe a second- or third-round pick plus a low-level prospect would be what it takes for the Canucks to land Moen.
Despite this, Dallas is rumored to be in "selling" mode with Brenden Morrow, Sheldon Souray, Mike Ribeiro and Steve Ott on the block. Of these players, Ott is the most likely to be traded and (as reported by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun) Vancouver is known to have interest.
The 6'0", 193-lb centerman plays a very physical and agitating game, which would fit in well with Vancouver's bottom six.
Ott can contribute offensively while playing on (and sometimes over) the edge, similar to former Canuck Raffi Torres. This high-energy style of play screams "playoff hockey," which is exactly what the Canucks need.
Ott would likely shift over to the wing if traded to Vancouver, where he would likely play on a line centered by fellow agitator Maxim Lapierre.
In 55 games this season, the Prince Edward Island native has 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points. Pretty good production from a forward playing in the bottom six.
As Ott is under contract for another two years at a $2.95 million cap hit, he may take quite a bit to acquire. Something like a second- or third-round pick plus a good prospect; someone like Yann Sauve or Bill Sweat may be what it takes to get a deal done.
Another Dallas Star who has seen his name pop up in trade rumors as the deadline approaches is team captain Brenden Morrow, who could be a good fit in Vancouver.
The 6'0", 209-lb Saskatchewan native, however, is much less likely to be traded than the other Dallas players I mentioned. This is mainly because he holds in his contract a no-movement clause. This means any deal for Morrow would have to first be approved by Morrow himself.
What Morrow would provide is great grit and leadership for Vancouver, and could effectively play on any line from first to fourth.
His physical play in addition to his 30-goal potential even earned him a spot on Team Canada at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, where he scored two goals and an assist.
Morrow has eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points in 41 games this season. However, he is currently on injured reserve, out with a neck injury.
Morrow has one more year remaining after this season at a $4.1 million cap hit. In order for Vancouver to acquire Morrow, a player off of the current roster would likely have to be going back the other way.
Something along the lines of Mason Raymond and a pick or prospect should be enough to get a deal done.
With the Buffalo Sabres currently sitting 12th in the Eastern Conference, just one point ahead of the last-place Montreal Canadiens, there is virtually no chance Buffalo sees the playoffs this season.
With the risk of pending unrestricted free agent Paul Gaustad walking for nothing this summer, there is a good chance the Sabres deal the 6'5" North Dakota native to a contender.
I think the Canucks should be interested in Gaustad because of his consistent production from the third line, as he has scored more than 10 goals the past four years. Also, because of his size, Vancouver could use him as a net presence to get make the job of opposing goalies a whole lot tougher.
The hulking centerman has tallied seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points in 54 games this season. He carries a $2.3 million cap hit, which shouldn't be too hard for Vancouver to fit in.
Gaustad could likely be had for a draft pick or two, possibly a combination of second- to fifth-round picks.
Pending unrestricted free agent Mathieu Darche is the second Montreal Canadien on this list. With the Canadiens sitting in last place in the East, it might be a good idea to sell off any players on expiring contracts to contending teams.
I think Vancouver should have interest in the 6'1" Quebec native, whose veteran presence could assist the Canucks in getting back to the Stanley Cup Finals. The 35-year-old has bounced between the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League since going professional in 2000.
However, Darche scored 12 goals last year and has five goals and seven assists for 12 points in 61 games played this year. These are pretty good numbers for a player only making $700,000.
With Vancouver having a lot of French influence on the team, I think Darche would fit in well.
Acquiring him shouldn't cost more than a fourth-round draft pick and he could provide the Canucks with some serious bang for their buck come playoff time.
In my opinion, the Vancouver Canucks will make a move to bring in a forward before the NHL's trade deadline on February 27th. Any one of these players would be a good fit in Vancouver, but there are also many other options out there.
Scoring depth and grit are two of the most vital qualities required by a team that plans on making it deep in the playoffs. Although the Canucks roster has plenty of scoring depth and quite a bit of grit, they could always use some more.
Come playoff time, it's the role players on a team that make all the difference. They're often the ones that step up in big games and score timely goals. A team cannot win a championship without effective role players.
I believe the five players I outlined in this article are all tremendous role players who would add important grit and scoring depth to the Vancouver Canucks organization.