Vancouver Canucks: 8 Players the Canucks Must Not Trade This Offseason

Carol Schram@pool88Featured ColumnistJune 1, 2012

Vancouver Canucks: 8 Players the Canucks Must Not Trade This Offseason

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    When the Vancouver Canucks got bounced by the Los Angeles Kings in Round 1 of this year's Stanley Cup playoffs, the cry from fans was loud and clear: blow up the team!

    The Vancouver Sun's Iain MacIntyre captured the vibe on his Twitter at the time:

    If it were up to popular vote, seems entire Canuck team next year will consist of Schneider and re-acquired Hodgson.

    — Iain MacIntyre (@imacVanSun) April 24, 2012

    Now that the dust has settled, the sting has eased a bit thanks to the Kings' continued dominance in the postseason. General Manager Mike Gillis and Head Coach Alain Vigneault have both re-upped with new contracts. And cooler heads have generally prevailed—it's no longer even certain that Roberto Luongo will be run out of town on the next bus to Timbuktu.

    The goalie situation remains a question mark. Much will depend on Cory Schneider's contract negotiations and the Canucks' options with their potential trading partners. Fans could see either netminder, or maybe even both, back between the pipes at the start of next season.

    Looking at the team as a whole, reports that the Canucks have 10 forwards, six defensemen and one goalie under contract next year, for a total commitment of $55 million. James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail is reporting that a 'temporary' salary cap number of $70.3 million is being floated for next season. That leaves $15 million for the Canucks to spend.

    The team has four restricted free agents it must sign or set free, and is making noise about bringing in a couple of its young players. That's a full roster, and a pretty full payroll.

    If the Canucks plan to make any meaningful changes beyond their rookies, they're going to need to do it by trade. Somebody has to go. The merits of any deal depend on what they'll bring in return.

    Here's my list of the eight names that should not cross Mike Gillis' lips when he's talking to other General Managers this summer. What do you think? Is anyone else untouchable? Let me know in the comments.

    Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter:

Henrik and Daniel Sedin

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    This is a no-brainer, but it bears repeating. Henrik and Daniel have been the face of the franchise for the last several years. They're great players and outstanding ambassadors for the Canucks.

    2011-12 was an off-year for both twins—the first time since 2007-2008 that they've produced below a point a game each. As The Province's Jim Jamieson points out, for players known for their consistency, the pattern was disturbing.

    Of course, offense was down all around the league this year, and unless your name was Evgeni Malkin, a 100-point season was nothing but a dream. Henrik still finished in the top ten in NHL scoring.

    A couple of weeks back, I wrote about how, for all their achievements, the Sedins are still underrated. They'll be 32 this year, with two years to go on their current contract. Canucks management owes it to the players and the fans to see if they can bring back the top-flight Sedinery in 2012-13.

Ryan Kesler

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    Earlier this week, my fellow Bleacher Report Columnist Riley Kufta posted a story on why Ryan Kesler shouldn't be traded. I agree.

    This was not a good year for Kesler. After suffering a hip injury in last year's Conference Final, he was late in starting the season and even then, admitted he'd come back too soon. Through the season he struggled to find chemistry with new linemates when Mikael Samuelsson was traded and Mason Raymond was sidelined with his fractured vertebrae. Then in February, Kesler suffered a shoulder injury that was the final nail in the coffin of his 2011-12 season.

    Even before his breakout offensive year, Kesler was a key component of Alain Vigneault's team game. He won the Selke Trophy in 2011 because he's a bear to play against, not for his 41 goals.

    The Canucks, and Kesler himself, must be patient with his recovery from this shoulder surgery. To try to trade him now would be to move damaged goods, which would lower the value of the return. More importantly, Kesler has contributed enough to the team over the years to have earned our patience. He's only 27, signed for four more years. We'll see the old "Kes" back on the ice soon enough.

Zack Kassian

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    Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault need to give Zack Kassian a good long look next year. Fans still need reassurance that Cody Hodgson wasn't banished from Vancouver for nothing.

    Kassian showed flashes of promise when he first arrived from Buffalo in his trade deadline deal. As time passed, he started to look lost on the ice. In the end, Kassian was a healthy scratch for the Canucks' final playoff game against the Kings.

    But Kassian was green as grass when he arrived. He was just 27 games into his NHL rookie season, and had spent 30 games with the Rochester Americans of the AHL. Hodgson's a year older, and it was only last season that he became an NHL regular himself.

    Certainly, the two play very different styles. And it's pretty clear that Hodgson's departure was predicated not just on his lack of quality playing time, but also on his team's relationship with management.

    In addition to trading Hodgson, Gillis also traded away young Michael Grabner and a 2010 first round draft choice in the Keith Ballard deal, so the Canucks are not exactly chockablock with talented prospects. Kassian needs time to develop in the organization—either with the big squad or in Chicago with the Wolves. We want to see what he's really made of.

Alex Edler

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    This is a tough one.

    For much of the season, Alex Edler looked like the kind of big Swedish defenseman you could build a blue line around. Not mentioning any names...(Nick Lidstrom).

    A lofty comparison, to be sure. But every legend needs to start somewhere and this looked like the year that Edler was ascending to elite status. He had career highs in goals and points, seamlessly stepped into Christian Ehrhoff's spot on the first power play unit and appeared in his first All-Star Game.

    But as the season wore on, Edler seemed to come unglued. His mistakes became more noticeable—and costly—down the stretch. The worst was a disastrous Game 2 against the Kings.

    Edler is a man of few words, but he's tight with some core members of the Canucks, like the Sedins and Kevin Bieksa, who took the 'hometown discount' to stay in Vancouver. He'll make $3.25 million in the final year of his contract and could become an unrestricted free agent if he can't reach a deal with the Canucks on an extension.

    Ideally, that deal gets done this summer. Edler's just 26. If he reaches his potential he could be a stalwart defender for the Canucks for the next decade. If he turns out to be at Lidstrom level? Even longer.

Chris Tanev

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    Alex Edler keeps a low profile. Chris Tanev is practically invisible.

    Tanev's junior hockey career was stalled due to his small size as a teenager, but a late growth spurt that Justin Bieber would envy got him signed to a free-agent contract by the Canucks two years ago.

    Since then, Tanev has done almost nothing but impress. He plays a smart, low-key style of game that's not flashy, but gets the job done defensively.

    Tanev needs to get stronger if he wants to step up to the next level. He has a bit of a hard time standing up to tougher opposition. And there's no mustard on his point shot right now—it practically floats through the air towards the goalie after it leaves his stick.

    Nevertheless, Tanev's hockey sense is ingrained. He plays virtually mistake-free hockey with the skill set he possesses right now. At 22-years-old, his upside is massive. This is not a player who should be included in any trade package that Mike Gillis might put together.

Jordan Schroeder

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    As mentioned earlier, the Canucks' organization is a bit shallow when it comes to young prospects. Although he's on the small side, there's a chance that Jordan Schroeder might be ready to contribute to the big club next season and beyond.

    A Minnesota native who's a product of that state's great hockey machine, Schroeder showed flashes of ability during his preseason look with Vancouver last year. He has improved steadily during his two years on the Canucks' farm with Manitoba and Chicago.

    He's just 5'9" and 180 lbs, which would certainly cause a spectacle if he ever matched up in the faceoff circle with someone like 6'4" Joe Thornton. But Martin St. Louis and Ray Whitney have had long, productive NHL careers with similar builds. Cliff Ronning was even smaller, and had some great years playing centre for the Canucks back in the '90s.

    Kesler's second-line centre slot will be open at the start of the season while he recovers from his surgery. Schroeder should be able to compete for that spot. Schroeder will turn 22 in September; he was drafted the same year as Kassian. He deserves a proper look in a real-game situation to help determine whether he has what it takes to make it in the bigs.

Nicklas Jensen

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    Nicklas Jensen was the Canucks' first round draft choice in 2011. He may turn out to be the gem. At just 19, the prospect already has good size at 6'2" and 213 lbs, and characterizes himself as a power forward.

    Jensen was born and raised in Denmark, but his father is a Canadian from Toronto. He played junior in the OHL for three seasons before moving to Denmark to continue his hockey career, and eventually settling permanently.

    Nicklas reversed his dad's journey, traveling to Canada to join the OHL as a 17-year-old, then playing a second season with the Oshawa Generals after getting drafted. He's been a point-a-game player in junior.

    After Oshawa was eliminated from the 2011 playoffs, Jensen was called up to the Canucks' AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, where he had an impressive run. In the final six regular-season games, Jensen scored four goals. He followed that up with a two-goal Game 1 to open the playoffs before getting knocked out of Game 2 with a concussion. He missed the rest of the series, which the Wolves lost in five games.

    Though head injuries are hard to predict, Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun quotes Canucks' Assistant GM Lorne Henning as saying: "He took an elbow to the head. He was a little groggy but is getting better every day. Hopefully it will just be a couple of weeks and clear up."

    Even as an 18-year-old, Jensen looked impressive in his first Canucks training camp last September. He looks like he may be cut from similar cloth to Colorado's Calder Trophy nominee Gabriel Landeskog. If that turns out to be the case, Vancouver's got a good one. Don't want the Canucks to let him go before he shows us what he's got.