The Vancouver Canucks are an elite hockey team whose time is now.
They stumbled at times during the regular season but still managed to capture their second consecutive Presidents' Trophy.
While they were surprised by their five-game ouster by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, it appears that situation was, at least in part, the result of running into a hot team at the wrong time.
The Canucks have their Art Ross-winning Sedin twins under contract for two more years. They have Selke trophy winner Ryan Kesler coming back from shoulder surgery. They have a solid blue line and top-notch goaltending.
Last summer, the Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings showed us that it is possible to make blockbuster trades that can benefit both franchises. Big names and big contracts can be moved, even in the salary-cap era. And Mike Gillis has shown that he's no wallflower. Remember his $20 million free agent offer to Mats Sundin just months after taking over as General Manager?
At his end-of-season press conference, Gillis talked about the Canucks' need to get bigger and stronger and focus on offense. The Canucks could use an elite power forward—a guy who can take the body, crash the crease and score a bunch of goals while making his teammates play a little bigger.
Let's dream big.
If the Canucks could add a Grade A power forward to their roster by trade, who should it be?
I've listed four here. Got other ideas? Share them in the comments below.
Corey Perry is far from popular around these parts, but that could change in a hurry if he found himself in a Canucks uniform.
The 6'3" 203 lbs right-winger has credentials for miles, and he's just 27 years old.
He has a Stanley Cup ring from the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. He has an Olympic Gold Medal from Vancouver in 2010. He won gold at the World Junior Championship in 2005.
He won the Hart Trophy in 2011 as the NHL MVP, scoring 50 goals and 98 points.
Should I go on?
Perry's also tough as nails. Canucks fans don't like him because he takes the body, and because he creates traffic in front of the net...two qualities in short supply among Vancouver's current forwards.
Would the Ducks part with Perry? Before Bruce Boudreau's hiring midway through last season, the word on the street was that all players could be available. At the deadline last spring, Perry-to-Vancouver rumours were rampant, though never substantiated.
Perry has one year left on a deal that pays him $5.3 million before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He'll be looking for a raise, and probably a long-term deal, when he re-signs.
According to CapGeek.com, The Ducks currently have just seven forwards under contract for next season. Maybe they'd be willing to part with Perry—or Ryan Getzlaf, who also has a year left at the same money—for a package of three or four players who might help fill out the lines as the Koivu/Selanne era winds towards its end.
Columbus has said that they're in 'rebuilding' mode, so a package for Nash would probably have to include at least one blue-chip prospect.
Chris Kreider was the deal-breaker for the Rangers, who wouldn't part with him. I'd expect the Blue Jackets to target Nicklas Jensen from the Canucks.
Jensen has great upside, and I highlighted him last week on my list of players the Canucks should not trade. But will he be ready to contribute to this Canucks team while the Sedins are still in their prime?
Nash turns 28 next week and is even bigger than Perry at 6'4" and 218 lbs. His salary is more prohibitive—his deal runs another six years with a cap hit of $7.8 million per year. And his role as a "winner" is still unproven.
He also won gold with Canada in the 2010 Olympics. He has three medals from the World Championships, including one gold. But he's played just four playoff games in his seven-year NHL career with the Blue Jackets, and the team has failed to prosper under his captaincy.
Nash for Luongo could make sense, as Columbus is in serious need of goaltending help. It's unlikely that Luongo would waive his no-movement clause to go to Ohio, but there may be a way for the Canucks and Jackets to come to terms on a deal that works for everyone.
Dreaming really big: the Great Eight might be in need of a change in scenery.
After a career-low 65 points this season, Ovi was under the microscope in the playoffs as Dale Hunter asked him to cut his ice time and play a more defensive role. He obliged, and the Caps defeated the defending champion Boston Bruins before falling in seven to the New York Rangers.
After a trying year, Ovechkin still headed off to the World Championships in Finland, where he picked up four points in the three games in the medal round to help Russia capture gold. Ovechkin likes to play hockey, and he loves to win.
Ovechkin's salary certainly doesn't fit into the Canucks' team-first structure. He has nine years left on a deal with a cap hit of $9.5 million a year.
At only 26, for whatever reason, Ovechkin just had a rough year. He might bounce back in Washington, but I think he'd bounce back better in a different environment.
Ovechkin has the size and skill to be a huge asset to the Canucks. Mike Gillis has also shown a preference for dealing with teams from the Eastern Conference, so that might prove advantageous.
Still, it's tough to imagine what sort of package might get this deal done. The Caps certainly don't need a goaltender after Braden Holtby's great playoff.
It's also tough to imagine that one bad year will be enough to sever the relationship between Ovechkin and the Caps for good. There will be changes—a new coach will be the first—but when the dust settles, I think Ovechkin's yellow laces will still be flying up and down the wing at Verizon Center next season.
Here's a more humble suggestion, which I think would suit the Canucks well very indeed.
The San Jose Sharks show a willingness to shake up their team almost every summer, after they fail to meet expectations.
Some believe that the Thornton/Marleau era is coming to an end. Right now, they each have two more years on their current deals with no-trade clauses. Would the Sharks be interested in a goaltender after the disappointing play of Antti Niemi in this year's playoffs? Would Gillis trade Luongo to a conference rival? Would the Sharks be willing to part with Ryane Clowe?
The 29-year-old Clowe would be a great fit for the Canucks' current needs. He's 6'2" and 225 lbs, and has settled in as a 50-point, 100 PIM winger over the last three seasons.
Clowe has one year remaining on his deal at a reasonable $3.6 million.
How would he look skating down the left side next to Ryan Kesler?
Gillis was able to score when he acquired Christian Ehrhoff from the Sharks via trade in 2009. Perhaps another trade with Doug Wilson is just what Vancouver needs.
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