5 Potential Win-Win Trades for NHL Playoff Contenders and the Vancouver Canucks
To say things are grim for the Vancouver Canucks these days would be doing a great disservice to facts.
The Canucks have been dysfunctional all season long and we're only halfway through it. Coach Bruce Boudreau's firing has felt imminent for a couple months, and now one of the people in the world that loves hockey more than anything got emotional when asked about the rumors swirling about his how his tenure may soon be coming to an end.
The players are sick of the losing. They're buried in the Western Conference standings sitting 12 points behind the second wild card spot and 17 back of third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division. They're not going to the playoffs unless a lot of teams in front of them are dispatched to the Phantom Zone by Jor-El of Krypton.
The dour air around the team has been apparent for quite a while. When the Canucks came to Buffalo in mid-November, a month into the season, players' heads were down, Boudreau's mood was as if someone ran over his dog, and multiple Canucks players looked like they'd rather be anywhere else in the universe than in the locker room. Bad vibes, man.
To change this up, I'm going to find new places for five Canucks players to call home via trade in which not only with the team acquiring them wins, but also Vancouver can come away pleased as well.
Team president Jim Rutherford said they're not rebuilding, but I'm tearing this down to the studs by getting rid of them. Well, most of them anyway. Onward!
Ilya Mikheyev to Tampa Bay
The Tampa Bay Lightning don't need a lot of help, let's be real. Their offense is again clicking, Steven Stamkos scored his 500th goal recently (against Vancouver, no less), and Andrei Vasilevskiy is busy reminding the rest of the league that he's one of the best goalies in the league once again.
The Bolts are outstanding, but they're also in the same division as the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs and already appear fated to face the Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. Elliotte Friedman says the Lightning are looking for a player with an edge to their game in the same vein as past deadline acquisitions like Blake Coleman or Nick Paul. Who better to bring in to frustrate the Leafs to their very core than a guy who had just spent the previous three seasons in Toronto?
Tampa Bay adding Ilya Mikheyev to, presumably, their bottom-six forward group would give them a player who, at least while on very good Maple Leafs teams, was very good with puck possession and could help out on the penalty-killing units and even get the occasional shorthanded goal (he had four last season).
Mikheyev isn't a typical brand of gritty player. He doesn't deliver a lot of hits and he doesn't block a ton of shots, but he comes more from the modern school of how to frustrate opponents by way of forechecking like a madman and enhancing the ability of opposing skaters to make mistakes.
There are some roadblocks to making this happen, however.
Mikheyev's contract has a $4.75 million cap hit through 2025-26 and the Lightning are one of many, many teams digging into LTIR for cap space. The Canucks could eat some of that money, but if the price was a first-round pick to get him (it shouldn't be, mind you), Tampa doesn't have a first-round pick until the 2025 draft after dealing their 2023 and 2024 first-round picks for Brandon Hagel. They also don't have a second-round pick in 2023.
Listen, I'm just an idea guy here, OK? Mikheyev has all the feel of being a Lightning-like player and in a vacuum, he would be a solid fit.
Brock Boeser to Minnesota
There are some absolute truths in life. One is that everyone loves a great homecoming story, and the other is that the Minnesota Wild love to bring in players from the State of Hockey. Having Brock Boeser go the Wild would accomplish both of those things.
The Wild are in a spot where they can absolutely challenge for the Stanley Cup this season, but their offense leaves a bit to be desired. They're in the bottom-half of the NHL in goals scored and fortunately for them, scoring goals is one of the things Boeser does very well.
In four of his first five seasons, Boeser scored 20-or-more goals with a career-high of 29 back in 2017-2018. His goal-scoring pace this season is the worst he's had in his career scoring 0.25 goals per game. That number is out of line with most of his previous seasons, which signals a bounceback could happen soon. Add in the fact that Boeser is a decent puck possession player, and you've got someone that should be attractive to most teams in the league.
Boeser comes with a $6.65 million cap hit that runs for two more seasons after the current one which, unfortunately, is the same amount of time the Wild has with the stiff cap penalties accrued after they bought out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the summer of 2021. Getting dinged for $14.7 million in dead cap is something the Wild should be prepared for since it's a mess they got themselves into in the first place, but it would be a major factor into how they could bring in Boeser.
The Wild have picks to dangle to make a deal, but they'd need to move out a contract of some kind to help make it easier. Coincidentally, soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Matt Dumba who has a $6 million cap hit has been a healthy scratch recently out of the blue. Just saying.
Thatcher Demko to Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings are having perhaps an unexpectedly great start to the season. They're beating teams by spreading the wealth on offense and running scorers out from virtually all four lines (when healthy). They're right in the mix with Vegas and Seattle in the Pacific Division, and they've got a glaring weakness in goal.
Vancouver goaltending has not been great this season, with Thatcher Demko at first playing poorly and now dealing with a lower-body injury and Spencer Martin getting pressed into steady action as the interim No. 1 with Collin Delia backing him up.
The Canucks are a disaster on ice, and the Kings could use some solidification in goal for the long run with Jonathan Quick, 36, not getting any younger and Cal Petersen getting his game back in the AHL. It sure seems like a great time for Vancouver to seize the day and make a deal where it can get the return it'd most want, and the Kings could solve their goaltending for now and seasons to come.
Demko has been very good over the past few campaigns, and his play in 2021-22, along with coach Bruce Boudreau's arrival, helped the Canucks nearly get to the playoffs after a miserable first half. Yes, his numbers are bad this season, and he's working his way back from injury. But there's plenty of hockey left to play.
The Kings are not lacking in prospects or draft picks, and if the Canucks want a goalie back in the deal, one would probably be immediately available to send the other way if L.A. is bringing in a new prospective No. 1.
Bo Horvat to Carolina Hurricanes
Full transparency: My idea to have the Carolina Hurricanes make a run at Bo Horvat happened way before the organization announced Max Pacioretty tore his Achilles' tendon again and would miss the rest of the season. You don't have to believe me, and you probably won't anyway. But holy smokes it's a great thought.
The Hurricanes are in a fight with the New Jersey Devils atop the Metropolitan Division, and both teams will keep an eye on the Boston Bruins in case they come back to earth (not going to happen) to think about home ice throughout the playoffs. That should lead to an arms race between the 'Canes and Devils, and any good roster arms race needs a really good rental trade. And Horvat can be that guy.
Horvat makes a ton of sense for Carolina because not only has it lost Pacioretty for the rest of the season, but while Paul Stastny is a solid veteran centerman, also having Horvat play between Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas is the kind of thing fantasy hockey rosters or video games are made of.
Horvat is due to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, which makes him an ideal rental trade candidate. And given how poorly contract-extension talks have gone with Vancouver, the possibility of a Horvat trade by March 3 grows stronger by the day and with every Canucks loss.
The cost to acquire him would be high, but as the trade deadline draws nearer, the pressure will be on the Canucks to do something, especially if Horvat won't sign there.
Adding Horvat would give Carolina perhaps the most dangerous and potent offense in the NHL, and there would be the possibility they could retain him too, since they'll have nearly $30 million in cap space this summer. Granted, they'll have a few other holes to fill.
Quinn Hughes to Montréal Canadiens
The Montréal Canadiens have an exciting group of young forwards they're building with, and while they have a few young defensemen who show promise in Kaiden Guhle (age 21), Justin Barron (21), and Jordan Harris (22), they don't have a puck-carrying offensive threat to jump-start the likes of Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, Kirby Dach and Juraj Slafkovsky.
Getting aggressive and making a pitch for Quinn Hughes would take care of that.
Should the Canucks have any reason to trade Hughes? If they're a serious organization, no, but given how they've been acting this season (and arguably a while before this), they don't seem that serious about things. That makes them the perfect mark for what would be a stunning blockbuster trade.
Hughes' offensive game from the blue line is outstanding, and he's still growing into the role despite being in his fourth full campaign. He's leading all defensemen in assists over the past four seasons (including 2022-23), and his value as a distributor on the power play is sky-high.
If Vancouver were to move Hughes, it would signal it might actually want to do a full rebuild, which would mean the organization would demand future assets from Montréal to get him.
Luckily for the Canucks, the Habs have stockpiled picks from previous trades. They have the Florida Panthers' first round pick in 2023 and a conditional first-rounder from Calgary in 2025 along with their own firsts. Montréal also has a fairly solid stockpile of prospects in line behind its current spate of youth.
The Canadiens have heavy cap commitments over the next few seasons; however, some of those (like Carey Price) will be instant LTIR cap-space creators. That makes taking on Hughes' $7.85 million cap hit through 2026-27 a lot easier.
If the Canadiens want to be the next New Jersey Devils or Buffalo Sabres, with their young players leading surprising resurgences, adding Hughes would virtually ensure it.