Canucks’ Expansion Plans

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sport

One of the benefits of not having many good players is that unlike many other teams in the league, there doesn’t seem to be much debate about who the Canucks should protect in the upcoming expansion draft. Tomorrow is the deadline for NHL teams to submit their list of protected players. The topic of who will make up the Canucks’ protection list has been covered in more than a few publications including TSN, Sportsnet, and the Washington Post). All of whom came to the same conclusion that I did when I ran the mock draft:

The inclusion of most of these guys is obvious. They are the Canucks’ best players. The only one that is debatable is Brandon Sutter, who’s $4.375m cap hit draws the ire of Canucks fans who have nothing better to talk about right now.

A more interesting topic is whether the Canucks will feel motivated to make a side deal with the Vegas Golden Knights so one of the Canucks’ other players isn’t selected. The Golden Knights are rumored to have many of these deals in place, and will likely receive picks in the Entry Draft in return. Are there any players on the Canucks’ roster who the team would feel motivated to protect? After filtering out the players who’re likely going to be protected and the pending UFAs, here are the notable Canucks that Vegas has the option of choosing:

Goalies:

The Golden Knights will have a lot of good options for their tenders. They’ll have choices like Marc-Andre Fleury, Michal Neuvirth, Antti Raanta, and Philipp Grubauer. Although Richard Bachman has been solid when called upon in the NHL, he is undoubtedly safe.

Forwards:

Derek Dorsett’s contract and back issues make him an unlikely target. Megna and Chaput are fringe NHL’ers and are also unlikely targets. But I could see the Canucks potentially trying to make a move to protect either Brendan Gaunce or Reid Boucher. In Gaunce, you have a former 1st rounder who’s paid his dues in the Canucks system before getting his first real shot on the big club this year. The Canucks are going to need a 4th line center next season, and Gaunce is familiar to incumbent head coach Travis Green. In 2015-2016, Gaunce had 38 points in 46 games playing for Green in Utica. Still, at 23 years old, Gaunce had just 5 assists and zero goals in 57 NHL games last season. At that age and production level, you have to question how high his ceiling is, and whether he’s worth giving up an asset for. I wouldn’t be upset if the Canucks gave up a 4th-7th round pick to protect him, but it’s not a big loss if he’s chosen either.

It’s harder to make an argument to protect Reid Boucher. Boucher is known as a sniper and had 5 goals in 27 games for the Canucks this year; pro-rated over 82 games that would be 15 goals. That would’ve put him in a tie for 5th on the team with Daniel and Henrik Sedin. So you could make the argument that it’d be dumb for an offensively-challenged team to leave one of their better scorers exposed. However, Boucher was waived three times this past season. That means three times his team couldn’t even trade him for a 7th round pick and suggests his value is negligible. Unless the Canucks have some info the rest of the league doesn’t, it would be foolish to give up an asset to protect a player who has no market value.

Defenders:

Pedan and Biega are whelming defenders and would be quickly forgotten by Canucks fans. But Luca Sbisa is good enough to play 82 games for the Canucks or Golden Knights if he’s healthy next season, and he’s the odds-on favorite to be selected in the expansion draft. While Sbisa is not a big difference maker, the Canucks don’t have anyone in the lineup to replace him. Sure, his $3.6 million cap hit is a little higher than what you’d hope for a player of his ilk. But finding a replacement in the over-priced free agency market wouldn’t be cheap either. So of all the Canucks’ players likely to be exposed, Sbisa makes the most sense to try to protect. I would be fine with the Canucks giving up a 3rd round pick to protect him. But if they elect to leave him exposed and really commit to rebuilding through the draft, no-one in Canucks nation will be losing any sleep.

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Canucks' Expansion Plans
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Canucks' Expansion Plans
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Unlike many other teams in the league, there doesn’t seem to be much debate about who the Canucks should protect in the upcoming expansion draft.
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Puck Planet
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