For today’s Devils Army Blog Trade Series, we go north of the border to take a look at the Vancouver Canucks. Yes, the team that loves to riot when they lose has a few interesting players that the Devils should try to make a deal for. If all goes according to plan, they’ll be trading the shores of British Columbia for the shores of New Jersey.
The Canucks are in a weird place. Yes, they are technically rebuilding, but they still enter every season hoping they can push enough to be a playoff team. Rookie sensation Elias Petterson and Brock Boeser kept their shelf life alive long enough that the playoffs were still close enough until the later part of the season when they spiraled out of contention. Obviously, there’s zero chance the Devils can trade for Boeser or Petterson. Everyone in Vancouver is holding onto the Calder favorite as tight as they can. So who can the Devils target instead?
The Devils are arguably a little further in their rebuild process than the Canucks, which means that while Vancouver continues to toy and mix and match certain players, the Devils have a little bit of a better idea of what they need and who they want. Since the departure of the Sedin twins, no one except Boeser and Petterson is safe. So let’s take a look at the best of the rest.
Why Quinn Hughes Isn’t On The List:
Yes, the draft hasn’t happened yet. Yes, there’s still a chance that the Devils take Kaapo Kakko instead of the American Jack Hughes, but all signs are pointing to Hughes instead of Kakko having their name called by Ray Shero. Assuming that happens, can you think of a better NHL story line to follow than brother Quinn joining his brother in Jersey? The two brothers can become the next face of the Devils, similar to Henrik and Daniel Sedin during their Canucks tenure and Rob and Scott Neidermayer in Anaheim.
While Quinn Hughes isn’t exactly off limits, any team would have to give up a small fortune to even have the Canucks talking. Hughes has an extremely short NHL resume of only five games, but was a former top ten first round pick. It takes patience and time to develop defensemen, so with that in mind, moving Hughes isn’t in the Canucks’ immediate plans.
Everyone has a price though. Considering the Canucks spent a high first round pick on him, they’d probably want either a first round pick in return, or an NHL-ready defenseman to contribute immediately to their never ending rebuild. The Devils don’t have an extra first to give, and their blue line is equally thin on assets. Even if the Devils offered up their best overall NHL ready d-man at the moment, Sami Vatanen, Vancouver might still want more. A one for one trade for Ty Smith for Quinn Hughes would be considered, but the Devils have too much riding on Ty Smith to help her own defensive end that he’s far from expendable.
Quinn Hughes is the type of player the Devils need, and the thought of him and Ty Smith would do wonders to increase the Devils defense. Assuming Vatanen stays healthy, Hughes, Smith, Severson and Vatanen would make an amazing top four. Still, the price would be too high to justify the family reunion.
If Hughes isn’t available, Troy Stecher would be a great second choice. The 25-year-old right-shooting defenseman (where have we heard that before) fills the Devils number one blue line need, assuming Ty Smith makes the team out of trading camp. By no means is he a point producing monster like Brett Burns, but Stecher is good for 20-30 points per season. At age 25, he also already has three full years of NHL experience under his belt. He never played a full 82 games, but his lowest total in those three years was 68 games last season in 2017-2018.
Looking at Stecher’s statistics, he suffered a little bit of a sophomore slump last season. In addition to his career low of games at 68, he scored a career low 11 points while having a career low in shots and shooting percentage. Granted three years only gives an extremely small sample size, so it’s not worth reading too much into.
Signed as an undrafted free agent, the Canucks don’t necessarily have a lot invested in him but still will be asking for a nice return. Considering he’s their top paring defenseman, Vancouver will most likely overvalue him. A second and a third round pick should at least get Vancouver interested in negotiating.
The twenty two year old Jake Virtanen plays at the Devils’ weakest offensive position: right wing. Virtanen has played parts of four seasons, but only developed into a full time NHL player over the past two seasons. This past year was his best offensive performance, finishing with 25 points, while seeing his shot totals and face off win percentage continue to increase.
25 point may not be anything that’s sending Shero to the phones begging Vancouver for a trade, but he would be an immediate upgrade for the Devils being their second best right winger to Kyle Palmieri. Virtanen sees second line minutes in Vancouver, but is the weakest player on the line that also includes Elias Petterson and Brock Boeser. Needless to say, Vancouver wouldn’t miss him too much.
The fact that Virtanen seemingly struggles on one of Vancouver’s most talented lines is cause for concern. With the Devils seemingly about to draft Hughes, who would develop into their top line center, that means Virtanen would be centered most likely by Nico Hischier, or at worst, Pavel Zacha.
Virtanen is a former sixth overall pick though, so Vancouver’s going to have a high asking price. Considering his history and production, I wouldn’t offer anything higher than a second and perhaps a few expendable players like Stefan Noesen to Vancouver. Virtanen may be a former first round pick, but he’s not playing like a player who needs a first round pick in return.
Once the Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander ended their contract standoff, Leivo was shipped off to Vancouver in a trade. The 26 year old left wing has seen bits and pieces of NHL action with Toronto since 2013-2014, but only this past year played more than 16 games. With increased playing time in Vancouver, he ended with 24 points in a career high 56 games split between the two teams.
Trading for Leivo would be difficult, since he’s a restricted free agent. Luckily for the Devils, the Canucks need to re-sign Boeser and he’ll be their top priority. That’s not to say that the Canucks necessarily want to move Leivo, but the urgency of taking care of Boeser first makes him easier to move.
Even though Leivo has seemingly developed into a full time NHL player, you should count on him playing 82 games on an NHL roster next season. In addition his shooting percentage and face off wins percentage decreased after the trade that sent him to the Western shores. The Canucks seemingly aren’t impressed enough with his numbers to fully commit to him, but if he can play in a manner similar to Blake Coleman, he might be worth a look from the Devils.
If the Canucks do decide to keep him, it would probably be on a short term deal. If he’s looked to be shipped off to another team, he might want a slightly longer contract. Assume the Canucks sign him to a one year deal and trade him, a late third round pick should be fair. Or maybe try moving Stefan Noesen first, as the Canucks aren’t exactly moving away from guys his age.