The Canucks are an absolute mess, and as the NHL trade deadline nears, contenders like the Bruins should certainly be interested in a potential Vancouver firesale.
The Canucks have already cashed in their most valuable trade piece, sending captain Bo Horvat to the New York Islanders. The blockbuster kicked off the NHL’s trade season with still a little more than a month to go before the March 3 deadline.
Scouts will be following the Canucks across North America for the next four-plus weeks. While Vancouver is stuck in the proverbial mud, it does have valuable assets it could look to move as the rebuild continues.
Young forward Elias Pettersson should certainly be off limits, and you have to imagine a player like Quinn Hughes will be staying put. After that, though, Vancouver should be open for business on just about anyone else on its roster. Given the Bruins’ cap situation and collection of assets, high-priced players with term are likely out of the picture, at least for now. For the sake of the exercise, that probably eliminates the likes of J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
For a team like the Bruins, every single move should be considered in an ongoing attempt to build depth for the stretch run and Stanley Cup playoffs. Realistically, a depth move either up front or on the back end makes the most sense. Here are a few options that might make sense.
RW Conor Garland
The question for Don Sweeney and company as it pertains to Garland: Just how much do you believe in the player and what he might be able to accomplish in your system? Garland had been connected to Boston dating back to his Phoenix days before Vancouver ultimately landed him. His first season with the Canucks was good. He scored 19 goals and added 33 assists. The five-year, $24.75 million extension he received after the trade hasn’t aged well, though. Garland has been bad this season (though so have most of the Canucks), with just 9-15-24 totals in 48 games. He was a healthy scratch in October. Garland has three years (after this one) on his deal, and while the $4.95 million cap hit is fairly manageable, the contract is relatively backloaded with $17 million still owed. So there’s a good chunk of change still owed to a player who hasn’t lived up to expectations this season. Then again, he’s an ideal change-of-scenery candidate, who could flourish now and in the future with better linemates in Jim Montgomery’s system.
D Ethan Bear
Based solely on his surname, Bear is a perfect fit for the Bruins. When it comes to actually playing hockey, the right-handed shot defenseman would be an intriguing depth addition. He’s currently part of Vancouver’s top pairing with Hughes, averaging a little more than 18 minutes per night. He’s offensive-minded and has been a slightly above-average puck-possession player at even strength this season, which is saying something on that team, and he also kills penalties. Bear’s $1.8 million cap hit is quite manageable, as he’s set to be a restricted free agent at season’s end. He’d have to be nothing more than a depth piece for this season, at least.
D Luke Schenn
Schenn, averaging 17 minutes per night this season, makes all the sense in the world for the Bruins. You could always use more defense depth when the games start getting tighter. He has playoff experience, winning a couple of rings with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Schenn also has toughness and size, two traits the Bruins are potentially short on, especially on the back end. That comes with obvious drawbacks, but again, it helps to have the depth and someone who can play that sort of game when the rate of attrition increases. He’s also a right-shot D-man, and he can kill penalties. He’s a perfectly unspectacular player who still brings something to the table, an assessment that’s meant to be flattering. The 33-year-old is super-affordable with a cap hit of $850,000 on an expiring deal. It almost makes too much sense. But for as much sense as he makes for the Bruins, the same could be said for plenty of contenders, so that could drive up the price.