While fans have been breathless with NHL trade rumors of Kasperi Kapanen for Brock Boeser since Jim Rutherford was named President of Hockey Operations of the Vancouver Canucks, there are probably more things in play than video game trades. Over the past week, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been scouting Vancouver and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
By our math, the last several games for each have featured Penguins scouts.
First, a bit more context on Vancouver and the hockey operations team, including GM Patrik Allvin. Elliotte Friedman explained on Hockey Night in Canada.
“They’ve been going out, getting information on the value of their players on the open market,” the ace reporter said. “There are very few Canucks that haven’t been talked about … but they’re out there looking at the rest of their team saying, ‘OK, what information can we glean and what is the market for them?’ I think what the Canucks have also been doing–for those players who may need new contracts soon, they’ve been asking about the possibilities of staying.”
The Penguins had two scouts for the Maple Leafs-Buffalo Sabres game, and we know the Sabres sent AGM Jason Karmanos for a couple of games in Pittsburgh. We already looked at the NHL trade block for Buffalo, including $1.6 million lefty defenseman Robert Hagg.
We believe the Penguins and GM Ron Hextall will not “go big,’ but look for affordable options to bolster the lineup. The Penguins could use a middle-six winger to chip in more offense or a bit of physicality. The Penguins d-corps is solid but could be upgraded, too.
NHL Trade Block
It’s tough to separate fact from fiction with both Canadian cities. Everyone is available, everyone is worth your best players, and everyone wants to play there, right?
It’s hard to lock down what Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas may be looking for–he has a deep team. However, starting goalie Jack Campbell has struggled lately, and the defense is without Jake Muzzin and Rasmus Sandin. Toronto quickly placed Muzzin on LTIR with a concussion on Feb. 24.
Muzzin is a solid LHD with a just over $4 million cap hit. With Muzzin out, Toronto has about $3.3 million in cap space.
Interestingly, Toronto’s electric prospect, Nicholas Robertson, has played the last four games. He’s had trouble cracking their NHL roster over the last few seasons but is only 20-years-old. However, he’s only 5-foot-9, 164-pounds. In 10 NHL games, he scored his first goal on Saturday night. He has two career points.
Robertson, a LW, slotted beside John Tavares in Toronto’s top-six.
I’m absolutely spitballing, but could the Penguins be convinced to give up a LHD (and retain salary) because they have a surplus six deep, including Mark Friedman and P.O. Joseph? Toronto thinks highly of Robertson, a 2019 second-round pick.
In 30 AHL games over the last two seasons, Robertson has 24 points (8-16-24).
Toronto doesn’t have much if you’re looking for physicality or truculence. Only five players on the roster, including Muzzin, have more than 70 hits. Wayne Simmonds leads the team with 97. Simmonds is worth far more to Toronto than on the NHL trade block. Defensemen Muzzin (84) and Justin Holl (79) are second and third.
Let’s start by downplaying the Brock Boeser for Kasperi Kapanen chatter. That talk has never been reported, only runaway speculation because Rutherford coveted Kapanen and paid a premium to re-acquire him in Pittsburgh.
Boeser will be an RFA after the season, and it will take a hefty qualifying offer to keep his rights. He makes over $5.8 million for 33 points (16-17-33) in 51 games. There are questions about his fortitude–from this keyboard, he does not seem like a good fit for the Mike Sullivan Pittsburgh Penguins, certainly not at his salary level.
J.T. Miller isn’t coming home, either. Fuhgeddaboudit.
What do the Canucks want to do? They are currently between four and eight points out of a playoff spot. One good week and they’re right back in it. If the Vegas Golden Knights continue dropping, they could leap into the top three of the Pacific Division.
So, let’s not assume Rutherford will have a fire sale nor sell off assets for “future” considerations.
However, if Hextall could convince one team in the league to overvalue the Penguins prospect pool, it would be Vancouver. Perhaps Joseph, Nathan Legare, or Sam Poulin have more value to the Canucks than they would other teams?
Canucks winger Conor Garland is an interesting name that has appeared in NHL trade chatter. The RW has 31 points (14-17-31) in 55 games. However, he’s also small at just 5-foot-10, 165 pounds.
Right-side defenseman Travis Hamonic is a d-man that a few would like to get their hands on–but his past insistence to play in western Canada is problematic. Has he softened that desire? The defender carries an affordable $3 million cap hit through next season.
Hamonic, 31, was readily available on the eve of the season and didn’t immediately report to Vancouver, but that was a unique situation. It was never fully explained, and reports of being anti-vax were disputed. He would be a big upgrade for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Or, we can take the easy route here: Kapanen for Boeser! (no, no, no).