Vancouver Canucks Hot Take of the Week: Targeting a young defenceman

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      This is a (somewhat) weekly feature that will seek to delve into a “take” from someone in the media involving the Vancouver Canucks. Today, we take on Eliotte Friedman's latest rumour about the Canucks' blueline plans. 

      When Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman says something, as has been mentioned in this space many times, one listens. (Unless it’s about pop culture, mind you. He’s recently applauded Bohemian Rhapsody and criticized Brooklyn Nine-Nine so maybe avoid any entertainment takes he offers.)

      So when he recently mentioned in his 31 Thoughts column that he believes the Canucks would like to add a young defenceman, it was enough to create a stir in Vancouver.

      Of course, general manager Jim Benning is also on the record as saying the Canucks are going to look to make some changes on the blueline in the offseason. So this most likely has legs.

      And it would only make sense for the Canucks to target a younger player, given the fact that the team projects to be a contender later rather than sooner. If they’re going to spend some assets to add someone, they’d want him to be a key cog for the future.

      That young core would also likely be aided by the arrival of a right-handed defenceman. Quinn Hughes, Olli Juolevi and Ben Hutton, who all at least project to be part of the future. There’s also Alex Edler, who looks like he’s set to re-sign with the team for at least two years and probably three.

      On the other side, the team has Troy Stecher and, well, that’s kind of it. Chris Tanev is constantly hurt and his contract runs out after next season. And while Alex Biega has performed admirably, he’s a better fit in the 6-7 role.

      Considering what’s out there in terms of young right-handed defencemen on the free agent market, it will probably have to happen via trade. (The Canucks have been linked to Tyler Myers but that would seem to be a mistake, given he is nearing 30 years of age and would likely fetch a long contract in free agency.)

      Friedman mentioned Brandon Montour, “or someone like him.” It will probably have to be the latter, as Montour was recently acquired by the Buffalo Sabres for a prospect and a first-round pick. The Sabres won’t be looking to move the rearguard, and the Canucks would be foolish to spend a first-rounder at this stage in their development.

      So who could the Canucks target? The Courier’s Daniel Wagner highlighted a few names, and we’re most intrigued by those he listed under “reclamation projects.”

      It’s pretty obvious that Benning loves a good reclamation project, and Julius Honka of the Dallas Stars, Madison Bowey of the Detroit Red Wings and the St.Louis Blues' Jordan Schmaltz would all seem to fit that bill. All were drafted in the first two rounds and all have, in one way or another, fallen out of favour with the teams that picked them.

      Honka, the 14th overall pick in the 2014 draft, would seem the most intriguing. The Finn has meager NHL totals, with 13 points in 87 games, but had shown to be a puck-moving force earlier in his career with the Texas Stars. Will Dallas really have given up on him to the point where he’d be affordable for the Canucks?

      Of course, for any of these players, the Canucks would have to pay something, though it would vary from case to case. In a best-case scenario for Canucks management, they’d probably ship Nikolay Goldobin out, as he’s now been scratched for three consecutive Canucks wins and doesn’t look to be a part of the future of the franchise.

      Would he be enough to entice the Stars to move Honka? Maybe. But probably not.

      Bowey and Schmaltz, on the other hand, might be had for that price. Schmaltz is the less attractive of the two. He’s already been put on waivers this year, and just hasn’t figured it out at the NHL level (or, this year, in the AHL). At 25, he’s starting to age out of prospect status as well.

      As for Bowey, well he might be a target here for Benning and crew. He was just traded from the Washington Capitals, along with a second-rounder for a fifth-round pick and Nick Jensen. Jensen is a strong player, but the Capitals signed him relatively cheap, which would suggest his value wasn’t that prohibitive.

      Bowey is signed for another year at $1,000,000, plied his trade in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets, and has the type of puck-moving skill the Canucks could use. He’s never quite put it all together at the NHL level, but we know that hasn’t stopped Benning before. Bowey turns 25 in April, and could likely be had for cheap. Don’t be surprised if Benning takes a swipe at the Red Wing in a “change of scenery” type deal in which he dangles Goldobin.

      Hotness of the take: Boiling

      We got a little distracted there, but Friedman’s original thought, that the Canucks will be looking for a youngish defenceman in the summer certainly makes sense.

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