The latest turn in the Micheal Ferland story is a tough one. The forward the Vancouver Canucks signed in the offseason to bring some offence along with the requisite jam has spent most of this season sidelined with concussion-related symptoms.
He appeared to be on his way back to the team with a conditioning stint in Utica but was pulled out of the game early.
It’s a sad story for a player with a young family, and we can only hope that Ferland is able to fully recover in time.
But it’s hard to see that news and wonder how Canucks general manager Jim Benning will react. It’s known that Benning has concerns about his club’s toughness—how could one not, with the way Elias Pettersson has been thrown around of late—and there have been reports that the team has been sniffing around free agent Wayne Simmonds, among others.
So, after the unfortunate news on Ferland, how might the Canucks chase the need for some muscle and (hopefully) some offensive production?
In answering this, we must keep in mind the fact the Canucks are pressed right up against the cap and many of these moves may require Vancouver to move something else out. The Athletic’s Thomas Drance had a nice primer on this, but essentially, the Canucks would potentially be able to add about $3-4 million in salary by using long-term injured reserve to create more space.
Here are some options Vancouver might pursue before the February 24 trade deadline.
Wayne Simmonds, New Jersey Devils
This one has been heavily rumoured for a reason. The Canucks reportedly wanted Simmonds in free agency last summer and he fits the bill of a big, strong winger who can (theoretically) pop in some goals.
We’ll never forget P.K. Subban’s comments on Simmonds on HBO’s Road to the Winter Classic series, when he told Max Pacioretty that, yes, Matt Beleskey is tough but “not, like, Wayne Simmonds tough.”
So yeah, he’d likely provide some muscle for the Canucks. But there are a few problems with the idea of adding Simmonds.
One is that he hasn’t been productive in a couple of seasons now.
After scoring over 45 points five seasons in a row, he registered 27 in 62 games with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2018-19 and was traded at the deadline to the Nashville Predators. He was a disaster there, only popping in three points in 19 games.
And after signing a one-year, $5 million deal with the New Jersey Devils, he’s only scored 23 points in 57 games while posting a minus-15 rating and some hurting underlying numbers. Though it must be said that Simmonds has been better recently, to the tune of four points in his last four games.
Nah. Where does Simmonds even fit in here? As a net-front presence on the second powerplay unit and on Adam Gaudette’s wing? Isn’t Jake Virtanen a faster, better option in those spots? Maybe if they can move some salary that’s going to hold them down next year—say Sven Baertschi, since they clearly don’t see him as an option—then it makes some sense. But purely as an add? We don’t see it.
Probably not, since they would really have to move some things around in order to fit in Simmonds’s salary. Yes, his physicality might be nice, but there are better, cheaper options out there.
Josh Anderson, Columbus Blue Jackets
The 6’3, 222-pound winger was having a tough season (he had four points in 26 games after scoring 27 goals last year) and was playing hurt even before he injured his shoulder in a fight on December 14. He hasn’t played since, but is rumoured to be getting closer to a return.
When he’s on he has a similar skillset to someone like Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson. And he’s on a cheap ($1.85 million) contract that expires this summer. In other words, he could be a great rental for a team looking for some physical depth.
That’s theoretical though, because it’s hard to see the Blue Jackets as a deadline seller. Hilariously, Columbus is currently barely holding onto a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 71 points in 59 games. The Canucks are first in the Pacific Division with 69 points in 58 games.
The Blue Jackets may have some trade deadline PTSD after going all-in last year, but it’s clear they see Anderson as an important player, even given his struggles this season.
Yeah, the Canucks should inquire on Anderson, he might be an effective player for them and maybe Columbus coach John Tortorella has seen enough of the forward this season. He was a force against Tampa Bay in the playoffs last season and would add some grit to the lineup without taking away much speed.
Though anything too pricey in return (any prospect of significance or a high draft pick) would probably be too rich.
Probably not. Again, the Blue Jackets likely want to keep the 25-year-old in the fold and they aren’t going to be deadline sellers. So the price would be high.
But we know the Canucks have called on Anderson before.
Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles
Toffoli isn’t exactly known around the NHL as a tough guy, so he doesn’t really fit as nicely into the “Micheal Ferland replacement” box as the others on this list. But if the Canucks are looking to bolster the top nine, as many have suggested, then Toffoli would certainly fit that mould.
One has to think that Benning’s mouth is watering at the prospect of reuniting Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, who had a lot success with Jeff Carter on “That '70s line” with the Kings.
It’s also not known how long Brock Boeser will be out and while it’s not expected to be a long-term thing, the Canucks definitely wouldn’t mind getting another goal scorer.
After a hat trick last night against the Colorado Avalanche, Toffoli currently has 18 goals in 58 games with a bad Los Angeles team. He’s also an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and will turn 28 in April. The Kings will be sellers at the deadline, and one has to think they’ll look to move Toffoli.
His $4.6 million cap hit will be hard to fit under the Canucks’ umbrella though, unless the team moves something else out.
Hey, it’s actually not a bad idea if this team thinks they can make some noise in the playoffs. (And with a weak Pacific Division, they’re not crazy to fathom it.)
Benning has likely already checked with Kings GM Rob Blake on the price of Toffoli. But if L.A. is asking for a first-round pick, it obviously won’t happen since the Canucks are out a conditional first to Tampa Bay. Vancouver will also have to move out salary, so it’s tough to see them giving up enough to make the deal worthwhile for the Kings.
Marcus Foligno, Minnesota Wild
The Wild just fired coach Bruce Boudreau, and if they’re serious about selling off at the deadline, they’ll find some suitors for Foligno, who is having one of the best offensive seasons of his career, with 21 points in 48 games.
He’s also 6’3, 224 pounds and a willing combatant. He’s played in one playoff series, in 2017-18 with the Wild, where he racked up one goal and 16 penalty minutes in five games.
He’s got another year on his deal at $2.875 million, and the Wild are still not quite out of the playoff race, even after trading Jason Zucker earlier this week.
Foligno could be an interesting addition to the bottom six, and plays the type of punishing hockey that could be of use to the Canucks. He’s currently 17th in the league in the admittedly flawed stat that is hits, and could provide Vancouver with a bigger, more effective version of players like Tyler Motte and Tim Schaller.
Maybe, but the salary is a little cumbersome for the mathematical gymnastics the Canucks will have to do. The asking price shouldn’t be crazy, but Minnesota will be (or at least should be) looking for pieces they can rebuild with.
That will be the Canucks’ biggest challenge in adding at the deadline. If they have to get rid of salary, how do they sweeten the pot? Surely, they won’t look to trade any of their higher end prospects, and the lack of a first-round pick will make dealing any draft picks unappetizing as well. If they’re going to add, they’ll have to get creative.
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