Meet the Buyers: The Flames and Canucks could make their second trade of the season

Photo credit:© Bob Frid - USA Today
Ryley Delaney
4 months ago
Could two Canadian teams make their second trade of the season?
This is Meet the Buyers, where we look at teams that are contenders for the Stanley Cup, and what they need to improve their chances. The Calgary Flames have three players – Chris Tanev, Elias Lindholm, and Noah Hanifin – set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, and the chances the Flames move at least one of them are increasing as we head towards the March 8 deadline.
In this edition, we’ll take a look at a Pacific Division Rival, the Vancouver Canucks, along with their needs, their assets, and the cap situation of both teams.

The needs of the Vancouver Canucks

As of the morning of Jan. 29, the Vancouver Canucks are at the top of the National Hockey League standings with 71 points, tied with the Boston Bruins. Did we all fall into a time machine back to 2011?
On Jan. 16, Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff released an article focusing on what each Western Conference team will do at the trade deadline, and noted that the Canucks would firmly be buyers. On top of that, Seravalli notes that the Canucks could do with an upgrade to their top six. 
A player on the Flames that immediately sticks out is Lindholm. This season has been a rough one for the 29-year-old centre, as he has nine goals and 32 points in 49 games, well off his pace of 22 goals and 64 points set just a season ago. Lindholm is also two seasons removed from scoring a career-high 42 goals and 82 points.
According to Daily Faceoff, the Canucks are strong down the middle in their top six, with Elias Pettersson on their first line and J.T. Miller on their second line. Both players rank top eight in NHL scoring this season. It’s worth mentioning that Seravalli would like to keep Miller and Pettersson on the same line, and acquiring Lindholm to be their second line centre would help in doing so.
Defensively, the Canucks have two right-shot defenceman on their top pairing in Filip Hronek and Quinn Hughes. This pairing has been great for the Canucks and there isn’t much the Flames could offer that’d make the Canucks want to break these two players up. On their second pairing, the Canucks have Ian Cole and Tyler Myers, either player could be upgraded with a Flame. 
This season, Cole has a goal and seven points in 48 games, far off his three goals and 17 point pace with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2022-23. Cole has a 57.63% goal share and a 52.05% expected goal share at five on five. However, he’s only played 214.1 minutes against elite competition, which is only 28.4% of his time on ice, according to Woodmoney
Cole’s ideal upgrade would be Hanifin. The Flame has a 55.84% goal share and 50.61% expected goal share at five on five, which makes sense given where the two teams are in the standings. Where Hanifin excels is against elite competition, as he’s played 380.1 minutes against elites, which is 42.4% of his ice time, according to Woodmoney. With a minimum of 100 minutes played against elite competition, his percentage ranks seventh in the league.
Myers is in the same boat as Cole, as he has a 55.74% goal share and 48.97% expected goal share during five on five play. He’s played more minutes against elite players than Cole though, with 262.2 minutes against elites, or 33.3% of ice time according to Woodmoney. Myers offers more offence though, as he has three goals and 18 points in 49 games.
Tanev, who is a former Canuck and who Hughes wants back, would be a clear defensive upgrade over Myers. His 50.82% goal share and 51.07% expected goal share during five on five play is lower than Myers’ totals, but Tanev is one of the best shutdown defenceman in the league. Like Hanifin, Tanev has played significant minutes against elites, 309.2 to be exact, which is 41.3% of his ice time, according to Woodmoney.
The Canucks already have a ton of scoring, so losing an offensive defenceman for their second pair for a shutdown defenceman may be ideal come playoff time. It’s also notable that Hughes, the Canucks captain, has said he wants Tanev back. However, Hanifin may be the more logical defenceman for the Canucks to acquire.

What assets do the Vancouver Canucks have to offer

Unlike the three other teams that we’ve looked at in the series, the Canucks are a new contender, meaning that their farm system is in the middle of the pack. According to The Hockey Writers, the Canucks’ have the 16th best farm system in the league. It features players such as Tom Willander, Hunter Brzustewicz, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Elias Pettersson (the other one), and Aatu Räty, who they acquired in the Bo Horvat trade.
Three of the five players mentioned, Willander, Lekkerimäki, and Pettersson all played for Sweden during the 2024 World Juniors, ending up with a silver medal. Willander is the best of the bunch, as the right-shot defenceman has three goals and 12 points in 21 games with Boston University.
Lekkerimäki was the Canucks first-round selection in 2022, and he has 10 goals and 19 points in 31 games with Örebro HK in the top flight of Sweden hockey. The right winger also scored seven goals and 10 points in seven games with Sweden in the World Juniors.
Pettersson was also selected in the 2022 draft with a third-round pick, and has played four games with Lekkerimäki with Örebro HK. However, the left-shot defenceman has played the majority of the season with Västerås IK in Sweden’s second tier, where he has two goals and 11 points in 22 games this season.
Brzustewicz was selected in the third-round in the 2023 draft, and has eight goals and 69 points in 46 games with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. The 19-year-old right-shot defenceman leads defenceman in OHL points and is third when factoring in forwards.
Räty plays with the Abbotsford Canucks in the American Hockey League and has eight goals and 25 points in 40 games. The left-shot forward has played 15 games in the NHL and has two goals and three points, including an assist in three games with the Canucks in 2022-23.
According to Puckpedia, the Canucks have their first-round pick for the next three seasons, but moved their second-round pick at the 2024 draft to dump Anthony Beauvillier’s contract. The Canucks still have their 2025 and 2026 second-round picks.
The big piece they have to offer though, is Andrei Kuzmenko. The 27-year-old winger has found himself in an odd spot after a terrific rookie season in 2022-23 where he scored 39 goals and 74 points. His scoring has regressed significantly this season, as he only has eight goals and 21 points in 43 games with the Canucks this season. Seravalli sees him as a way to balance salary, but Kuzmenko could be a good bounce back candidate like Yegor Sharangovich.
Aside from being in the same division, the Canucks have a lot of interesting assets to offer, such as an NHL ready prospect in Räty, a bounce back candidate in Kuzmenko, first-round picks, and exciting young prospects.

The cap situation of both teams

As of the morning of Jan. 29, the Canucks have $1,216,250 in current cap space according to Puckpedia. They have three players on the long-term injured reserve, Phillip Di Giuseppe, Guillaume Brisebois, and Tucker Poolman, who has a cap hit of $2.5 million. Poolman won’t play this season and hasn’t played since earlier in the 2022-23 season.
Importantly for the Flames, they have all three of their retention spots remaining, meaning they could trade Lindholm, Tanev, and Hanifin all at 50% to maximize their return, without it impacting their cap hit in the 2024-25 season. Lindholm has a cap hit of $4.85 million, Tanev has a cap hit of $4.5 million, and Hanifin has a cap hit of $4.95 million, according to Puckpedia.

In conclusion

Unlike the other three teams we’ve looked at, the Boston Bruins, the Colorado Avalanche, and the New York Rangers, the Canucks could use both a defenceman and Lindholm. There may be a pathway to a blockbuster deal here, as Lindholm and Tanev could find their way to the Flames’ Pacific Division rival.
Like the Edmonton Oilers, there may be an in-division, same country tax which would see a greater return than a team like the Bruins or Rangers, but at this point, the Flames need the best return.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.

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