As an introduction to the Vancouver Canucks, the 2020-21 season couldn’t have gone much worse for Nate Schmidt. Now, reports indicate that Schmidt is looking for a trade out of Vancouver.
It was a disastrous season for the Canucks on the ice, as they fell to last place in the North Division. For Schmidt, who was traded from a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in the Vegas Golden Knights, it must have been a shock to the system.
Individually, it wasn’t a great season for Schmidt either, who struggled to get his transition game going in the Canucks’ system and finished with just 15 points — less than half as many point as his previous season in about the same number of games.
Off the ice, it was even worse. The COVID-19 pandemic meant Schmidt didn’t get to fully experience life in Vancouver and then the pandemic struck the Canucks directly, with Schmidt one of the many players to test positive during the team’s outbreak.
It was enough to make even a relentlessly positive and optimistic person like Schmidt falter.
“Even for people like me, it’s been hard,” said Schmidt late in the season. “It’s been difficult. There have been things that really test your mental capacity this year. There are nights you wish Rogers Arena would be full and buzzing when you’re a little bit tired from a road trip. Fans give you an added boost.”
There were rumblings at the end of the season that Schmidt might want out of Vancouver. According to Chek TV’s Rick Dhaliwal, his sources are holding firm on that rumour: Schmidt wants out.
“I heard again on the weekend, he does want out,” said Dhaliwal on Friday’s Donnie and Dhali show. “It’s a rumour that just won’t go away...I tried to diffuse it on the weekend, but people are telling me, ‘Yes, Rick, he wants out.’”
Jim Benning has denied that Schmidt wants a trade
Canucks general manager Jim Benning addressed the initial rumours over a month ago with Dhaliwal and Don Taylor.
“I talked to Nate, he doesn't know where that came from,” said Benning in May. “He was real positive in his exit interview. It’s not true, he doesn’t want out of Vancouver. I don’t know where that got started.”
The trouble is, no one other than Benning is denying it.
“There was talk that J.T. Miller was going to want out as well and, of course, the Miller camp came out and poured cold water all over that,” said Canucks reporter Jeff Paterson. “But nobody’s done that on the Nate Schmidt front.”
Dhaliwal, who is as well-connected as anyone in Vancouver sports media, added that not one of his sources has denied the rumour, which keeps resurfacing despite Benning's denial. Benning, meanwhile, has good reason to deny that Schmidt wants out. If Schmidt is on the trade block, if it gets out that Schmidt asked for a trade, it could reduce Benning’s leverage and allow a team to lower their offer.
If Schmidt does indeed want out, it’s hard to blame him. Beyond just his first year with the Canucks going so poorly, Schmidt will be 30 in two weeks and has yet to win a Stanley Cup in his career. The Canucks have looked, frankly, dysfunctional at times and don’t look like a team on the verge of Cup contention.
For the Canucks, losing Schmidt would throw their blue line into further disarray. It would leave the Canucks with just Tyler Myers as a proven NHL defenceman under NHL contract, with Quinn Hughes soon to join him.
The Canucks already need to make a major addition or two to improve their defence for next season. Subtracting Schmidt would require an even more significant overhaul of their defence corps.