The Vancouver Canucks are in 28th place in the NHL, on-pace for a third-straight finish in the NHL basement and a third-straight top-five draft pick. The team has obvious gaps and flaws at the NHL level and a good prospect pool, but one with some serious gaps as well, particularly on defence.
The team needs more draft picks to build a stronger, deeper prospect pool so that they can create some lasting success in the future. Jim Benning’s strength is supposed to be scouting and drafting, while Trevor Linden has preached patience of late, emphasizing the need to build through the draft.
So, when Benning and Linden traded Thomas Vanek — their biggest, if not their only, trade chip — they brought back 22-year-old Tyler Motte and 34-year-old Jussi Jokinen.
The one thing we can say is that Benning has learned how to lie, to a certain extent. When he said that he was looking to make “hockey trades” rather than acquiring draft picks, he wasn’t kidding. He did say, however, that he was looking for a “big player.”
Brendan Leipsic, the return in the Philip Holm trade, is 5’9”. Tyler Motte isn’t much bigger at 5’10”.
Size isn’t everything, by any means, but this seems like a deal that will make nobody happy. Those clamouring for the Canucks to acquire draft picks to rebuild properly will be incensed that the return for Vanek was a 22-year-old tweener, while those hoping for some size and physicality to protect the prospects coming up in the coming years don’t get what they want either.
Tyler Motte had a productive college career, scoring 32 goals and 56 points in 38 games in his junior year in the NCAA, but that hasn’t translated to his pro career. While he did have 9 goals and 11 points in 17 AHL games this season, he had just 16 points in 43 AHL games last season.
At the NHL level, Motte has some value as a bottom-six energy winger who can kill penalties and might have some upside if he can recapture some of his college form, but the odds of that are slim. He can play at centre or on the wing, so he provides some flexibility.
Motte’s on-ice shot statistics are underwhelming. His 47.1% corsi percentage is, like Leipsic, better than just two other forwards on his team. That is not ideal.
Jussi Jokinen, meanwhile, is a pending UFA. His inclusion in the deal initially looked like a cap dump, since he went unclaimed on waivers yesterday, but he’s only making $1.1 million per year and the Blue Jackets have plenty of cap space. So I guess the Canucks took Jokinen off the Blue Jackets hands as a favour? How was Vanek not enough for a 22-year-old AHL tweener, so that the Canucks had to take on an extra veteran?
The Canucks will be Jokinen’s fourth team this season, as he bounced around the Oilers and Kings before joining the Blue Jackets. Now he’ll either take a roster spot from a younger player in the NHL or get waived again to play in Utica.
But besides the players involved in the deal, it’s simply incredible that the Canucks came out of this trade deadline without a single draft pick. Instead of building for the future, Jim Benning acquired more third-line forwards in their 20s.