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As the Canucks start the preseason, they have an unusually high number of rookies with a real shot at making the roster. Specifically, there are four that look potentially NHL-ready: Elias Pettersson, Jonathan Dahlen, Petrus Palmu, and Adam Gaudette.
“You look at our forward group and man, there’s a lot of guys vying for jobs,” said head coach Travis Green. The issue is, those jobs only exist if the Canucks are willing to make a trade or lose a player on waivers.
The Canucks will have to waive at least three players that played 20+ NHL games last season. That’s without any of the above-mentioned rookies making the team. The more rookies on the roster, the more regulars will have to be waived or traded.
Putting a player on waivers exposes him to be claimed by any of the other 30 NHL teams. While most teams are similarly trying to pare down their rosters, General Managers will be scouring the waiver wire looking for a bargain or a player with untapped potential.
At least four of the following players will need to either be traded or waived: would be most likely to get claimed?
Won’t be claimed: Reid Boucher, Darren Archibald
Boucher and Archibald players are all-but guaranteed to get waived and should clear waivers easily and start the season with the Utica Comets. There’s an outside chance a team claims the 6’3” Archibald to fill out their fourth line, but it’s very unlikely.
Might be claimed: Brendan Gaunce, Markus Granlund
Gaunce’s shutdown game makes him a valuable player on a fourth line that is expected to start a lot of shifts in the defensive zone. The offensive zone, however, is another story. Gaunce has just five career goals in 114 NHL games.
Granlund, on the other hand, has a 19-goal season under his belt. That season came on the wing with the Sedins, however, and it was two years ago. Last season, he was put in a primarily defensive role and struggled to produce.
A team that values defensive play might claim Granlund or Gaunce, but I’m inclined to think both would clear if waived.
Likely to be claimed: Brendan Leipsic, Nikolay Goldobin
Here’s where the decisions get difficult for the Canucks. If all of the above players get waived and just Pettersson of the rookies makes the roster, the Canucks could keep both Leipsic and Goldobin. If the Canucks want to keep one of Granlund or Gaunce up, or want another rookie on the roster, then Leipsic and Goldobin are on the bubble.
Both would likely have interest from other NHL teams, as they both have plenty of skill, have produced in the AHL, and have shown flashes of breaking through in the NHL. Keeping Goldobin, as the younger player with a potentially higher ceiling, should be the priority for the Canucks.
It’s complicated: Sam Gagner
Of the veterans on the Canucks roster, Gagner is the only one at risk of being waived. Since he had 31 points last season and 50 points the season before, he would attract some attention on waivers.
Complicating matters, however, is his $3.15 million cap hit for the next two years. It’s not that it’s too much money for Gagner (though you could argue that it is), but that it will limit who could claim him as many teams will be tight to the salary cap.
There’s also the issue of his questionable defensive game. If a team has an opening for a power play specialist that plays minimally at even-strength, which is how the Columbus Blue Jackets used Gagner two season ago, then claiming him would make sense. Otherwise, there is a chance he would clear.
What might be more likely is a trade with the Canucks retaining salary if they decide to move on from Gagner.
8 - The Canucks’ pre-season schedule starts with six games in just eight days, before taking a brief break leading into the final pre-season game on September 29th in Kelowna. That’s a lot of games jammed into just a little time.
3 - On the 3rd of October, the Canucks’ regular season begins in earnest with a home game against the Calgary Flames. How many rookies will be in the opening night lineup?
Stick-taps and Glove-drops
A tap of the stick to Canucks coach Travis Green for matching up Nikolay Goldobin and Elias Pettersson right from the start of training camp, giving them a chance to develop chemistry. If that line works out, it could be a magical connection for the Canucks.
I’m dropping the gloves with fans and media alike that overreact to preseason goaltending performances. The preseason is frequently a mess defensively as teams are still settling into their systems, with multiple sub-NHL-caliber players in the lineup. You can’t expect goaltenders to excel in that environment. So no, this isn't the end of Anders Nilsson's career and Thatcher Demko is still a top prospect. Everybody chill out.