Before the Canucks embarked on their current six-game road trip, Antoine Roussel returned to practice for the first time since suffering a concussion prior to training camp.
Roussel was bouncing after the practice, clearly pleased to be back on the ice without concussions symptoms.
“It’s been frustrating,” said Roussel, “but it’s a great day today, I got to practice with the guys, and it’s very exciting. It was all smile, all happy, and it’s just a good day for hockey.”
Just because he returned to practice, however, doesn’t mean he’s been cleared to play. Roussel is still on the Injured Reserve list, even as he travels with the Canucks. Head coach Travis Green expressed a desire to get Roussel into some “harder contact drills” before he gets him into a game, and the Canucks travel schedule leaves limited time to have proper practices and assess his readiness.
Once he is game-ready, Roussel’s gritty, aggravating style should quickly earn him fans both in the room and in the stands. The Canucks still have some hurdles to clear before they can get Roussel back in the lineup.
Roussel’s injury allowed the Canucks to punt one of their roster decisions a little further down the road, but, unless the Canucks have another injury in the next few games, they’ll have to reckon with it. That will mean putting a player on waivers to send them down to the AHL.
The Canucks have just two players on their roster that are waiver-exempt: Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson. It’s safe to say that neither of those two players will be sent down. Everyone else on the roster requires waivers.
That includes Tyler Motte, who was waiver-exempt to start the season, but met the requirements for waivers as soon as he played in the season opener.
Still, Motte has to be considered a candidate to be sent down once Roussel returns. Let’s take a look at him and the other candidates:
1 | Tyler Motte
The speedy Motte has quickly become a Travis Green favourite, as he’s partnered with Brandon Sutter in a similar manner as Derek Dorsett. While Motte wasn’t expected to make the roster out of training camp, his performance in the preseason was strong enough for the Canucks to waive Sam Gagner and put Motte in the opening night lineup.
Motte played 21:45 in his first game and has become a key part of the Canucks’ penalty kill. Even though he'll be a healthy scratch against the Hurricanes, he’s probably not going anywhere.
2 | Markus Granlund
After 19 goals in 2016-17, many of them scored alongside the Sedins, Granlund shifted to a more defensive mode last season and scored just 8 goals. Now Granlund has been lining up on the fourth line and there’s an argument to be made that he’s replaceable.
Still, Granlund plays on the penalty kill and is averaging just under 17 minutes per game. Green is well aware of Granlund’s defensive usage and likely has different expectations than those of Canucks fans.
3 | Tim Schaller
If you’re looking for someone to send down, you often look to the press box. That’s where Tim Schaller has been sitting for the first two Canucks games, making it easy to suggest that he could be the odd man out.
Schaller is getting in the lineup on Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes, however, and you have to wonder if the Canucks will really waive a player they just signed to a two-year contract. Schaller has a reputation of solid penalty killing, and chipped in 12 goals from the Boston Bruins’ fourth line last season, so it seems worth giving him a chance to prove himself in Vancouver.
4 | Nikolay Goldobin
It seemed possible that Goldobin could get waived heading into training camp. Now, after two games of chemistry with Elias Pettersson, it seems completely impossible.
5 | Brendan Leipsic
It seemed like waiving one of Goldobin or Leipsic was inevitable until Roussel’s injury. Now that he’s close to returning, could Leipsic get waived?
It’s possible. Leipsic has skated on the fourth line through the first couple games and, despite scoring a goal, hasn’t been overly noticeable. On the other hand, Leipsic has been promoted to the first line with Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser for Tuesday’s game and has been skating on the second power play unit.
It would be a shame to waive an offensively creative player like Leipsic, particularly since the Canucks might need him for a top-six role this season, if not now, then when injuries inevitably strike.
6 | Alex Biega
It’s hard to figure out exactly which forward makes the most sense to waive, but there’s another possibility: don’t waive any of them. Instead, the Canucks could waive defenceman Alex Biega and carry 14 forwards and 7 defencemen on their roster.
The Canucks have been resistant to that idea, as Green likes having both a left and right-handed defenceman available to insert into the lineup, but it might make the most sense for their current situation.
On the other hand, if Biega were to get claimed, as unlikely as that may be, it would leave the Canucks in dire straits on the right side on defence. Jalen Chatfield is the lone right-handed defenceman on the Utica Comets that is under contract with the Canucks.