Buying Opportunities

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It’s a shame for Craig MacTavish that the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks play in the same division. If they were in separate divisions, not only might he have added goalie Cory Schneider a year ago, but he would have an opportunity to make a play for some very talented individuals likely to be ejected from that team this summer.

As the Canucks have not yet hired a general manager, it’s impossible to say with any degree of certainty what course they will pursue this off-season. What does seem certain is change.

The local columnists are calling for major upheaval over the summer, and still-employed (at least for the moment) head coach John Tortorella made the case even more emphatically in a press conference earlier this month:

I felt from Day 1 that [the Canucks core group is] stale. That’s not their fault. This is a group that has been together for a long time. It’s stale. It needs youth. It needs a change. I felt that from Day 1. We’re not in 2011. We have to stop talking about 2011. The team needs to be retooled. It’s a young man’s game.

So who might shake loose?

Possibilities

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The following five players are guys who (reading the tea leaves) I think might be attainable in the summer by another NHL team:

W David Booth ($4.25MM cap hit until summer 2015). Speculation has it that Booth will be a compliance buyout by the Canucks this summer, and if so he might be an excellent low-risk gamble for a team in need of veteran forwards. He has consistently excellent underlying numbers, adds a bit of size (listed at 212 pounds) and on the right contract could be a bargain as 3rd/4th line winger. If he doesn’t rebound at all he’d be an exceptional fourth liner, and he seems a pretty good bet to at least rebound to a third-line level. As a special bonus for a team like Edmonton, Booth’s Twitter activity is likely to go over a lot better in Alberta than it did in southern B.C.

D Alex Edler ($5.0MM cap hit until summer 2019). Edler’s an interesting guy; he’s never been a fancy stats all-star but he can play heavy minutes against good players in all situations, and he adds size (6’3”, 215 pounds) and scoring ability from the back end.

D Jason Garrison ($4.6MM cap hit until summer 2018). If Edler doesn’t get moved, a Garrison trade becomes a pretty realistic possibility. Like Edler he’s reasonably big (6’2”, 218 pounds) and he has an offensive dimension, bringing a rocket of a shot to the mix. He isn’t the offensive dynamo that Edler is but he’s a fairly solid tough minutes guy who plays a two-way game.

W Jannik Hansen ($2.5MM cap hit until summer 2018). Hansen got one of those four-year/reasonable-dollar contracts last September that Mike Gillis so favoured for his key support players. The 6’1”, 195 pound winger slumped badly under new coach Tortorella, recording his worst scoring season in forever and getting bumped off the penalty kill. He’s a very good tough minutes third-line winger, and it’s entirely possible a new manager might look at his poor season and long contract and be willing to ship him off on the cheap.

C/W Ryan Kesler ($5.0MM cap hit until summer 2016). Kesler’s been a fixture in trade rumours for some time now, and needs little introduction here. He’s a superb two-way player and a jerk on the ice; everybody wants a pivot like him on their team.

For Edmonton

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The Oilers’ best bet here might be to add a player like Booth (if he gets bought out by the team, as seems probable) or to make a pitch for a guy like Hansen – even with the salary cap going up, the term on his contract could make him a difficult sell to another team. Both guys are useful NHL players who would fill in nicely on an Edmonton third line (which needs to be built from scratch at this point).

Either of Edler or Garrison would greatly solidify the Oilers’ left side and instantly become the team’s No. 1 defender; ideally neither fills that spot in the long-term but as stop-gaps both are respectable. It seems unlikely that the Canucks would want to move that level of player in-division but stranger things have happened.

Kesler isn’t coming to Edmonton. A report in March indicated he wasn’t willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to the New York Rangers, while another at the same time indicated he wouldn’t go to Columbus, either. Seemingly, Kesler wants to go to a contender, and the Oilers are nowhere near that level of play.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS