Canucks: A draft pick deal with the Blackhawks isn’t a ridiculous idea

A report from the The Athletic Chicago on Tuesday about the Vancouver Canucks possibly trading their 2023 first-round draft pick to the Chicago Blackhawks might raise eyebrows, but given their self-inflicted cap predicament, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

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According to The Athletic’s Scott Powers, the Blackhawks would love to move up from their second first-round draft position in next month’s entry draft.

Chicago won the draft lottery earlier this month and will take North Vancouver’s Connor Bedard first overall, but having cleared their roster decks, they are now looking to build it out so they will be in a strong position to contend by the end of Bedard’s three-year entry-level contract.

And while it is clear that players drafted 19th overall — where the Hawks’ second pick currently sits, a pick added from the Tampa Bay Lightning — do make the NHL about two seasons after being drafted, a player drafted at, say, 11th overall, where the Canucks are set to draft, stands a higher chance of being an incrementally better player.

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The implication by Powers — a veteran reporter with good connections, so you pay attention to who and what he’s lining up — is that the Blackhawks are prepared to package second-round picks with their No. 19 pick in order to move up into the top 15.

And in his estimation, the Canucks are a good match. He’s not alone in this assessment.

Fans in Vancouver are well aware that because of bloated contracts sitting on the books signed by the previous regime, coupled with the signings of wingers such as Brock Boeser and Andrei Kuzmenko over the past 12 months, the team is currently the only team in the NHL sitting beyond the cap limit for next season.

Canucks management has been very clear that they would dearly like to move a contract or two to create some cap flexibility. Instinctually, they would prefer to move one or both of Tyler Myers — one year left at a $6-million cap hit — or Oliver Ekman-Larsson — four years left at a $7.26-million cap hit — but given the poor play of both this past season, the chances a new home could be found for either is slim, although perhaps slightly higher for Myers, given there’s just one year left on his deal.

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Vancouver Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers (57) shoots the puck against Florida Panthers defenceman Gustav Forsling (42) during the first period at FLA Live Arena Jan. 14, 2023. Photo by Jasen Vinlove /USA TODAY Sports

More likely is the Canucks being able to move one of Conor Garland or Boeser, who both perhaps carry bigger cap hits than their performance justifies but who are both clearly useful second-line wingers, the kind of depth performers a team like Chicago, who need players on the roster, not to mention good players on the roster for Bedard and the other young hopefuls they would like to assemble into their next great squad to grow alongside.

A league source confirmed to Postmedia that there is a feeling in Chicago that they are going to land the Canucks’ first-round pick ahead of the draft, in a manner similar to that suggested by Powers.

Another source, presented the premise laid out by Powers, concurred this is a direction Canucks GM Patrik Allvin has been looking, based on conversations had around the league.

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The Blackhawks aren’t the only team with a mountain of cap space, but they do have a big advantage over the competition, especially teams like Arizona. They are well-financed and so adding a contract like Myers, who is due a $5-million signing bonus in September, isn’t as onerous.

But you can see why they would prefer a player like Garland, even if his contract runs until 2026 — the feisty winger is six years younger than Myers and still in his prime.

Either way, it won’t be a surprise if this is the route the Canucks choose to go. They value cap flexibility. They don’t seem terribly fussed about where they will pick in the first round this year, and we do know that if they found a way to add a second-round pick, they’ll be happy.

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