Where do the perpetually mediocre Canucks go from here?

Things aren’t going well for the Vancouver Canucks this season, as they sit 11-12-3 with 25 points through 26 games. And with little hope for a mid-season turnaround, the team should be fairly active leading up to the March 3 trade deadline.

Entering Wednesday’s slate, the team sits just two points shy of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, but also rank 11th out of 16 in points percentage (.481) — so they aren’t nearly as close to the playoff picture as their current point total suggests.

The oddsmakers also agree with that sentiment, as Vancouver has a better chance to win next summer’s draft lottery (6.9 percent) than it does to qualify for the postseason (6.7 percent), according to MoneyPuck. And those percentages will likely continue trending in opposite directions through the remainder of the season.

It’s becoming clear that this current group of Canucks won’t be the ones to lead the organization out of its constant middling phase. That means most of the roster likely requires overhauling, aside from a few core pieces.

Cornerstone youngsters like Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are probably atop the Canucks’ untouchable list. The same goes for Thatcher Demko — who currently resides on the team’s injured list — considering how few elite goaltenders there are in the NHL.

Where do the Vancouver Canucks go from here? (Getty)
Where do the Vancouver Canucks go from here? (Getty) (NHLI via Getty Images)

But aside from that talented trio, everyone else will likely be up for grabs, including captain Bo Horvat, an impending unrestricted free agent. A few other marquee names could be on the move as well.

With just six selections in the 2023 draft and a prospect system that most experts consider mediocre, it’ll be vital for general manager Patrik Allvin to acquire as many future assets and draft picks as possible, and clearing plenty of cap space and creating lots of flexibility can help with that venture immensely.

The Canucks’ payroll sits at roughly $87.34 million this season, the eighth-highest cap hit among all 32 NHL franchises. That’s not ideal for a team sitting outside of the playoffs, and it also doesn’t help that there isn’t much financial relief on the way.

Even with Horvat’s $5.5 million cap hit coming off the books after 2022-23, the club still has approximately $80.65 million guaranteed to 18 skaters for next season. The salary cap is expected to rise to $83.5 million in 2023-24, but they would still possess only $2.85 million in cap space.

Putting together a roster would remain challenging during the following season, too, as Vancouver already has roughly $55.46 million committed to nine players in 2024-25. So for the sake of their future, management must shed a few high-priced contracts sooner rather than later.

The front office’s purge will undoubtedly start with Horvat, who will be among the league's most appealing trade targets in the coming weeks. Though he’d likely be a rental, the 27-year-old would provide plenty of value to any playoff contender.

Horvat, a 2017 All-Star, is one of just a few Canucks enjoying a productive showing this season. In 26 games, the left-handed centre has potted 20 goals and 27 points while averaging a career-best 21:00 minutes of ice-time per night.

The London, Ont., native currently ranks third league-wide in goals and is tied with New York’s Mika Zibanejad for third in power-play tallies (8). He is also on pace to register career-highs in both goals and points.

Adding to his value, Horvat is also winning faceoffs at a higher percentage (58.6 percent) than he has at any point in his career.

For any club looking to solidify its depth at centre — like Washington or Colorado, perhaps — Horvat would be the perfect addition as he seeks his first-ever Stanley Cup.

Of course, trading Horvat won’t impact the club’s payroll next season, but parting ways with forward Brock Boeser certainly would. And it’s not like the 25-year-old’s departure would be surprising, either, since he’s apparently already received permission to explore a trade as the Canucks are reportedly looking to move on from Boeser less than six months after extending him with a three-year, $20-million contract in July.

The team has just handled this situation poorly from the get-go. From Boeser's agent being told to look for a trade for his client (that's not an agent's job), to the team almost scratching Boeser on Hockey Fights Cancer night last weekend —which would have prevented him from honouring his late father, Duke — it's been odd to see a professional organization handle a once prized asset like this.

Despite these mishaps, the 6-foot-1 forward still carries a ton of value on the trade market as a top-six winger. He has struggled offensively thus far, scoring four goals and 16 points in 20 contests, but has posted at least 20 goals in four of his six previous campaigns.

Boeser’s $6.7-million annual cap hit through 2024-25 won’t be easy to swallow for most playoff contenders. But if the Canucks are willing to retain around $2 million each season, his market could open up considerably while landing the team a substantial return.

Tyler Myers, signed through 2023-24 at $6 million per season, is another trade candidate for the Canucks as they look to cut costs on the back end. The 32-year-old’s contract does include a 10-team no-move clause, but at this point, he’d surely accept any trade to a playoff-bound club. Vancouver would likely have to eat a big chunk of salary in any Myers deal, though, so whether that juice is worth the squeeze remains to be seen.

The 6-foot-8 defenceman’s prime years are behind him, but he’s still capable of utilizing his towering frame, tallying 145 hits and 148 blocks in 82 games last season. It was the first time in his career that he reached the 100-mark in both categories during a single campaign.

Myers is enjoying a similar pace this season, racking up 30 hits and 33 blocks over 23 games. He doesn’t provide much offence at this stage of his career, though, as he sits with just four assists on the year.

Defencemen are usually in high demand closer to the trade deadline, especially ones who can add physicality, which bodes well for Myers and the Canucks front office. But considering that big ol' cap hit, the Canucks may need to explore a three-team trade in order to yield value from moving the blueliner.

It would also be worth exploring potential trades for forwards J.T. Miller (signed through 2029-30 at $5.25 million this season, $8 million afterwards), Conor Garland (signed through 2025-26 at $4.95 million per season) and defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (signed through 2026-27 at $7.26 million per season).

The length of their contracts could prevent negotiations from materializing, though, forcing Vancouver to delay trade talks to the summer when more teams should possess additional financial flexibility.

Taking this route would send a clear message to the fanbase: a rebuild is on its way, as it should be. The Canucks have made just one playoff appearance (2020) since 2016, and better days don’t appear to be on the horizon for this franchise. It's time to tear it down.

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