Canucks trade deadline targets: 10 rental players Vancouver should consider

Buying finishing pieces at the NHL trade deadline is a high-risk exercise fraught with error.

The prices are inflated, the market is competitive, the time allotted for new acquisition to get up to speed is short and the stakes are sky high. It’s no wonder some of the biggest trade mistakes in hockey history happen at or right around the deadline.

The Vancouver Canucks will go into the NHL’s annual trade season with the impetus to do whatever it takes to upgrade this roster for a playoff run. This is a team, after all, that is playing elite hockey of late and has somewhat shockingly given itself a real shot to win something meaningful this spring.

As the NHL trade market begins to take shape with the deadline just five-and-a-half weeks away now, we figured we’d spend some time looking at Canucks targets among those players most likely to move ahead of March 8: the pending unrestricted free-agent “rentals.” We’ll examine potential targets with term remaining later in the week.

The rental market isn’t particularly strong this season. There just isn’t much in the way of star-level talent on expiring deals and the talent that is available is further depleted by the uncertainty of the NHL playoff race. There’s a wide swath of teams that won’t be nearly ready to wave the white flag on their season just yet, while the teams that are already clear sellers are shockingly bereft of the sort of talent that might add substantive marginal value to a contender’s lineup going into the postseason.

Finally, exchanging significant futures for rental players at the trade deadline is probably the most inefficient talent acquisition method in the NHL. It’s a necessary evil for contending teams to consider, of course, but it’s a difficult way to improve a team and a wildly easy avenue through which to bleed value.

Without further ado, here’s our look at 10 “rental” players who could move at the 2024 NHL trade deadline and would best fit the Canucks’ needs.

Guentzel would arguably be the best on-ice fit for the Canucks among rentals. The Penguins’ elite winger consistently scores 35-40 goals, ranking 14th among all NHL players in goals since the 2020-21 season.

Playing with Sidney Crosby obviously helps Guentzel’s production, but it’d be a huge mistake to suggest he’s been riding Sid’s coattails. The way Guentzel leverages his elite hockey sense to read off of Crosby, make beautiful give-and-go passing plays and relentlessly generate chances is incredible. Guentzel can score in so many different ways — he has a dangerous shot off the rush, can lurk as the trigger man on the cycle, is a master at finding open ice around the blue paint and fights for tips and deflections around the slot, too.

He’s flat-out the best winger Crosby has ever had. And given how smart Guentzel is, he’d see offensive patterns at a similar wavelength as Elias Pettersson. He isn’t the most dynamic player and is only listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds but he wins board battles and is trustworthy defensively.

Guentzel’s playoff track record is unbelievable. He’s scored 34 goals in 58 career playoff games, which is the ninth-best goals-per-game rate in NHL history (minimum 30 games).

There are two caveats with targeting Guentzel.

The first is whether the Penguins will trade him at all or re-sign him. The second is the acquisition cost, given that Guentzel would be the best player on the market if he becomes available. Would the Canucks feel comfortable potentially giving up a first-round pick and a top prospect for just one playoff run, as opposed to shelling out a similar package for a player with multiple years of term remaining?

Henrique is a hardworking, versatile forward with the ability to win draws, kill penalties, score at a middle-six clip at five-on-five and contribute in just about every facet of the game.

While Henrique would be a solid fit to further deepen Vancouver’s forward group, it’s worth noting that over the past few seasons, Henrique, a centre for most of his career, has split time between centre and wing. He’s also played third-line minutes for an upstart Ducks team this season, which seems telling given the quality of that side.

Henrique is still an effective player both in the middle and along the wall, but he profiles more as a bigger, more expensive version of Pius Suter, as opposed to the bona fide second-line centre fans have been clamouring for ever since the ‘Lotto line’ was reunited.

Lindholm boasts an enticing combination of scoring, high-end defensive intelligence, the ability to contribute to both special teams and excellent faceoff skills. The 29-year-old top-six centre’s offensive production is pretty closely tied to the calibre of the linemates he’s given.

In 2021-22, he played the third wheel for Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau, who were both having MVP-calibre seasons. Lindholm was the two-way backbone and finisher, scoring 42 goals and 82 points and finishing second in Selke Trophy voting.

With Tkachuk and Gaudreau leaving, Lindholm forged excellent chemistry with Tyler Toffoli and scored 62 points last season while again driving very strong two-way results. Lindholm, unfortunately, lost Toffoli and is suffering for it this year, on pace for just 15 goals and 53 points while carrying subpar linemates. He’d have much more help in Vancouver.

The Bo Horvat return (a first-round pick and a B-grade prospect) is a comparable for Lindholm’s potential acquisition cost. Lindholm and Horvat would both be 2Cs on a contender and have identical career 0.68 point-per-game clips. Horvat was much hotter last season than Lindholm is now, but keep in mind that Ryan O’Reilly commanded a first- and second-round pick at last year’s deadline despite only scoring 19 points in 40 games before his trade to Toronto. Don’t expect much of a discount for Lindholm’s middling recent form.



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Even at 34, Tanev is an excellent shutdown player. He’s beloved among the Canucks’ current core and would significantly upgrade the right side of Vancouver’s top four. There are hurdles to making a Tanev trade work, however.

Firstly, the Canucks’ need for a top-six forward far exceeds their need to upgrade the blue line. Tanev won’t be cheap to acquire, so would it make sense to spend significant assets for a position that could use an upgrade but isn’t in dire need of help?

Second, Vancouver would likely need to trade a contract besides Andrei Kuzmenko’s if it wants the cap room to trade for a top-six forward and bring Tanev back. Perhaps the Canucks could flip Nikita Zadorov for an asset and then use that return as the centrepiece to acquire Tanev, especially if they view him as a player who could be kept beyond this season. The logistics of a Tanev acquisition, especially in light of the Canucks’ pressing forward need, are doable but not as perfect as the on-ice fit.

Lyubushkin is a throwback physical blueliner and a player this Canucks management group has shown some previous interest in, including when he was an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2022.

There’s nothing fancy about Lyubushkin’s game and the underlying data tends to be skeptical of his contributions (especially when he plays at the top of the lineup). That said, in a third-pair role, Lyubushkin can add steel to any lineup and earns trust from coaches everywhere he goes for a reason.

Walker has put together an exceptional bounce-back campaign for the shockingly good Flyers.

The veteran defender’s mobility looked fundamentally compromised last season in Los Angeles as he worked his way back to full speed following a significant surgical procedure to repair both a torn ACL and MCL, which took him nearly a full calendar year to recover from. This season in Philadelphia, however, Walker’s pace has returned, and his ability to contribute on the rush and anticipate defensively has returned with it.

Given his two-way ability and penalty-killing acumen, Walker would be a significant difference-maker for any number of trade deadline buyers.

Eberle has still got it.

The veteran 33-year-old forward has only recorded 28 points in 46 games for a Kraken team with something of a popgun offense this season, but his two-way ability, his anticipation on the forecheck and his feel for applying pressure on defenders below the hashmarks are still excellent.

In terms of production, Eberle is probably a fringe top-line player at this stage of his career. As a two-way driver, however, he’s still got his fastball and would be a huge add to Vancouver’s top-six forward group.

It’s worth noting that the Kraken would likely need to fall clear of the race before they’d consider dealing Eberle. He’s settled in Seattle, carries a lot of weight in that organization and locker room and seems unlikely to depart at the deadline despite his expiring contract.

An under-the-radar potential rental should Nashville fade down the stretch, Carrier is a tough, 5-foot-11, 175-pound puck-moving defender who has developed slowly over the past half-decade on the defensemen conveyer belt that is the Predators organization.

Carrier is a solid five-on-five point producer who managed a 30-point breakout season a couple of years ago. Despite his puck-mover frame and profile, however, his two-way impact is more defensive than offensive. He’s one of the Predators’ most frequently used penalty-killing defenders this season and has logged a ton of minutes against top-of-the-lineup competition over the past few years while paired up with the likes of Mattias Ekholm, Jeremy Lauzon and Ryan McDonagh. Importantly, the Predators have generally won those minutes both territorially and on the scoreboard.

At just 27 years old, Carrier is the sort of addition that would provide the Canucks with some sorely needed puck-moving insurance in the short term. He’d also be a relatively affordable option to extend beyond this current campaign. That’s worth noting because if you’re going to spend asset capital to upgrade the roster at the deadline, as the Canucks likely will and should, it’s useful to spend it on players who could realistically fit into your plans for multiple seasons.

One thing to note on Carrier, however, is that he’s currently out for four to six weeks with an upper-body injury stemming from a fight with Winnipeg Jets defender Logan Stanley earlier this week. That’s not ideal, but it’s hardly a deal-breaker so long as there’s nothing concerning in Carrier’s medicals. Deadline buyers like the Canucks are typically buying with their eyes on April and May, rather than on February and March.

Toffoli can score at a top-line rate (34 goals last year, on pace for 36 goals this season), would be the perfect net-front player to elevate the Canucks’ power play and has the wall work and two-way intelligence to mesh well with Vancouver despite his lacklustre foot speed.

The Devils are currently outside a playoff spot, but they’d probably have to fall out of the race and decide against a Toffoli extension before he’d become available on the trade market.

Last year’s version of Zucker would be a terrific fit for the Canucks.

Zucker crushed it in a second-line role with Evgeni Malkin in 2022-23. He was speedy, was extremely disruptive on the forecheck, drove play and scored 27 goals. That version would mesh almost perfectly with the aggressive north-south style Rick Tocchet wants the Canucks playing.

Zucker has unfortunately been closer to a middle-six contributor than a bona fide top-six forward in most other seasons, including this one. He’s scored seven goals and 17 points in 38 games with Arizona, which is the range he produced in during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons as well. Zucker’s durability has also been a question mark.

Jim Rutherford traded for Zucker in 2020, so perhaps he could be a Plan C or D type of forward target, particularly if the Canucks think he could regain last year’s form when surrounded by more skilled talent in Vancouver.

(Photos of Jake Guentzel, Elias Lindholm and Sean Walker: Sam Navarro, Sergei Belski and Bob Frid / USA Today)

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