With arrival of aggressive Brazilian P.1 variant, and players enduring varying degrees of COVID illness while in isolation, how do you sell a player Monday?

Article content

Health is always an issue at the NHL trade deadline.

If a player is injured, or has an uncertain recovery timeline, it’s going to affect his market value. So is salary remaining on expiring contracts because money coming in has to equal money going out for many salary-cap-strapped clubs.

For the Vancouver Canucks, the biggest concern in advance of the Monday trade deadline is a COVID-19 outbreak that has ravaged the roster since placing their season on pause March 31. With six games already postponed, arrival of the aggressive Brazilian P.1 virus variant, and players enduring varying degrees of illness while in isolation until at least Sunday, how do you sell a player on Monday?

Tanner Pearson is an example of the perfect storm.

The unrestricted free-agent winger wants to remain in Vancouver and there have been preliminary contract-extension discussions. However, the left winger is sidelined with an ankle injury and had hoped to start skating last week. Then came COVID-19 and the variant.


This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

And in a trade market where there are more sellers than buyers and a glut of UFA wingers, where does Pearson stand?

A suitor might only offer a provisional draft pick because of health concerns — the more he plays, the higher the pick — and that wouldn’t satisfy the Canucks. Pearson’s expiring cap hit is also US$3.75 million, so that’s another hurdle for a trade partner.

However, even though the winger went 10 games without a goal and had just one in a 14-game span before his March 17 injury — making it just 11 points (6-5) in 33 games — there seems to be a sense that he might be a keeper.

Pearson, 28, did endure a 14-game scoring drought early in the 2019-20 campaign before finishing strong with 21 goals and 45 points in 69 games. He does have a championship pedigree with the Los Angeles Kings and the Canucks are mindful of retaining enough of a veteran element to guide the younger emerging core.

A month ago, general manger Jim Benning said in a news conference that Pearson was a contract-extension priority.

“Tanner is an important player in our group,” said Benning. “He’s strong on the wall and gets to the front of the net. But the way he handles himself on a day-to-day basis is a guy that we want our younger players around. He’s won a Stanley Cup. I think he helps with our culture in our room and in our group.”

But how much of the older guard is too much?

Brandon Sutter, 32, and Jordie Benn, 33, are UFAs who would add depth for Canadian division teams with championship aspirations. The Oilers showed a level of interest in Sutter, who prefers to re-sign here, as a third-line centre to help bolster Edmonton’s presence in faceoffs (17th) and the penalty kill (18th). But, again, money is the matter with an expiring US$4.375 million cap constraint.


This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The Oilers have a fourth-round pick to dangle, but would have to move a player out — somebody like struggling New Westminster native Kyle Turris — or have the Canucks eat part of the remaining deal. That’s not happening. And the Canucks have other plans for the middle.

Sutter has a modified no-trade clause and a list of 15 teams he can’t be dealt to. Edmonton would be attractive to take a run at winning a Stanley Cup, but that’s not his priority at the moment. Could it change? Doubtful, but we shall see.

If not, the Oilers’ focus may shift to UFA centre Luke Glendening, 31, of the Detroit Red Wings because of lower cap hit (US$1.8 million) and familiarity with Oilers GM Ken Holland.

The Canadiens lauded Benn’s two full seasons in Montreal before he joined the Canucks. However, his expiring US$2 million cap hit as a depth addition is a cap challenge with the recent trade for Eric Staal and the signing of prospect Cole Caufield to an entry-level contract.

And with Brendan Gallagher lost Monday to a fractured right thumb, after being struck by a shot from teammate Alexander Romanov, the gritty, sparkplug, 14-goal winger is expected to be sidelined for multiple weeks. The Habs can either ride it out with Gallagher or get creative before the trade deadline. They have a priority at wing and not the blue-line.

UFAs Travis Hamonic, 30, and Alex Edler, 34, have no-movement clauses. Hamonic won’t waive his because of family reasons and hopes to return. Edler’s status with his NMC is undetermined.

The obvious off-season priority is extensions for Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. Which is why waive-wire claims Jimmy Vesey and Travis Boyd, who are both 27 and UFAs on US$900,000 and US$700,000 deals respectfully, are intriguing.If the versatile forwards are part of the future here, and Vasili Podkolzin makes the transition from the KHL, then Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette could be expendable.

So it could still be a manic Monday. Or not.




Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here