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Trade Coverage

Playoffs the goal; no-trades could make moves tough

Canucks NHL Trade Deadline outlook

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

With the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline approaching at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, Feb. 29, is taking a close look at what moves teams might be looking to make and whether they'll be buyers or sellers. Today, the Vancouver Canucks: 


Record: 22-22-12, 56 points; 5th in Pacific Division, 5th in Western Conference Wild Card 

Unrestricted free agents: Radim Vrbata, RW; Adam Cracknell, C; Dan Hamhuis, D; Matt Bartkowski, D; Yannick Weber, D; Brandon Prust, LW; Taylor Fedun, D 

Restricted free agents: Linden Vey, C; Sven Baertschi, LW; Emerson Etem, LW; Alex Friesen, C 

Projected 2016 draft picks: 7 (1 first) 

Projected 2017 draft picks: 6 (1 first) 

Needs: Young defensemen 

Surpluses: Bottom-six forwards; depth defensemen 

Players Potentially in Play: Vrbata, Hamhuis, Weber, Prust, Chris Higgins 

Likely status: Seller 

Skinny: The Canucks are still on the fence about their trade deadline status, insisting the priority remains to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs as they continue what president Trevor Linden has labeled a delicate dance between getting younger and faster while also trying to remain competitive. General manager Jim Benning even talked about being a buyer to help that cause, but with top defenseman Alexander Edler out until early April, key center Brandon Sutter gone even longer, and two teams and six points separating them from the second wild card in the Western Conference, it seems more and more likely the Canucks will be sellers by Feb. 29. The question at that point will be what players they are able to move. Hamhuis is on an expiring contract and the kind of reliable top-four defenseman many teams would covet. But he is also from British Columbia, signed at a discount to play for his hometown team, and has a no-trade clause he has not yet been asked to waive. "You want to be buyers at the trade deadline and we want to put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs," Hamhuis said. "We certainly don't want to put ourselves into position where everyone is talking about a rebuild." That talk has already started, but even if management joins in before the trade deadline their options are limited. Vrbata is also on an expiring contract with some no-trade protection, but after scoring 31 goals last season he has 11 this season, likely diminishing any return. Beyond that, the obvious trade options include veterans like Weber, Prust and Higgins who already cleared waivers without being claimed this season (Prust and Higgins are now in the American Hockey League), depth options like Cracknell and Bartkowski, and possibly veterans like Burrows, who has one more season left on a contract worth $4.5 million and with a no-trade clause he too said he has not yet been asked to waive. The Canucks still have plenty of time to ask, assuming they decide to become sellers, but the answers may determine how active they can be.

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