November was a month best forgotten for the Vancouver Canucks, managing only four wins in 13 games leading up to their 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 1. They’re one point back of eighth-place Phoenix the competitive Western Conference standings.
A lack of scoring is largely to blame for the Canucks’ struggles. Since the end of October, all of their losses were the result of scoring two goals or less per game. Coach John Tortorella lamented his club’s scoring woes following their 5-2 loss Saturday to the New York Rangers.
“We’re getting the chances,” he said. “We just haven’t finished.”
The stats back him up, as the Canucks are third overall in shots per game (32.9) but 16th in goals per game (2.62), while their power play (13.7 percent) is 26th.
Outside of the Sedins and Ryan Kesler, Canucks forwards are struggling to find the back of the net. Center Mike Santorelli collected nine of his 17 points in October. Wingers David Booth, Jannik Hansen and Zack Kassian have six points each, while former 35-goal scorer Alex Burrows had three assists before he was sidelined with a broken jaw.
Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province feels the Canucks are in danger of fading out of the playoff race if they don’t make a significant upgrade, but he doesn’t know where it could come from. Unless Booth and Kassian improve soon, Gallagher believes the only solution is a beneficial trade or “a very long wait” for prospects Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce and Hunter Shinkaruk.
Making a beneficial trade, however, means parting with those promising youngsters. Gallagher’s colleague Jason Botchford doesn’t believe GM Mike Gillis is willing to do that, having been burned in “quick-fix” deals in recent years. Even if Gillis is willing to make such a move, there’s not much talent in the trade market to help them.
Botchford recently reported the Canucks had “some tepid interest” in right winger Martin Erat, who requested a trade from the Washington Capitals. Given Erat’s declining production, he won’t provide a significant boost to the Canucks offense, while his $4.5-million cap hit doesn’t fit into their limited ($2.3 million) cap space. Forget about asking Capitals GM George McPhee to pick up part of Erat’s salary, as he’s unwilling to entertain that option.
The Canucks and Capitals could agree to swap toxic contracts, with Erat going to Vancouver in exchange for Booth and his $4.25-million cap hit, but that’s not a move that improves either club.
In mid-November, the Winnipeg Free Press cited a “Vancouver TV type” claiming the Canucks might package some prospects for Jets left winger Evander Kane, whose apparently testy relationship with coach Claude Noel prompted recent speculation over his trade status.
Kane’s off to a slow start, but he would provide the Canucks’ offense with a much-needed boost. At 22 and in only the second year of a six-year deal worth $31.5 million, he would be more than just a quick fix.
Assuming Kane’s available, the asking price would have to include a couple of those prospects. Unfortunately, the Canucks lack the cap space for Kane’s salary even if they could convince the Jets to pick up half of it.
It could take a couple of months for Gillis to find affordable scoring help. Given their current offensive struggles, it could arrive too late to save their season.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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