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How these 3 moves will help Vancouver Canucks in ‘major surgery’ phase

It seems like the Vancouver Canucks have been in a rebuild for a long time and, in short, they should be faring better than they are now.

They hired general manager Jim Rutherford after he stepped away from the Pittsburgh Penguins, but even he has concerns. After a slew of rough looks, Rutherford admitted that the team needs “major surgery,” noting that he is looking to retool rather than rebuild. The Canucks have missed the playoffs for seven of the past eight seasons.

Rutherford’s public, desperate admission came after on-ice antics from JT Miller that saw him yelling at his teammates, making questionable plays, and throwing other players on the roster under the bus in front of the media. The Canucks’ issues were compounded by Quinn Hughes’ public allegations against team management surrounding Tanner Pearson’s season-ending (and maybe even career-ending?) injury as well as season-long trade rumors surrounding Bo Horvat. All of it has made a mess not even their most ardent fans can love: they’ve resorted to throwing their jerseys onto the ice in disgust.

So, the question becomes, what does Rutherford mean by “major surgery?” We look at three moves the Vancouver Canucks can realistically make before the trade deadline to help stop the proverbial bleeding.

The Vancouver Canucks should trade Bo Horvat ASAP

Vancouver Canucks
Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Those pesky trade rumors won’t go away, and Jim Rutherford even admitted that the Vancouver Canucks made Bo Horvat the best offer they can and, with no signing announced, trade packages are already being explored. “We’re in a pickle here,” Rutherford said of Horvat. “He’s had a career year, a career run and he’s looking for his money. He deserves it. I don’t blame him. But even with what we have on the table now … we’re well over the cap.” Rutherford notes that his career year, which has seen him score 30 goals in just over half the season, means he priced himself out of Vancouver.

Of course, the best move for the Canucks is to make the deal sooner rather than later, but their white flag likely means that Horvat’s trade value decreased, especially if he’s to be considered a rental player. But if whichever club wins the Bo Horvat sweepstakes can ink him to a long-term extension, trade value can go up.

So it’s now a matter of which team thinks they can get the most out of Bo Horvat: the Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and New York Islanders, among a handful of others, are in contention. The 27-year old has, essentially, his pick of the league, and its up to the Canucks to find the best offer for themselves.

Inking Elias Pettersson to a long-term deal is key for the future

Vancouver Canucks
Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The speedy forward’s agent recently expressed both appreciation and concern for Vancouver and the Canucks, telling reporters that Pettersson loves playing in Vancouver but also wants to win.

But the future of the Canucks could very well circle around the young Swede, who is enjoying a wonderful year on the stats sheet and putting up points even while the Canucks are tanking. It could be a reassuring note for the future if Pettersson agrees to stay in Vancouver in the midst of a career year. It would instill hope in younger prospects and players, and give potential future players, who are hesitant to put on a Canucks sweater, a sense of reassurance and a guarantee that someone with skill will always be on the roster.

Vancouver Canucks need to sort out situation with Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Vancouver Canucks
Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately for the Vancouver Canucks (and their salary cap), the veteran defenseman is being grossly overpaid for his output this season. Even though the Arizona Coyotes retain some of his salary, the $7.26 million that the Canucks allocated to Ekman-Larsson is too much for a player who is frequently a healthy scratch. To make matters worse, there is a no-movement clause in his contract that through the 2026-27 season.

But a huge chunk of Ekman-Larsson’s value in Vancouver is not his (albeit minimal) contributions on the ice. At 31 years old, Ekman-Larsson is one of the three oldest players on the Vancouver Canucks roster, joining 33-year old Luke Schenn and 32-year old Tyler Myers. Schenn’s physical play has been a bright spot for the Canucks this season, but he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and could be on the move unless he is re-signed (though his league minimum contract is the most friendly for the team).

The length, cost and term of Ekman-Larsson’s deal mean he’s likely in Vancouver to stay, so sorting out the relationship with the veteran blue liner is imperative in the Canucks’ success. He’ll need to be a commanding veteran presence in the locker room, helping out younger players. He’ll also need to be more reliable in a Canucks sweater, since that contract is unlikely to move.