Canucks Have Options for Right-Shot Centers in Free Agency

With free agency opening up on July 13th, it is time to look at who the Vancouver Canucks could add to improve their roster. Before the organization signs any players, they’ll have to free up some cap space by making a few trades. The franchise has a projected cap space of $10.598 million this offseason, but Brock Boeser’s next deal will likely take up at least $7.5 million of that cap space. Therefore, a potential trade involving J.T. Miller, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tyler Myers, Tanner Pearson or Jason Dickinson could help provide some relief in the team’s cap space. As a result, the Canucks can add depth to their lineup. The club lacks a right-handed center and could add one this offseason.

Ryan Strome

Ryan Strome scored 21 goals and posted 54 points in 74 games with the New York Rangers this past season. After three seasons with the club, the 28-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA).

Ryan Strome New York Rangers
Ryan Strome, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Rangers have some key decisions to make this offseason as they have $13.458 million in cap space and multiple free agents. Alongside Strome, Andrew Copp and Tyler Motte are UFAs this year, while Kaapo Kakko is a restricted free agent (RFA). Additionally, Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil are RFAs next year. Therefore, it is likely the club moves on from the center, especially with the impressive play of center Copp, who the Rangers are trying as hard as possible to extend. Copp also filled in for Strome while he was injured, playing alongside Artemi Panarin. The Rangers acquired him from the Winnipeg Jets at the trade deadline, and he posted 18 points in 16 regular-season games and 14 points in 20 playoff games with the club.

Related: 4 Canucks Who May Not Return for the 2022-23 Season

Strome is coming off of a two-year contract with a cap hit of $4.5 million. Since there aren’t many options for top-six centers, especially right-handed ones, Strome could ask for a cap hit of $5.5 million to $6 million. Whether the Canucks are able to afford that asking price is yet to be seen, as the club still has time to make moves to clear up cap space. 

Vincent Trocheck

VancouverHockeyNow’s Rob Simpson suggested the Canucks take a shot at signing Vincent Trocheck as the 28-year-old played youth hockey with Miller. The two also won gold with Team USA at the 2013 World Junior Championships. However, Simpson does add signing Trocheck is likely only possible if the Canucks move either Miller or Bo Horvat. 

Vincent Trocheck Carolina Hurricanes
Vincent Trocheck, Carolina Hurricanes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Complicating a Trochek signing is the fact he wants to stay with the Carolina Hurricanes as the club is a winning team. Carolina has a decent amount of cap space with $19.375 million but have a few pending free agents. At forward, alongside Trocheck, Nino Niederreiter is a pending UFA, while Martin Necas is an RFA. On defence, the club has RFAs Ethan Bear and Anthony Deangelo looking for new contracts as well.

At 28 years old, Trocheck is likely looking for a long-term contract, which the Hurricanes may be hesitant to hand out. The organization can afford to move on from Trocheck as opposed to the other free agents as they have good centers in Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal and Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

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Trocheck is coming off of a 51 points season and is at the end of a six-year deal with a cap hit of $4.750 million. Although Trocheck could be a good addition to the Canucks, the ask for term and increase in his cap hit might be something the club would want to avoid.

Noel Acciari

Noel Acciari could be a great short-term addition to the Canucks’ lineup. The 30-year-old stands at 5-foot-10 and 209 pounds. He could provide the Canucks with some much-needed sandpaper, something president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford is looking for, and some offensive production. He is a hard-working forward and is great in the face-off circle. Additionally, he has shown he has the ability to score, putting together a 20-goal season with the Florida Panthers in 2019-20.

Acciari will likely come at a cheap cap hit next season as the forward missed a majority of the 2021-22 season. As The Athletic’s Thomas Drance and Harman Dayal point out, it is worth placing a low-risk wager on Acciari bouncing back next season (from ‘Free agents the Canucks could target to bring more ‘sandpaper’ to the lineup,’ The Athletic, June 13, 2022).

Curtis Lazar 

Curtiz Lazar may be the best option for the Canucks. He is a B.C. native, young (27 years old) and adds much-needed sandpaper to the club’s bottom six. Lazar has played for four NHL franchises, recreating his style of play throughout his career.

Curtis Lazar Boston Bruins
Curtis Lazar, Boston Bruins (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Ottawa Senators drafted him in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft but traded him after 176 games with the club to the Calgary Flames. He then played 70 games with the Flames over three seasons before joining the Buffalo Sabres, where he recreated his game and played with a physical presence and became a quality defensive player. He played with the Boston Bruins the last two seasons, proving he was a reliable face-off man while playing on the fourth line and the team’s penalty kill.

As a right-handed shot with great defensive ability, Lazar would be a good addition to the Canucks. Additionally, he is great on the forecheck, something that is essential to Bruce Boudreau’s system. Lazar is coming off of a two-year deal with an AAV of $800,000. He will likely receive offers a little north of $1 million.

Nicholas Roy

The Vegas Golden Knights are in a tough place with $200,000 in cap space. As a result, signing RFA Nicholas Roy to an offer sheet is a smart move for the Canucks. The 25-year-old stands at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and is coming off a 15-goal and 39-point season. Roy fills everything the Canucks need based on his age, size, position and skill.

CanucksArmy’s Stephan Roget suggests signing Roy to five years at $4.2 million. As a result, the Canucks would have to give up their 2023 second-round pick to the Golden Knights as compensation.

Canucks Should Go For Younger Right-Show Centers

Whether the club is looking for a proven right-shot center in Trocheck or Strome, a bottom-six player in Acciari or Lazar, or a young player who could be a middle-six forward in Roy, the Canucks have options in free agency. Strome and Trocheck are the least likely to sign in Vancouver. Strome will likely look for an increase, while Trocheck could re-sign with the Hurricanes at a cheaper deal in hopes of winning a cup. Meanwhile, Lazar would be a great defensive addition, while Acciari can be a low-risk offensive option. Roy may be the best addition for the Canucks as he brings everything the club wants. The only issue with adding the 24-year-old is the club’s willingness of giving up a second-round pick. Still, Rutherford and the rest of the team’s front office should give adding him a look.