Every offseason we see players come and go from the Vancouver Canucks. Some go on to greener pastures, while others hit a snag and struggle to gain any sort of footing on their new teams. With 2021 a thing of the past and 2022 the start of something new, it’s time to take a look at how some former players are doing.
A Good Season: Jared McCann (Seattle Kraken)
Jared McCann will forever be known as a first-round pick that got away from the Canucks. In fact, that 2014 Draft has turned out to be a nightmare with McCann thriving with the Seattle Kraken and Jake Virtanen playing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) after sexual assault allegations forced him out of the NHL.
For those that don’t remember, McCann was infamously traded to the Florida Panthers in 2016 for hulking defenceman Erik Gudbranson, who never really hit his stride in Vancouver. That trade will go down in history as one of the worst of the Jim Benning era. For a time, it looked like the Canucks dodged a bullet as he struggled to gain any sort of footing with the Panthers. In 143 games, he only had 18 goals and 53 points.
Related: Canucks: 5 Worst Jim Benning Trades
But then McCann got another lease on life when he was traded to the Sidney Crosby-led Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019 for Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan. He settled into a middle-six role and finished with 39 goals and 84 points in 141 games, including a career-high 14 goals and 35 points during the 2019-20 season. He was then dealt for the third time in his career to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who he ultimately never played for as he was selected shortly thereafter by the Kraken in the expansion draft.
Since joining the Kraken, McCann has enjoyed first-line minutes skating alongside Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz. He also leads the team in goals with 13 and is third in points with 19, behind only the aforementioned Schwartz and Eberle. Suffice it to say, he is enjoying his time in Seattle so far.
Struggling: Tyler Toffoli (Montreal Canadiens)
Since lighting up the Canucks during the 2020-21 season to the tune of eight goals and 13 points in eight games, Tyler Toffoli has struggled to generate a lot of offence in 2021-22. Without the benefit of playing his former team, the Canuck Killer has only five goals and 17 points in 26 games.
Like many Montreal Canadiens this season, Toffoli has not lived up to expectations. After 28 goals and 44 points last season and five goals and 14 points in the playoffs, he will be a candidate to be shipped out of town at the trade deadline. For a team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020-21, that’s not something many fans were expecting in 2021-22.
A Good Season: Chris Tanev (Calgary Flames)
Another player thriving elsewhere is former Canucks fan favourite Chris Tanev. The man Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson affectionately called “Dad” during the 2020-21 season is, unfortunately, wearing the Flaming “C” instead of the Orca now. Since signing a three-year contract with the Calgary Flames in 2020, he has risen to the ranks of top-pairing defenceman where he plays second-fiddle only to Noah Hanifin.
Tanev continues to block shots like there’s no tomorrow and was even named the Flames’ unofficial 2021 defensive defenceman of the year by Flames Nation for the 2020-21 season. Often on the injured reserve list in Vancouver, he is also on a modest iron man streak of 89 games. That surprisingly is a career-high as he has never finished a season with more than 70 games played. Concerns around his durability at 32 years old were greatly exaggerated, I guess.
Struggling: Troy Stecher (Detroit Red Wings)
When Troy Stecher was a member of the Canucks, he was a very reliable bottom-pairing defenceman who could jump into the top four in a pinch. In fact, he sometimes found himself playing with Alex Edler on the top pairing for extended periods of time. He was the perfect depth defenceman as he could kill penalties, play a matchup role and sub in on the power play. His salary was manageable at $2.325 million in average annual value (AAV) and he was a right-hand shot as well. After all that, it’s difficult to see why he’s not wearing a Canucks uniform anymore.
Unfortunately, then-general manager Jim Benning didn’t see his value and decided to forgo re-signing him. The Detroit Red Wings swooped in early on during the 2020 offseason and signed him to a two-year contract worth a very budget-friendly $1.7 million AAV. He went on to record three goals and 11 points in 44 games while averaging 17:19 in ice time.
Thanks to the emergence of rookie Moritz Seider and the acquisition of veteran Nick Leddy, Stecher has not seen the same success in 2021-22. As of this writing, he has only played six of his team’s 36 games while averaging a career-low 14:28 in ice time. On the cusp of becoming an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him moved at the trade deadline. Could a return to Vancouver be in the cards for the man they call Troy from Richmond?
A Good Season: Jacob Markstrom (Calgary Flames)
To say Jacob Markstrom has enjoyed his time in Calgary would be a massive understatement. The former Canucks starter that struggled to get more than five shutouts in 229 games in Vancouver already has five in 24 this season. He is also riding Vezina Trophy-like numbers of a 2.15 goals-against average (GAA) and .926 save percentage (SV%) along with those five goose eggs.
Hands down the Flames’ best goaltender since Miikka Kiprusoff, Markstrom has shown everyone that he’s the real deal. At nearly 32 years old, it appears he has finally become everything the Florida Panthers envisioned when they drafted him 31st overall in the 2008 Draft. Canucks fans are probably not choked up about it though as they have a superstar of their own in Thatcher Demko. Like Markstrom, he is having a monster of a year too with a career-best 2.55 GAA and .920 SV% in 27 games so far.
Struggling: Adam Gaudette (Ottawa Senators)
Finally, we have Adam Gaudette. The once highly-anticipated prospect who dominated the NCAA circuit with Northeastern University has fallen on hard times recently. Before the trade that sent him to the Chicago Blackhawks in April of 2021, he appeared to be a key part of the Canucks’ future. After a career-high 12 goals and 33 points in 2019-20, there was hope that he could make a push for a regular top-nine role in the NHL.
Then, the dreaded COVID-19 virus reared its ugly head in the Canucks locker room. Gaudette was the first player to test positive and it eventually spread to the entire team. When all was said and done, he was on his way out of Vancouver.
Gaudette’s time with the Blackhawks was not smooth either as he was a healthy scratch or low-minute man under now-former head coach Jeremy Colliton and interim head coach Derek King. He was eventually placed on waivers and subsequently claimed by the Ottawa Senators in late November. All told, Gaudette has only three goals and seven points in 17 games since leaving the Canucks.
We will keep an eye on these players as the regular season continues. There’s still a lot more of the 2021-22 season to go, so the players that are struggling could still turn things around. It remains to be seen if they will do it on the teams they are currently on, but that’s a discussion for another day.
The Canucks’ 2021-22 season finally continues on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers where they will meet former teammate Olli Juolevi and former prospect Gustav Forsling. Puck drops at 4 pm PT.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.