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Canucks Should Target These 3 Free Agents – Hockey Writers – Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks were busy on the first day of free agency signing seven players: Jake DeBrusk, Kiefer Sherwood, Derek Forbort, Danton Heinen, Vincent Desharnais, Jiri Patera, and Nate Smith. After the minishopping spree, general manager Patrik Allvin has very limited room to make other moves (besides a trade, of course). However, he can rummage through the barrel and get some value from the few remaining free agents on the market.

Justin Schultz

When Justin Schultz was an attractive free agent coming out of the NCAA, the Canucks were one of the teams calling for his services. Although Allvin wasn’t the GM at the time, he might be interested in the Vancouver native because of the front office’s current familiarity with him. In fact, it was Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford who acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers in 2015-16 and signed him to a three-year extension on the first day of free agency in 2017.

Related: Revisiting the 2019-20 Vancouver Canucks’ Playoff Run

Schultz had his best season with the Penguins, posting a career-high 12 goals and 51 points in 2016-17. He also stood out in the playoffs with four goals and 13 points helping the Penguins to their second consecutive Stanley Cup. Like DeBrusk, he has extensive postseason experience and was really good for the Seattle Kraken when they reached the second round in 2023. He led all defensemen with three goals and 10 points, averaging only 15:54 of ice time.

If the Canucks end up signing Schultz, he could be reunited with his former defense teammate in Seattle, Carson Soucy. They played 437:14 at even strength together and had a respectable 51.27 Corsi percentage (CF%). They were also matched up successfully in the playoffs, with the Kraken outscoring their opponents 10-4 and their goalies posting a .945 save percentage when on the ice.

Schultz isn’t close to the 51 points he put up in Pittsburgh, but he’s still good for 20-30 points and still has the mobility and awareness that drew many to him as a free agent out of college. He adds much-needed speed on the right side where only Filip Hronek and Tyler Myers can rush the puck up the ice. According to AFPAnalytics, he is expected to sign a two-year deal worth around $2.5 million in average annual value (AAV). However, I see him signing for closer to $2 million or less, especially if he signs later in the offseason.

Adam Boqvist

The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Swedish defenseman Adam Boqvist and he is now an unrestricted free agent at the age of 23. Despite being the centerpiece of the blockbuster trade that sent Seth Jones to the Chicago Blackhawks, he was ultimately forced down the depth chart by Ivan Provorov, Damon Severson, and top prospect Adam Jiricek. He also dealt with a number of injury problems during his time in Columbus, never playing more than 52 games in a season. In 2023-24, he suffered a variety of injuries that limited him to just 35 games, including a concussion that forced him to miss the final 16 games of the regular season. The buyout was just the latest piece of bad luck in a campaign he probably wants to forget.

Adam Boqvist, Columbus Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/Hockey Writers)

When healthy, Boqvist is a dynamic defenseman with outstanding hockey IQ and awareness. He was selected eighth in 2018 for a reason and highlighted his potential during his career in 2021-22 when he had 11 goals and 22 points. After that season, it seemed like he was going to be a big part of the Blue Jackets’ blue line, but, of course, injuries have derailed that since then. He can still be an impact defenseman in the NHL one day, and the Canucks should take advantage of his bargain-basement value right now and sign him. AFPAnalytics puts his future contract at around $2.4 million AAV in a three-year deal, but I could see him signing closer to $1.5 or $2 million.

Tyson Barry

Tyson Barrie hasn’t been easy since he was included in the Mattias Ekholm trade. He has been the main man on the power play in Edmonton with the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Now, he’s a free agent looking for a new home after a stint in Music City where he had just four goals and 27 points in 65 games. Before that, he averaged over 40 points a season and was a power play and offensive defenseman.

Barrie is one Vancouver native who could find his way to the Canucks in a cash deal. He can anchor the second unit on the power play, as well as add great speed and puck movement to the defense force. He was rumored to be hitting on Allvin last December, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him visit that interest before long. He won’t earn nearly as much as he did in his last contract, AFPAnalytics projects at just over $1.74 million for the one-year contract.

Canucks Should Add Another Puck-Moving Defenseman in Free Agency

While the Canucks added Desharnais and Forbort to bolster the blue line, neither is known for their swing or offense. They can stay on the penalty kill and make their opponents fear being crushed when they attack. Schultz, Boqvist or Barrie can add that extra layer of speed and offensive skill to the defense, pushing the pace so the team spends less time in their own zone. We’ll see what else Allvin is up to in the next few months, but one signing should be someone who can move the puck and put up points from the back.

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