Analyzing 8 free agent defensemen to determine if there’s a good fit for the Canucks

Everyone knows the Canucks need to revamp their defensive core and one way to do that is to sign free agents this offseason. However, not every free-agent linebacker will be a good fit for the team. That’s why we’re removing the long overview of defenders and instead going to see how compatible they are with the Canucks.

Ideally, the Canucks could find a long-term partner for Quinn Hughes. That player has to be right-handed, big, mean, young, defensively responsible and not cost a fortune, while also being skilled enough to make plays while the opposition focuses on Hughes. There are no players in this offseason’s free-agent class who fit that description.

While the Canucks aren’t going to sign Hughes’ partner for the next decade, there are still useful defensemen they could sign. Let’s take a look at some of the names that will be available and if they would be a good fit for your organization.

the big names

There are some big names available this offseason. However, neither seems to be a better fit for the Vancouver Canucks.

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Subban PK (RHD)

PK Subban has seen a steep decline since his glory days and is no longer one of the best offensive defenders in the league. He scored 22 points in 77 games last season, a far cry from the 50- and 60-point seasons he posted in the mid-2010s. He’s right-handed, meaning he would instantly rank in the top four on the team alongside Hughes, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers.

He has never been known as the best defensive player and that hasn’t changed as he’s gotten older. Subban’s best days are behind him and he’s more likely to end up on ESPN than he is as an impact player for the Canucks.

Compatibility: 15%

John Klingberg (right)

The most sought-after free agent defenseman this offseason will be John Klingberg. The 29-year-old Swedish defender has played his entire career for the Dallas Stars, but will now hit the open market. He has shown remarkable ability to create offense from the back end, posting 374 points in 552 games at the Lone Star State.

Klingberg would be a great fit on the Canucks’ right side. However, his style of play is not something the Canucks need. With Hughes and Ekman-Larsson already on the roster, and Rathbone on the way, Klingberg would have to fight for PP1 minutes. The price tag will be too high to make sense for the Canucks.

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Compatibility: 35%

Level “B”

After those two big names, there is another level of defenders. Let’s take a look at how they would fit in with the Canucks.

Josh Manson (right)

Josh Manson is currently playing in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Colorado Avalanche. He is right-handed, 6’3″, and will be 31 when he starts next season. He has developed a reputation as a good defensive player, especially in Anaheim, where he played before being traded this season, but has also shown the ability to rack up points during this playoff run.

Manson would add that size to the right back the Canucks are looking for. He would likely cost the team somewhere in the $3.5-$4.5 million range, a price the organization might not want to pay considering his age and the team’s salary-cap struggles.

Compatibility: 65%

Justin Schultz (RHD)

A player the Canucks have long been interested in, Justin Schultz was born in Kelowna and could return to BC this summer. He played just under 17 minutes a game for the Capitals this season on the right side with a salary cap of $4 million. He added 23 points in 74 games, a far cry from the offensive production he managed a few years ago.

However, while his offensive production has decreased, he has become a more responsible player defensively. He has posted a positive CF% relative to his teammates in each of the last three seasons, proving that his team controls the game more than average while on the ice at 5v5.

Schultz isn’t a long-term solution to any of the Canucks’ problems. However, he could be a good stopgap as the team waits for a draft pick to develop over the next two seasons.

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Compatibility: 85%

Colin Miller (right)

One of the most intriguing names in this weak class of free-agent defensemen is Colin Miller. The 29-year-old right-handed Miller has been a consistent contributor in Boston and Buffalo, posting excellent analyzes in both places. Miller finished second among all Sabers defensemen in shot attempts allowed per sixty in 5-on-5, showing he does a good job suppressing the offense.

Miller would be a constant presence to add to the blue line. One concern is that he has missed too many games during his career. Over the course of seven NHL seasons, he’s only surpassed the 65-game mark once, though that includes a COVID-shortened season.

Compatibility: 85%

the next group

If the Canucks are looking for something a little cheaper, one of these three players could be a good option.

Olli Määttä (LHD)

A former first-round pick, Olli Määttä has now bounced around a few teams over the past few seasons. Last season he played in Los Angeles and had 8 points in 66 games. Before that, he played for the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning a Stanley Cup.

He would rank as a third-pair deep defenseman for the Canucks. As a left-footed player, Määttä would be a better fit if Ekman-Larsson slipped to the right side to pair up with Hughes. This would open up a position for Määttä to play in a third-partner role and offer the coaching staff a larger body.

Compatibility: 70%

Ilya Lyubushkin (RHD)

A mid-season acquisition from the Toronto Maple Leafs, there’s a chance he might decide to re-sign in Ontario. However, if he hits free agency, this is a player who would be a good fit for the Canucks’ needs. Lyubushkin is a one-sided player who boasts a strong defensive game while being a black hole on offense.

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With so many smart, talented and offensively inclined defenders on the left side, like Hughes or Jack Rathbone, Lyubushkin could be the perfect partner. Just 28 years old until the end of next season, the Russian could join compatriots Vasili Podkolzin and Andrei Kuzmenko on the West Coast.

Compatibility: 90%

Will Butcher (LHD)

Last but not least, Will Butcher is a left-handed defenseman who has a bit of a redundant skill set for the Canucks, but it might be worth taking a cheap midfielder. After scoring 44 points in 81 games as a rookie, Butcher’s numbers have dwindled and he managed just 8 points in 37 games last season. He continues to show flashes of brilliance, but has had trouble putting it together.

A change of scenery could be exactly what the doctor ordered for Butcher. However, with Hughes and Rathbone already on the roster, there won’t be much room for Butcher if everyone is healthy.

Compatibility: 35%

Which of these defensemen would the Canucks most like to see this offseason?

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