Canucks cap issues could be Rangers gain in possible trade for Nate Schmidt

nate schmidt
Feb 17, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Nate Schmidt (88) skates against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Canucks are looking for cap space this offseason. That’s because two of the youngest and brightest stars in the NHL are RFA’s. Both Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are up for new deals. GM Jim Benning needs to protect against the threat of an offer sheet, but more importantly he wants to lock down the cornerstones of the franchise.

Their cap issues could be the New York Rangers gain as it’s rumored they are looking to trade defenseman, Nate Schmidt. The left handed veteran could be just what they need to bolster their blue-line next season.

Canucks cap issues

Elias Pettersson is represented by agent, JP Barry who recently discussed his client’s offseason out look as an RFA. “There’s been multiple talks (with the Canucks),” Barry said on CHEK TV. “we’ll have to keep going for a little while here. But we definitely are engaged, and hopefully, we can make some progress.”

The issue is Vancouver’s salary cap situation which Barry called out. That will make it very hard to do a long term deal. Maybe for one, but unlikely for both. All things considered, bridge deals may be the only way GM Jim Benning can go this summer.

Unless he can free up more cap space.

When it comes to finding more money, trading Nate Schmidt is one very likely option. He is a 29 year-old defenseman with four years remaining at $5.95 million AAV.

Canucks must retain salary to make it work

Before we proceed any further, the Rangers shouldn’t be looking to take on Schmidt at his full cap hit. The Canucks would need to retain a portion of his salary in order for this to make sense for Chris Drury. As for the package Drury would send back to Vancouver, it would depend on what percentage they keep on their books.

Let’s say Vancouver only retains 20%, that means a $4.76M cap charge to the Rangers, which isn’t worth more than a 3rd round pick. However, if the Canucks keep 35% or better that could mean a 2nd round pick as Drury will only take on a $3.86M AAV hit or less. Maximum retention is 50% ($2.975M).

Nate Schmidt familiar with Gerard Gallant

nate schmidt
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Things have not worked out for Nate Schmidt in Vancouver after coming over from the Vegas Golden Knights. To be fair, nothing clicked for anyone wearing a Canucks uniform last season. Whether it was how he was utilized or the defensive system (or lack thereof), Schmidt has been a bust in British Columbia.

Schmidt was touted to Canucks fans as a quick footed; puck moving defenseman who was great for the locker room. However, Travis Green utilized him as more of a shutdown defender. Schmidt started in the defensive zone 65.2% of the time. To contrast against his prior utilization in Vegas he was at 51% for D-Zone starts. The Capitals brought him up as an offensive rearguard starting him only 44.5% in the D-Zone.

Let’s focus on his time in Vegas from 2017 to 2020. Most of which was played under Gerard Gallant, where he flourished in his system. Over the course of 196 games, Schmidt recorded 97 points while averaging 21:59 minutes a game. His puck possession numbers in Vegas were the best of his career at 51.1% CF, which is a stark contrast to his abysmal 43.7 with Vancouver. For what it’s worth, Schmidt still posted solid offensive stats with 15 points in 54 contests.

Defensively, Schmidt is not a shutdown type but he’s positionally sound and willing to block shots. Although he’s 6-1 and 195 lbs, don’t look for him to be physical defender. Schmidt’s game in his own zone is trying to control gaps, cause turnovers, and transition the puck the other way. He also has the ability to skate it into the opposition’s zone, which is always valuable when you are trying to play a fast game.

Ultimately, Drury may look for a cheaper option if it presents himself. Still, it is an intriguing prospect that a veteran left handed defenseman who played for Gallant is available.

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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