The team made a rare blockbuster trade ahead of NHL entry draft
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Every NHL team was very busy during the usual free agent frenzy at the start of July. One of the most prominent teams was the Vancouver Canucks.
The team parted ways with forward and Abbotsford native, Jake Virtanen—who is still involved with a police investigation into an alleged sexual misconduct in 2017. He was put on leave by the Canucks in May pending the investigation—until Virtanen was later bought out by the team in July 2021.
In addition, Sportsnet reported the Canucks said goodbye to veteran defenceman, Alex Edler, who signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Kings. Edler was the last member of the 2011 team that marched to the finals, ultimately losing to the Boston Bruins in seven games. He played 15 seasons for the Canucks.
In 925 games played, Edler scored 99 goals, with 310 assists for 409 points—and 665 penalty minutes. He has fond memories of his time in a Canucks uniform. “I don’t really know anything else,” Edler told Sportsnet in an interview from Stockholm in August 2021. “There’s not enough things I can say [about] just how thankful I am for everything, not only the actual organization, but the whole city and how good I’ve felt there with my family. It’s a great city, they have great fans. There’s so many good memories from there. Being there for so long […] it’s always going to be a home for me and my family. Maybe we’ll settle down there after my career, I don’t know. But Vancouver has been great to us.”
The Canucks also added depth to their defensive lineup. In July, Sportsnet reported a rare blockbuster trade ahead of the NHL entry draft. The Canucks sent the Arizona Coyotes their number 9 selection in this year’s draft, in return they received right-winger, Conor Garland and defenceman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The trade also involved Vancouver forwards Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel, the Canucks’ 2022 second-round pick and its 2023 seventh-round pick.
In August, The Province reported the Canucks signed forward Jason Dickinson (free agent) to a three-year contract worth $2.65 million US per season. The signing leaves the team with roughly $13 million US to sign their two young stars: Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes.
The same month, Canucks’ captain, Bo Horvat, spoke with Thomas Drance of The Athletic. Horvat said missing the playoffs is a pattern that he would like to see end. “I’ve been on the team, this will be my eighth year coming up, which is crazy,” he said. “And I want to be in the playoffs. I don’t want to go through the motions in the regular season and be done in April. I want to be playing in the playoffs, it’s the best time to play, it’s when I find I take my game to the next level. And I think we have the team here to get there. We just have to prove it now. Enough is enough, we can talk all we want, at the end of the day we have to go out there and prove it on the ice.”
In other NHL news, former Hall of Fame goaltender, Tony Esposito, passed away August 10 at age 78 following a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He played 15 seasons in the NHL for the Chicago Blackhawks including his notable debut in the 1969-70 season. That year, Esposito’s goaltending helped Chicago clinch first place, posting a 2.17 goals-against-average with 15 shutouts—a modern record that stands today. In addition, he won the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) and the Vezina Trophy (league’s top goaltender). Esposito won the Vezina Trophy again in 1972 and 1974.
Similarly, Rod Gilbert passed away August 19 at age 80 (cause undisclosed). The Hall of Famer played his entire 18-year NHL career with the New York Rangers. He is the team’s all-time leading scorer; with 406 goals and 1,021 points. Known for his impact as a player and being a fan favourite with Rangers’ fans, Gilbert was also recognized for his many off-ice endeavours. He won the Bill Masterton Trophy in 1976 and in 1991 won the Lester Patrick Trophy. In 2007, he was named Man of the Year by the NHL Alumni Association. Three years later, Gilbert received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for his humanitarian efforts.