The deadline deal revolving around Jonathan Dahlen, the 42nd pick of the 2016 draft, and a player that the Canucks acquired in 2017 in exchange for long-time Canuck and fan favourite Alex Burrows, left the fanbase puzzled.
In that deal, the Vancouver Canucks sent Dahlen to the San Jose Sharks and received 19 year old centre Linus Karlsson, who is playing in the Allsvenskan for Karlskrona, the team that Dahlen’s Timra beat for promotion to the SHL in 2018. Karlsson also had the 2nd most points in the SuperElit junior circuit in Sweden last season with 52, only trailing Berggren, the 33rd overall pick of the same draft class by five points. While Dahlen outproduced what Karlsson has done so far at the same age, the Canucks believe that acquiring the two-way centre was a lateral move.
The 21 year old winger had chemistry with current Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson from their shared time in Timra during the 2016-17 season and fans had hoped that the two good friends would carry it over to the NHL. Obviously that didn’t happen as Dahlen was traded before playing his first NHL game but even besides the history with the two, Dahlen was looked at as a player with top 6 upside. Why the Canucks would trade such a player currently left some confused until Benning was available to talk to the media about the deadline transactions.
Benning then confirmed that Dahlen’s camp had actually asked for a trade. Now the question was why? Dahlen had history with players like Pettersson and surprisingly Loui Eriksson through his father, former NHLer Ulf Dahlen’s playing days. The Canucks locker room also has a couple Swedes that could also have helped him in getting acclimated once he’s ready as well. To add to the bizarre timing and reasoning, the previous two seasons spent in the Canucks organization were spent with Timra. This was his first season with the Canucks AHL affiliate and he only lasted a portion of it before the trade request. I myself was not sure but I was able to come up with a list of potential reasons:
1. Upset over ice time
This is one that I doubt. Obviously there has been some concern over the ice time that some of the younger players have been getting on the Utica Comets but I don’t necessarily think that it applies to Dahlen. He was given plenty of opportunities it seems and was operating on the top power play unit as well.
What if Dahlen just didn’t like the pressure? Some people just don’t appreciate the spotlight and don’t perform the best under it. Many fans had envisioned Dahlen being a future first liner on a line with Pettersson and maybe those were hefty expectations to put on him, especially if the pressure of the market and situation were already too much for him.
Though I also doubt this as Dahlen seemed like the guy who likes being the face of the team as seen from his time in Timra. However I think that it is worth mentioning that Timra seems like a much smaller market than Vancouver is.
3. Wanted to separate himself Pettersson and become his own player
If Dahlen did end up on a line with Pettersson he would probably end up being seen as the weak link of the duo which he might not want to be. When they played together in Timra Dahlen actually had the higher points per game and he probably didn’t want to be linked to Pettersson for the majority of his career unless it were like it was in 16-17 when they were practically equally as effective for the team. With a trade to another team he separates himself from Elias and allows himself to build his own reputation in the NHL rather than maybe being referred to as the linemate of Elias Pettersson.
4. Dahlen thought that he was too good for AHL; wanted to be on the NHL
Benning had mentioned that perhaps Dahlen didn’t want to pay his dues in the AHL to earn an NHL spot. If this is the reasoning then it raises major red flags for his character. If he wasn’t willing to be patient and put the work in to get to the next step and instead wanted the opportunity right off the bat it could have understandably rubbed off wrong on management. If they weren’t giving him that opportunity then maybe a confident Dahlen wanted a trade to somewhere that he believed he would.
Alex Nylander was rumoured to have had a similar mindset and has struggled thus far in AHL when compared to what was expected on draft day.
5. Dahlen didn’t want to play in the AHL; would rather play in the SHL if not NHL
This is something that I could definitely believe. After returning to the Allsvenskan to help Timra reach promotion to the SHL last season, maybe Dahlen wanted to return to Sweden and help their placing in the SHL if he wasn’t getting NHL time.
Obviously there’s two sides to the story as the Canucks already had loaned him to Timra last season despite having planned for him to play in the AHL. I’d assume that they wanted to get a better look on him at the North American pro level and maybe that’s what upset Dahlen.
Perhaps the Canucks thought that Dahlen was not being a professional about it, had the wrong attitude, and wasn’t willing to go through the necessary steps to develop into a quality NHLer and perhaps Dahlen thought that the Canucks weren’t being fair by not letting him play and develop with Timra like he had done the previous year?
6. Dahlen wasn’t comfortable with the situation in Utica. Wanted a change of scenery.
This is a late addition which is in response to Dahlen’s comments following his first game with Barracuda.
Dahlen is an offensive winger and the efforts of getting to Dahlen with the purpose of becoming a more complete player by Comets head coach Trent Cull may have backfired.
It also may not have been the best time for Jonathan as he has also dealt with a concussion this season and this is probably one of his first seasons in a while where he hasn’t dominated against his competition, something that he will have to get adjusted to. With the hard times surrounding his game, Dahlen may have taken what Cull was trying to say to help his game personally. Due to discomfort with the situation maybe Dahlen asked his agent for a change which resulted in this current situation? Obviously this is pure speculation but I could definitely see this following Dahlen’s comments. Cull has however claimed that he had never known or heard about Dahlen requesting a trade so maybe this whole situation could have been prevented by talking to Cull initially about it.
The answer isn’t known and may not be known for a while and it wouldn’t surprise me if it were a combination of some of the above mentioned. As more news comes out we might learn more especially with the complexity of the situation and comments and media coverage so far but that’s to be seen.
Regardless of the reasoning it is still rare for a prospect to play less than a season with an AHL team to then go to his agent and ask for a change. Usually there’s more patience with player and resistance from the team to trade him which is what makes this saga unique.
To conclude this I would like to mention how it was unfortunate that it wasn’t able to work out. Obviously the storyline with Pettersson was something that had Canucks fans optimistic about, especially when they were first acquired and then united with the Canucks in their prospects camp in 2017. Aside from that Jonathan is a player who still has tons of potential. Seeing how he chose Timra over an SHL team to try for promotion seemed like an incredible thing to try to do by him and displayed loyalty. They ended being successful and Dahlen had a big playoffs in the promotion round that got them promoted to the SHL. I don’t know if he’s overly cocky or if he’s got a bad work ethic and for all we know none of this is true but regardless it was awesome to see from a Canucks prospect. Good luck to him and what he does in the future.