The Vancouver Canucks are heading to an offseason where they need to clear cap space. The club has $11.523 million in cap space this offseason, with Brock Boeser as the only major free agent. However, the following offseason, J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat are both unrestricted free agents.
The organization also wants to take advantage of teams that are up against the cap and have to offload a few key players as a result. In order to clear cap space, the Canucks will likely trade one of their players with a high cap hit. Here are four players who may not return for the 2022-23 season.
Trade rumors have surrounded Miller over the past season due to his pending free agency in 2023. Additionally, his cap hit may be too expensive, and the term on his deal could be too long, considering he is 29 years old. Miller is coming off of a 32-goal and 99-point season, which will likely lead to him asking for a long-term contract with a high cap hit. An eight-year deal with an average annual value of $8 million is likely what he’ll be looking for. The Canucks likely don’t want to sign him to that deal unless they get the forward to agree to a deal with a shorter term.
Multiple teams showed interest in Miller this past season, including the team that drafted him, the New York Rangers. The Rangers reportedly offered the Canucks Nils Lundkvist, a first-round pick and Filip Chytil for the forward. The deal will likely take a potential top-line defenceman instead of Lundkvist as well as another pick in order for a trade with the Rangers to occur.
Other teams showed interest in the forward, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Wild, Boston Bruins and the Calgary Flames. Four of the teams were eliminated in the first or second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, while the Devils were unable to make it to the postseason. Those teams could circle back, however, whether they can afford Miller’s $5.250 million cap hit for next season is questionable. Toronto will struggle to find a fit, while Minnesota is in the same boat, but a $5.250 million cap hit for a player like Miller is exactly what the team needs due to the amount of dead cap the Wild have.
Unless Canucks are able to extend Miller this offseason, a trade is likely. Either the team finds pieces with similar value this offseason or waits to make a move at the 2023 trade deadline.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Tyler Myers
The two best trade options to clear cap space include defencemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers. Trading Ekman-Larsson will create $7.260 million in cap space, while trading Myers will create $6 million. Between the two, trading Ekman-Larsson is the better option. His contract has a higher cap hit and has longer-term than Myers. Myers’ contract ends after the 2023-24 season, while Ekman-Larsson is on board until 2027.
Although trading Ekman-Larsson is the better choice, it is the harder one to accomplish. The defenceman has all the control as he has a no-move clause. Meanwhile, Myers’ no move clause becomes a 10-team no-trade list in July. Therefore, trading Myers is the move the Canucks should prioritize, although it will be tough to find a market for him.
Similar to Miller, Boeser has been involved in trade rumors for some time as well. He is due for a $7.5 million offer sheet, but since he is a restricted free agent, the Canucks have control. President of hockey operations Jim Rutherford has said the Canucks will look to fit Boeser’s $7 million+ cap hit.
However, it could be hard for the Canucks to justify giving the forward a contract with a cap hit over $7 million for the long term, which is something Boeser likely wants. If the two sides can’t get a deal done, the 2015 first-round draft pick could be traded away. This would also open up the opportunity to give Miller an extension instead.
Canucks Have Tough Decisions to Make
With the Canucks’ main goal to clear up cap space, they have a few players they can move to make it happen. Miller is the player most likely to not return next season based on other teams’ interests and the likelihood of the Canucks giving him the extension he wants. Ekman-Larsson is the most likely to stay as he has control thanks to his no-move clause. Boeser will most likely return as well. Meanwhile, Myers is the best trade option if the Canucks can find a market for him.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.