The 2022 offseason was president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford and general manager Patrik Allvin’s first with the Vancouver Canucks. The organization signed multiple players to add skill to the top six and two-way players. Additionally, the team made one trade to create cap space.
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Andrei Kuzmenko highlights the team’s offseason signings, as the forward decided to sign with the Canucks over multiple other teams. Ilya Mikheyev was also a big signing for the organization, while Dakota Joshua was one of the few depth additions the club made. The Canucks have now played 41 games in the 2022-23 season, and here is how their offseason additions have faired mid-way through the season.
After eight seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Kuzmenko decided to make the jump to the NHL. He signed with the Canucks after months of speculation on what club the Russian forward would choose. He signed a one-year, entry-level contract with the organization.
Kuzmenko has been a quality top-six player for the Canucks, adding speed and skill to the forward group. He’s scored 17 goals good for third on the team and posted 36 points through 40 games this season, good for fourth on the team. Kuzmenko’s also spent time on the power play this season, scoring eight goals on the man advantage.
The 26-year-old has drawn quite a bit of trade interest recently, however, the Canucks rather re-sign the 26-year-old forward. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports the organization is expected to start negotiations with the forward soon, and he could earn more than $6 million on a bridge deal. Meanwhile, cap-strapped contenders are showing interest in the forward as he has a $925,000 cap hit. Kuzmenko could provide a Stanley Cup contender with a ton of offence, while the Canucks can receive a 2023 first-round draft pick and prospect in return.
Regardless of how Kuzmenko’s future with the Canucks ends up, he will go down as one of the best free-agent signings in recent history for the club. Not only has he produced offensively, but if the team extends him, he could become one of the better offensive players in franchise history. Otherwise, if the Canucks trade him, he will help the team add a first-round pick and a much-needed prospect.
Mikheyev signed with the Canucks after three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 28-year-old signed a four-year, $19 million contract with the organization. The Canucks hoped he’d provide the team with value in their middle six, as well as a help on the penalty kill thanks to his two-way ability and speed.
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Through 38 games, he’s scored the fifth most goals on the team with 12 and posted the sixth most points with 25. He’s also been one of the team’s best players while short-handed, as he has the lowest expected goals against and the lowest high-danger chances against per 60 among regular penalty killers.
If the Canucks were ready to contend, signing Mikheyev would have been a great move. However, the organization will likely miss the postseason this season, and his contract doesn’t end until he is 32. The Canucks are already cap-strapped, and signing Mikheyev hurts the team in their current situation.
The Canucks entered the offseason searching for size and grit to add and found that in Joshua. The forward signed a two-year deal with the organization in July.
“We are so pleased to be able to sign a player with this type of upside,” said Allvin. “Dakota is a big body, has a heavy game, plays hard, and is a good skater. Ryan Johnson and Trent Cull were very impressed with his skillset when he played six games for the Utica Comets the year we shared our farm team with St Louis. Adding him to our roster will definitely make us a tougher team to play against.”
Through 38 games, he has six goals, nine points, and 92 hits. He’s averaged 13.54 hits per 60 minutes, second on the team behind Luke Schenn. Joshua is a bottom-6 forward, who plays with a physical edge, and has also received some time on the penalty kill. He is exactly what Allvin and the front office wanted. Additionally, his two-year contract with an average annual value of $825,000 isn’t hurting the team.
The Canucks also signed Curtis Lazar to a three-year, $3 million deal. Similar to Joshua, he was added to play a depth role with a gritty edge to his game. The Salmon Arm, B.C., native joined his hometown team in a bottom-six role.
“Curtis is a valuable addition to our group,” said Allvin. “He grew up a Canucks fan, was raised in BC, and already has a strong connection to our club. He is a responsible 200-foot player who can line up at centre or on the wing. Curtis brings energy, an ability to kill penalties and takes draws from the right side, which will be extremely valuable for our team.”
Lazar has played as advertised, moving from centre to the wing when needed and playing throughout the lineup. However, he hasn’t produced much for the club, scoring one goal and posting two points in 31 games. Nonetheless, the former first-round pick has reinvented himself as a fourth-line forward who plays with a lot of energy and will likely provide the Canucks with some consistency in the next few seasons.
The Canucks signed Nils Aman to an entry-level deal after the Colorado Avalanche chose to give up his draft rights by not signing the forward. The 2020 sixth-round draft pick made the jump to the NHL from the Swedish Hockey League, where he spent the previous three seasons playing with Leksands IF.
Aman earned a main roster spot out of training camp and spent the majority of the first half of the season in the NHL, occupying the team’s fourth line. He scored a goal and posted five points in 35 games. However, the organization sent him down to the American Hockey league (AHL), where he has played six games with Abbotsford and has scored two goals and posted five points.
Allvin signed the 22-year-old forward to add more young players to the organization. Aman had a great start to the season but struggled as of late, resulting in the club assigning him to the AHL. However, he’s proven to be a good depth signing for the Canucks and perhaps can offer more to the team in the future.
Right before the season started, the Canucks traded Jason Dickinson and a 2024 second-round draft pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenceman Riley Stillman. The move was mostly an attempt to dump Dickinson’s $2.65 million cap hit while giving up a draft pick. Meanwhile, Allvin saw Stillman as a third-pairing defender.
Stillman has played 21 games this season, recording three assists. However, he has been one of the team’s worst defenders this season, as he’s been on the ice for the highest rate of shot attempts against, scoring chances against, high-danger scoring chances against and expected goals against at 5-on-5. It can be argued trading Dickinson and a second-round pick for Stillman was a bad move by the Canucks front office. Stillman has a cap hit of $1.350 million, therefore, the organization only freed up $1.3 million in cap space while losing a much-needed draft pick.
Canucks Offseason Additions Highlighted by a Major Hit
Kuzmenko is a great addition to the Canucks lineup. Whether the organization extends or trades him, they should continue to benefit from his signing. Meanwhile, other players such as Mikheyev, Lazar and Joshua would have been great signings if the Canucks were ready to compete, but with the team struggling to string together wins this season, they aren’t as effective as expected. Aman is a good depth signing as a young player for a team with a poor prospect pool. He will likely be in the mix on the main roster for the next few seasons. As for Stillman, the organization would be better off if they kept Dickinson instead of losing a second-round pick while they attempted to shed some salary.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.