In this edition of Vancouver Canucks News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at what’s happened during the first week of training camp. As well, I’ll report a couple of good news pieces – first that Quinn Hughes has been named a Calder Trophy finalist and that Jack Rathbone has left Harvard University to sign with the team. Finally, I’ll speculate about rumors of a Brock Boeser trade.
Item One: Micheal Ferland Hasn’t Made the Training Camp Lineup Yet
Plain and simple, the Canucks had a good season in 2019-20. In fact, given the unknowns at the start of the season, it was a much better one than almost anyone expected. However, it might even have been better if one of the expected lineup additions general manager Jim Benning added prior to the season had materialized as a factor to help the team push forward. That addition was Micheal Ferland.
When the team signed Ferland in July 2019 to a four-year contract at an average annual value of $3.5 million, Benning virtually gushed: “Micheal is an energetic player that drives the play and can contribute in all three zones. He’ll make our team harder to play against on a nightly basis and we’re excited that he’ll call Vancouver home.”
Sadly, Ferland was injured almost from the beginning of the 2019-20 season and played only 14 games with the Canucks because of a concussion. Still, given the long delay between when the regular season was suspended early in March and where we are now in mid-summer, at least the organization hoped that Ferland – who wasn’t expected to play again this season – would be able to use the long hiatus to heal from his injury.
But when training camp arrived, no Ferland. At first, because the new NHL guidelines meant the organization couldn’t go into detail about what keeps players away from practice, the note that Ferland was “unfit to play” immediately was read as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Fortunately, that isn’t the case for him.
On Wednesday, Ferland was on the ice for practice with the team’s second group, which made it look like he would be available for the qualifying round. However, coach Travis Green didn’t give a timetable for Ferland’s return to action with the main group. And, because he didn’t play in Thursday’s team scrimmage again, the rumors began again.
What do we know about Ferland? Really, not much. The Canucks have been quiet about his injury, and no one’s sure why he was off the ice on Thursday. Still, we know he was on the ice today. His status seems iffy.
Item Two: Brandon Sutter Moves from “Unfit to Play” to Making a Training Camp Debut
Brandon Sutter was on the ice for practice Saturday and skated as an extra forward. That suggests the Canucks will ease him back into play. He’s had groin and back injuries this season that have kept him out since December.
The 31-year-old forward scored 8 goals and 17 points in 44 games during the 2019-20 regular season. Sutter had skated with teammates on Monday and Tuesday but was absent on Wednesday for the team’s daily session at Rogers Arena.
Item Three: Zack MacEwen Loses His Father
In a nice article at the end of June, Iain MacIntyre wrote about why Zack MacEwen won’t give up his No. 71.
MacEwen noted, “That’s going to be the number I’m going to keep. My dad was born on Aug. 17, 1971, so that number really resonates with me now and that’s the number I’m going to keep. Everything happens for a reason.”
MacEwen, who’s from Prince Edward Island, lost his father Craig on May 5. The elder MacEwen died in Halifax after suffering complications from a stroke. However, he stayed alive long enough so that Zack could travel from Vancouver to say one last goodbye.
Although MacEwen misses talking to his father about how things are going with his hockey career, he noted that training camp helps him focus on something other than his loss.
Item Four: Quinn Hughes Named Finalist for the Calder Trophy
In news that’s not unexpected, Quinn Hughes was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy. As Canucks fans know because of Elias Pettersson’s win last season and Brock Boeser’s second-place finish after 2017-18, the award is given each season to the best rookie in the NHL as voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
A great case can be made why Hughes should win the award. In his 68 games, he was the NHL’s leading rookie with 45 assists and 53 points. He also led all rookies with 25 power-play points and averaged second among rookies with 21:53 of time on the ice. In fact, only the Edmonton Oilers’ Ethan Bear averaged more time on ice with 21:58.
The Colorado Avalanche’s Cale Makar and the Chicago Blackhawks’ Dominik Kubalik are the other two Calder Trophy finalists. The winner will be announced during the conference finals.
Item Five: Jack Rathbone Signs a Three-Year Entry-Level Deal
Jack Rathbone gave up an undergraduate degree at Harvard University to sign a three-year entry-level contract with the Canucks earlier this week. By doing so, Rathbone was able to take advantage of a brief window in the NHL’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement that would allow him to “burn” a year off his entry-level contract. However, had he waited another year, he might have forced unrestricted free agency next summer and chosen where to play.
Why, then, sign with the Canucks now? As Rathbone told reports during a conference call, “The comfortability factor and the loyalty thing was a big piece for me. This organization has been great to me, everyone in it. It’s the NHL and it’s my dream.”
Rathbone immediately becomes a millionaire. His contract is for a $925,000 annual base salary, plus a $92,500 signing bonus for 2020-21 and 2021-22. He can also earn a $850,000 performance bonus in both 2020-21 and 2021-22.
What’s Next for the Canucks?
In the wake of the team’s upcoming series against the Minnesota Wild, all the talk is about the rumor that Brock Boeser might be on the trade block. Although general manager Benning has noted that he has “no intention of trading Brock Boeser,” the rumors seem to persist.
That must make fans wonder why and why now? Tracking that situation over the next while will be interesting.