The last thing any team wants heading into an offseason is drama. The waiting, anticipation and rumours that come with it never end up being good for anybody. In the case of the Vancouver Canucks, that drama faded a little bit with the news breaking of head coach Bruce Boudreau returning behind the bench to coach in the 2022-23 campaign. Now that that’s out of the way, the Canucks can focus on the roster side of the offseason.
There are a few different players the Canucks will focus on, set in three different groups with 11 players in total. There is the restricted free agent (RFA) group, with one big name in particular. Next, there are the unrestricted free agents (UFA), that Vancouver will need to make some decisions on. And finally, there are the big names of the future, whose contracts aren’t up until next year, but it might be wise to look into this summer and see if Patrik Allvin can’t get a deal (or two) done now.
Canucks Have One Big RFA To Sign
The Canucks have four players that are pending RFA’s and either need to be extended, get tendered or, in the rare case, sign an offer sheet from another team. Among the three names that are of RFA status, there is one big name that the Canucks need to sign. Matthew Highmore, William Lockwood and Juho Lammikko are up to be extended, while the big name, Brock Boeser, should be high on Vancouver’s list of priorities.
Highmore is coming off a two-year deal he signed in Chicago with an average annual value (AAV) of $725,000. He suited up in 46 games for the Canucks, collecting five goals and seven assists, both career highs, while skating an average of 12:42 time on ice (TOI), per game. Lammikko, whose AAV was $750,000, put up 15 points across 75 games for Vancouver, while playing 12:17 TOI per game. It was not only the most games he’s played in but also career highs in goals and assists too. Lockwood was limited with his time in Vancouver, skating in just 11 games and registering zero points playing 11:20 TOI per game. All three players should be fairly cheap to bring back if the Canucks choose to do so, but there’s one player Allvin should take care of first.
That player is Boeser, whose name was brought up on a multitude of occasions throughout the year. With injuries, possible trade rumours and extension talks, it’s been quite the roller coaster for both Boeser and the organization. He was in the final year of a three-year deal with a cap hit of $5.85 million AAV. While it wasn’t his most productive season, Boeser still went on to score 23 goals and put up 46 points across 71 games. It was the fourth time in his career he’s hit the 20-goal mark and he hasn’t failed to hit at least 45 points in any full season.
Of the four RFA players up for an extension, getting Boeser done first should be the starting point.
Vancouver To Decide On UFA’s
The one nice thing about the list of UFA’s the Canucks have is that there really isn’t a significant name on the list for them. No disrespect to those players, but among the list of names include Jaroslav Halak, Brad Hunt, Alex Chiasson and Brad Richardson. Vancouver will need to decide which players to let go, and which players they want returning for another year or more.
Among the players listed, there is a chance Chiasson is the one brought back on another cheap, one-year contract. He finished with a respectable 13 goals and 22 points in 67 games while playing all throughout the lineup, filling in at times within the top-six when Vancouver was hit with the injury bug. Up front, the Canucks’ top-nine (assuming Boeser is back), will remain intact, while defensively they have a pretty good idea of all three of their pairings as well.
In goal, Thatcher Demko is the clear starter now and moving forward, and with Spencer Martin re-signed to a new deal, and prospect Michael DiPietro in the system as well, Halak’s tenure as a Canuck seems to be at the end. The 37-year-old finished with 17 appearances for the Canucks, going 4-7-2 with a save percentage (SV%) of .902 and a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.94.
Allvin Could Look Ahead To The Future
While there certainly is work to be done this year, it’s never too early to look ahead. Two massive names are due for an extension after the 2022-23 season. Leading scorer J.T. Miller and captain Bo Horvat will both be looking for new deals, and it wouldn’t be the worst idea to explore the option of getting one, or both, players locked down ahead of time.
Miller had a career season in his third full year in Vancouver. He had career-highs in goals (32), assists (67), and points (99), while playing in 80 games, his most since the 2017-18 season. His deal has one more year at a very low cap hit of $5.25 million. His next deal will come as he turns 30 years old, so while a pay raise is a certainty for him, term might be the interesting topic of conversation ahead of those negotiations.
Horvat also had one of his more productive campaigns despite missing 12 games this past season. He tied his second-highest point total with 52 but hit the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career with 31 tallies. Horvat has now completed eight full seasons with the Canucks, despite just being 26 years old. He has one more year left with a $5.5 million cap hit, and will also need a pay raise, though it seems it won’t be as drastic as Miller’s will be.
What the Canucks can look forward to is the money coming off the books that don’t include players. They’ll be alleviated of the $3.035 million recapture penalty of the Roberto Luongo trade, and save another $2.4 million from the dead caps of Braden Holtby and Jake Virtanen. If we include players, there’s the $1.5 million from Halak’s contract, and Brandon Sutter’s $1.125 million if he doesn’t re-sign with the team. Not to mention future trades that could create more cap space, and the cap itself slowly increasing as time goes on.
Nothing is certain, and things could drastically change, but the makeup and core of this group could be kept together for the foreseeable future. With Boudreau also back for a full season, there’s a lot to be excited about in Vancouver moving forward.
I’m a London, Ontario based broadcaster and sports writer for the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve done work in the past reporting on the NHL, NBA and MLB. I’ve also covered the OHL including the Owen Sound Attack and am currently involved with the London Knights.