Restricted free agent (RFA) Brock Boeser has not yet signed, however, that doesn’t mean that Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning hasn’t been busy during the offseason. In fact, he’s added lots of pieces to the team and the roster seems quite different. Certainly, there’s some thought about who might be leaving the team to clear salary-cap space for Boeser’s signing. And those moves might occur soon.
In this post, I want to review some of the news surrounding the team that I’ve been reading and considering.
Item One: Where Are the Canucks’ Negotiations with Boeser?
Boeser is part of a huge contingent of RFAs who’ve not yet signed with their clubs. Word among NHL commentators is that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ young star Mitch Marner has become the tipping point for all the other RFA salary negotiations. Because he’s expected to sign for huge money, that would likely have a trickle-down effect on the other RFAs in the group. As a group, their agents seem happy enough to wait out the Marner negotiations.
Certainly the Canucks want Boeser to be part of their roster for the 2019-20 season. Playing alongside the Calder-winning center Elias Pettersson, Boeser has become a big part of the Canucks’ top six. Although niggling injuries have taken a toll on his game totals over his first two seasons, he simply has the look of a player who’ll easily score around 30 goals each season, with some fans hoping closer to 40.
As part of the Canucks core of players, which probably now includes Pettersson and everyone’s prediction of future-star Quinn Hughes, it matters what Boeser signs for. He’s the first of the three to sign a non-entry-level contract and could become the baseline for those other Canucks players.
On one hand, given that he’s missed 33 games over the last two seasons, is Boeser durable enough to sign to a long-term contract? On the other hand, Boeser’s scoring average of 0.83 points per game during his career puts him behind other RFAs Marner, Mikko Rantanen, and Brayden Point. However, it also puts him above Matthew Tkachuk and Patrik Laine. If things go as they should in NHL hockey land, which they often do not, he should sign for something in the middle of those players.
About Boeser, if you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to read fellow-THW commentator Shane Wilson’s piece titled “More Than Hockey: Acts of Kindness From Vancouver Canucks,” where he tells a story about Boeser’s kindness to a fan. As Shane noted to me, “People forget that hockey players are more than just unchecked tenacity. They’re husbands and fathers and friends with love in them.”
Also, in another note that reminds us that life is more than hockey, Duke Boeser, Brock’s dad, is battling cancer and last week was in critical condition. Let’s hope, as Canucks fans, for his good health and recovery.
Item Two: Should the Canucks Retire Luongo’s Number?
This past week, the Florida Panthers announced that the organization would retire Roberto Luongo’s number. That’s quite an honor and, when it happens, he will become the first player in that team’s history to have his number retired. He spent 11 seasons with the Panthers and ranks first in team history in games played, wins, saves, and shutouts.
However, at present, it doesn’t seem that the Canucks are that anxious to honor the eventual Hall-of-Fame goalie. Certainly, Luongo’s eight seasons (from 2006-2014) with the Canucks were a huge part of the team’s success during that era. He led the team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 and ranks first in franchise history in wins (252) and shutouts (38). He also, in an NHL historical rarity, was the Canucks captain during part of his time with the team.
Addressing the question of retiring Luongo’s number, a Canucks’ spokesperson noted, “Roberto had an outstanding NHL career and was part of some of the biggest moments in Canucks history. We’re sure his name will be included in future discussions; however, we don’t have any current plans for the upcoming season.”
One issue that still might sting the team about Luongo is that this coming season might be too close to his announced retirement in June. Because he retired when he did, he left the Canucks with a cap recapture penalty of $3.03 million each season for the next three years. Obviously, that contract issue wasn’t his fault; in hindsight, the team should have been wiser. However, it still hinders the Canucks moving forward.
For interested fans, the organization has already retired the numbers of Stan Smyl, Trevor Linden, Markus Naslund, and Pavel Bure. This season, the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, will have their numbers retired in February.
Item Three: Is Travis Green Close to Being Fired?
This past week, The Sporting News reported that head coach Travis Green is in the hot seat this season, especially if the team doesn’t make the playoffs. That speculation seems like a stretch to me, because I think Green has done a fine job establishing a positive team culture, bringing along the team’s young core, and winning games with lesser talent.
However, the report suggests that, although under Green’s two-season tenure the team has made some progress, little has changed in the win-loss column. Unless Green moves the team into a position where it is a force to be “reckoned with in the Pacific Division,” he might be on his way out.
Given the team’s stronger lineup that includes new players Micheal Ferland, J.T. Miller, Tyler Myers, and others, I believe the Canucks will make a strong playoff push this season. In fact, I fully expect them to make the playoffs. Unless there’s an unforeseen calamity, I have to think Green’s job is safe through this season and, hopefully, beyond.
As noted, the tipping point for Boeser’s signing is probably Marner’s contract. So, throughout the NHL even beyond the Canucks, all NHL fans who still care – for me, the negotiations have been so protracted that it’s tough to retain my enthusiasm – will be watching that situation.