Canucks News & Rumors: Kravtsov, Lekkerimaki, 2023 Draft & More

In this edition of the Vancouver Canucks News & Rumors, Vitali Kravtsov signed in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Meanwhile, the Canucks could move down in the 2023 NHL Draft. Also, 2022 first-round draft pick Jonathan Lekkerimaki signs with a Swedish Hockey League (SHL) team. 

Kravtsov Heads to KHL

Kravtsov has signed a two-year deal to play in KHL with Traktor Chelyabinsk. CHEK’s Rick Dhaliwal said the restricted free agent signed for 40 million rubles, which is $500,000 USD per season. Along with substantial bonuses, Kravtsov will make close to $1 million. Dhaliwal expects the Canucks to qualify him and retain his rights until July 1, 2027. The organization is happy the 23-year-old will continue his development in Russia.

Vitali Kravtsov Vancouver Canucks
Vitali Kravtsov, Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images)

The Canucks traded Will Lockwood and a 2026 seventh-round draft pick to the New York Rangers for Kravtsov. The Rangers drafted the forward with the ninth overall pick in the 2018 Draft. Kravtsoov played 48 games with the team over two seasons, posting 20 points before joining the Canucks. He only played in 16 games with the organization after the trade and posted one goal and two points.

Potential Trade Between Canucks and Blackhawks

The Athletic’s Scott Powers said the Blackhawks could make a deal with the Canucks and move up in the 2023 Draft (from ‘What I’m hearing about the Blackhawks from Connor Bedard to free agency,’ The Athletic, May 23, 2023). Along with the first overall pick, the club holds the 19th overall selection, as well. Although the Blackhawks aren’t optimistic about moving up in the draft, Powers suggests the Canucks are capable of making a deal.

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The Canucks are trying to clear up cap space by offloading a few contracts this offseason. Powers says the Blackhawks could move up in the draft if they offer the 19th overall pick and a second-rounder for the Canucks’ 11th overall pick and one of the contracts they are trying to get rid of.

Trading down with the Blackhawks would be a helpful move for the retooling Canucks. If the organization can offload Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s contract, it would be a step in the right direction and is a move worth making. The only downside is the Canucks prospect pool isn’t the best, and they might not get a better prospect at 19 than at 11.

Lekkerimaki Signs in SHL

Lekkerimaki will join Orebro HK in the SHL after signing his entry-level deal with the Canucks. His deal with Orebro extends through to 2024-25. The Canucks drafted the forward 15th overall in the 2022 Draft.

Related: Canucks 2023 Offseason Trade Destinations for Garland 

“We are incredibly happy to be able to welcome Jonathan. He is a top player in his age group, and Jonathan has enormous potential,” Orebro general manager Niklas Eriksson said. “We are bringing in an offensively skilled player who will be involved and make a difference going forward, and the fact that we can add another right-handed shooter has been important to us. It’s great that Jonathan chooses to come to us to take the next step in his career, and we look forward to working with Jonathan in our environment.”

Jonathan Lekkerimaki Vancouver Canucks 2022 Draft
Jonathan Lekkerimaki, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Lekkerimaki managed to turn a somewhat disappointing regular season into an opportunity to play in the highest league in Sweden. After dealing with injury and illness during the season, Lekkerimaki posted an impressive playoff for Djurgarden. He will join another Canucks prospect, defenceman Elias Pettersson in Orebro. Both players will be at the Canucks summer camp in July.

Canucks Making Calls

Elliotte Friedman joined Donnie and Dhali on Tuesday and discussed a few things revolving around the Canucks. He noted the Canucks are making calls to create cap space, but he doesn’t believe they will be buying anyone out. Although the Canucks have a few buyout candidates, most of those contracts will hurt them more than help them if they bought them out.

Friedman also discussed the meeting between the NHL and NHLPA, which will happen on Wednesday. The two sides will discuss the league’s salary cap and a potential increase. The cap is expected to increase by $1 million, but people on both sides believe there is more flexibility, and the cap could increase by $1.5 million to $2 million. The Cancuks are projected to be $668,750 over the cap limit, and a $1.5 to $2 million increase would help the team. However, the Canucks would still have to trade a few contracts to improve their current roster.

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