Canucks News & Rumors: Salary Cap, Leivo, Motte, Boeser

Since the NHL Entry Draft in June, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has been busy putting next season’s team together. Without a significant amount of salary-cap space, he seems to be focusing on players with less-expensive contracts.

Jim Benning Vancouver Canucks
Jim Benning, Vancouver Canucks, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Obviously, the Canucks hope to build a roster that will compete successfully in the NHL’s Pacific Division. However, the team will be in tough.

The Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, and Vegas Golden Knights look like they’ll be in good shape for the next season, so that probably means the Canucks will be fighting for a wildcard spot. Will they have the team to do it? Have the new players added enough value? It won’t be long before Canucks fans will see.

Related: Luongo Leaves Dual Canucks Legacy

Here’s some of the news out of the Canucks camp.

Item One: Canucks’ Blue Line Suddenly Got Better

During the last week, the Canucks drastically improved their defense. No longer with the team is last season’s group of Ben Hutton, Luke Schenn, and Derrick Pouliot. New Canucks include Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn, and Oscar Fantenberg. It’s a huge upgrade.

Vancouver Canucks Tyler Myers
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Myers adds size, experience, and skill. At 6-foot-8 and 229 pounds, he’s a load to play against. And, he can score. He’s been averaging almost 25 points each season for the past four. Benn, aside from great facial hair, brings experience with almost 500 NHL games and he plays a physical game. The 27-year-old Fantenberg is a serviceable depth defenseman who played last season with both the Flames and the Los Angeles Kings. He adds value.

Item Two: Salary Cap Woes

Compared to other teams, the Canucks don’t have the kind of desperate issue where they have to sell a star’s contract. However, the lower-than-projected cap plus the salary-cap recapture penalty that remains from Roberto Luongo’s retirement have shrunk the team’s salary cap space.

The Canucks now have just under $76 million committed to 27 players. That leaves just over $5.5 million to re-sign four restricted free agents (RFAs), which includes star Brock Boeser and the enigmatic young Russian Nikolay Goldobin.

Brock Boeser #6 of the Vancouver Canucks
Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The problem is that Boeser’s contract, when he signs, will be more than the amount of that cap space. In today’s NHL, around $6 million is a fair contract for him. But that doesn’t help the team because it devours the remainder of the salary cap space.

Benning has two players’ contracts he would like to dump. One is Loui Eriksson at $6 million AAV and the other is Brandon Sutter at $4.375 million AAV. Eriksson can kill penalties, but he hasn’t produced much offense at all. And, sadly, Sutter has been injury-plagued and is a shadow of his former self. They remain with the team simply because neither contract can be moved.

Item Three: Canucks Re-sign Josh Leivo

The Canucks took some time to pare its roster and dumped a number of RFAs (Markus Granlund, Derrick Pouliot, Brendan Gaunce, and Yan-Pavel Laplante). However, they wisely chose to re-sign Josh Leivo to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. Leivo came to the team during mid-season via trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs with prospect Michael Carcone going back to the Maple Leafs.

Related: Why the Canucks’ 2019 Free Agency was a Major Success

In Leivo, the Canucks have an NHL forward with some experience, a pretty good track record, and some potential. Last season with the Canucks, he didn’t disappoint. Leivo scored four goals in his first nine games and finished the season with 10 goals and 18 points in 49 games with the Canucks. In total, in his 76-game season with both the Canucks and the Maple Leafs, he scored 14 goals, 10 assists, and 24 points.

Derek Forbort, Josh Leivo
Los Angeles Kings’ Derek Forbort and Vancouver Canucks’ Josh Leivo battle for the puck. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

In the games I watched, the 26-year-old Leivo played well. And, if he gets time on the Canucks top-six, I look for him to score more regularly this season. I think he’s a steal at $1.5 million. He could have gone to arbitration but didn’t. It will be good to have both he and Tanner Pearson for the entire season.

Item Four: Canucks Sign Motte and Bailey

Earlier this week, Benning announced that the club had signed centre Tyler Motte to a one-year, one-way contract at $975,000 and right winger Justin Bailey to a one-year, two-way contract at $700,000.

Related: Canucks Sign Benn and Myers in a Homecoming of Sorts

Motte plays a physical game, is a strong fore-checker, and can play effectively on the penalty kill. Now 24 years old, he had nine goals, seven assists, and 16 points in 74 games last season. Including the Canucks, he’s also played 153 NHL games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Chicago Blackhawks as well.

Vancouver Canucks Tyler Motte Florida Panthers Roberto Luongo
Vancouver Canucks’ Tyler Motte crashes into the net behind Florida Panthers’ Roberto Luongo (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

The 24-year-old Bailey played the 2018-19 season with both the Rochester Americans and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the AHL and also logged 11 games with the Philadelphia Flyers. In total, Bailey’s played 63 NHL games for the Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres. He brings size, at 6-feet-4 and 214 pounds, and some secondary scoring.

Related: Canucks News & Rumors: New Signings, Luongo, Goalie News

Item Five: No Movement on Boeser’s Contract

As Sportsnet’s Rick Dhaliwal tweeted, the Canucks and Brock Boeser are rumored to be getting a little closer to a contract, however, neither side seems to be budging at the moment. There remains work to be done.