In this edition of Vancouver Canucks’ News & Rumours, I discuss some of the important new and rumour heard over the past week. I cover the recent Travis Hamonic news and what it could mean for the team moving forward, as well as Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes’ contract negotiations and how the Hamonic news affects their situation.
Additionally, the Canucks finished their 2021 Training Camp on Saturday and started their preseason on Sunday against the Seattle Kraken. Lastly, I look at Hall of Fame play-by-play commentator Jim Hughson’s retirement news and his impact on the team.
Hamonic’s Future in Vancouver in Question
The Athletic’s Rick Dhaliwal gave an update on Hamonic’s future, Monday morning. The veteran defenceman is thinking of opting out of the season, retirement, or potentially playing with the Canucks. Dhaliwal noted Hamonic’s decision is a family matter.
Last Wednesday, Hamonic was absent from player testing, which most believed was due to the NHL’s new protocols for unvaccinated players. The opt-out date for NHL players is Friday, Oct 1st. The veteran defenceman previously opted out of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs when he was a member of the Calgary Flames.
Hamonic’s decision is an important one since he signed a two-year contract with an annual average value of $3 million. If he decides to opt-out or retires, the Canucks will no longer carry his $3 million cap hit. Either the team goes out and uses it to replace Hamonic, or the club uses it to extend Pettersson and Hughes. The team did sign Luke Schenn and Tucker Poolman, two right-handed defencemen, this offseason and could be better off in using the extra cap space in negotiations with their two cornerstone players.
Pettersson & Hughes Miss Start of Training Camp and Preseason
The Canucks started training camp last Thursday, and both Pettersson and Hughes were absent. The two players are unsigned restricted free agents and are crucial pieces to any success the team is hoping to have this season. General manager Jim Benning was disappointed the two missed out on the start of camp.
“I’m disappointed they’re not going to be here for the start of camp, but I’m going to continue to talk to CAA and Pat Brisson [the agent for Pettersson and Hughes] and try to get something figured out here as soon as we can,” Benning said. “I don’t think we’re that far apart but these are complex, unique deals. These are two good young players and an important part of our group.”
The recent Hamonic news could potentially help Benning in negotiations. With his contract on the books, the club ideally has $14.5-$15 million in cap space. Without his contract, the Canucks would have $17.5-18 million in cap space, which would allow the club to offer both players $8 million each. If the Canucks aren’t comfortable with the right d-men they have, they would likely spend a bit of the $17.5-$18 million on another one, which would give the team around $16 million in cap space. Meanwhile, the two are training in Michigan along with Ottawa Senator forward Brady Tkachuk.
Head coach Travis Green was also disappointed the two were missing out on training camp.
“It affects the team and affects the players individually,” Green said. “I’m disappointed they’re not here obviously as a coach. We got a lot of new bodies on our team. I think being two big pieces to our team it’s important they’re here, and obviously being two younger players, training camp is a big part of working on certain parts of your game and these are two young players that are vital to our team.”
Canucks Finish Training Camp & Start Preseason
The Canucks held their 2021 Training Camp, which started on Thursday and ended on Saturday. One of the big storylines from training camp was the players who struggled during Green’s bag skate. Olli Juolevi had a tough time during the bag skate and also had a mediocre performance at training camp, which didn’t impress the head coach.
“I don’t think he did himself any favours,” says Travis Green of Olli Juolevi’s bag skate performance and overall form at training camp.”
Green’s thoughts on Juolevi don’t do the defenceman any favours, especially since he is fighting for the third pairing left side spot with Jack Rathbone and Brad Hunt. Rathbone, in particular, stood out in the team’s first two preseason games. The Canucks took on the Kraken on Sunday and the Flames on Monday. Both young defencemen took part in the back-to-back games as the 22-year-old stole the spotlight (from ‘Canucks 4, Flames 2: Podkolzin proves he has plenty of game in NHL debut,’ The Province, September 28, 2021).
“Back to back or not, it shouldn’t be that big a deal,” said Green. “They’re trying to make the team and should have a lot of energy. Sometimes, you have to manage a game when you’re a little fatigued too, whether it’s keeping things simple or keeping shifts short and still playing a tough game. I thought he (Rathbone) was better tonight (defensively).”
Oliver Ekman-Larsson also struggled in the bag skate but showed it didn’t mean much in his preseason debut with the team on Monday. He posted two assists in the Canucks win over the Flames.
Jim Hughson Retires
Hall of Fame play-by-play commentator Jim Hughson announced his retirement last week. He had been an important part of the Canucks’ fan experience for over a decade. Hughson called some of the biggest goals in franchise history. He was the team’s regional broadcaster from the mid-90s until 2008, when he became CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada lead play-by-play announcer. He was the voice of the Canucks’ 2011 Stanley Cup Final run.
Hughson stayed on as the lead play-by-play announcer when Sportsnet received the rights to broadcasting all NHL games in Canada. His retirement ends his 42-year career.
The Canucks have five games remaining in the preseason, which ends on Oct 9th. The team will know about Hamonic’s decision on Friday, Oct 1st, which could help with the Pettersson and Hughes’ contract talks.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.