With the Vancouver Canucks well out of the playoffs, the club was expected to sell most of their pending unrestricted free agents (UFA) at the NHL Trade Deadline on April 12th. The club extended their biggest pending UFA Tanner Pearson to a three-year, $9.75-million contract extension. Instead, the only pending UFA to be traded away was Jordie Benn.
With Pearson extended, the Canucks have a few other UFA’s, who they have the option to either re-sign or move on from. Brandon Sutter, Jimmy Vesey, Travis Boyd, Alex Edler, Travis Hamonic, Jalen Chatfield, and Sven Baertschi are all UFAs this offseason.
Breakdown: Sutter was acquired in a trade involving Nick Bonino after the 2014-15 season and received a five-year, $21.875 million contract. He has played six seasons with the Canucks, but has missed quite a few games due to injuries. He has scored 53 goals and posted 103 points in 272 games. For most of his tenure in Vancouver, Sutter has played a bottom-six role and has been part of the team’s penalty kill.
Odds: 20%. At 32-years old, it is unlikely the Canucks re-sign Sutter this offseason. The organization is in a cap crunch, and with Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes set to become restricted free agents (RFA) this offseason. Therefore, the team will likely not have enough cap space to re-sign the forward. If they do re-sign Sutter, it will be on a short-term deal at a cap hit between $1-$2 million.
Breakdown: After being waived by the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canucks claimed Vesey. Throughout his five years in the NHL, Vesey has either scored or been on pace to score 10+ goals. With Toronto, he lost his spot on a stacked roster, but with the Canucks he is a solid middle-six option. He can provide the club with depth scoring, something the team hasn’t had much of over the past few seasons. So far, through eight games, he has been unnoticeable, as he has been unable to register a point.
Odds: 50%. The Canucks need a quality third-line player who comes with a cheap cap hit. If Vesey agrees to a similar cap hit as his $900,000 he carries now, he will be a great piece to keep. The only way Vesey doesn’t stay with the club is if he is offered a better contract elsewhere, which is unlikely based on his production with the club so far. Still, he is a good player to give another shot to next season.
Breakdown: Along with Vesey, Boyd was another player the Canucks claimed after he had been waived by the Maple Leafs. Boyd played for the Washington Capitals in his first three NHL seasons before joining Toronto this past offseason. As a depth player, he’s scored three goals and posted eight points in 20 games. So far, he’s played five games with the team.
Odds: 50%. Boyd is another quality depth player the Canucks should attempt to re-sign at a cheap cap-hit. He has $700,000 cap-hit, and if the club can re-sign him at a similar contract, Boyd would be a quality piece to keep. He’s in a similar place as Vesey with the team and is another player who would be worth keeping around next season.
Breakdown: Edler has spent his entire 15 year NHL career with the Canucks. His two-year contract with an average annual value (AAV) of $6 million expires this offseason. At 35, the veteran defenceman has shown signs of slowing down. Through 39 games this season, he has posted six points. In the previous three seasons, Edler has consistently posted 30+ points, but in the 2020-21 season, he is on pace to post 13 points in a full 82 game season.
Odds: 20%. With Edler in his mid-30s and showing obvious signs of slowing down, he may retire after his 15th season in the NHL. The Canucks also have a few young left defencemen who will be looking for a main roster spot come next season. Jack Rathbone and Olli Juolevi are two players who should be able to beat out the veteran defenceman for a roster spot on the blue line. If the Canucks do re-sign Edler, it will likely be at a lower AAV, and he will likely be a bottom pairing or depth d-man.
Breakdown: In his lone season with the Canucks, Hamonic has spent most of the season playing alongside Quinn Hughes. Throughout his 11 seasons in the NHL, the 30-year-old has been a stay-at-home defenceman. Similar to all Canucks’ blueliners, he has had a Corsi For% (CF%) below 50%, with a 46.68 CF%.
Odds: 50%. Although Hamonic hasn’t been outstanding during his 24 games with the Canucks this season, the team lacks right-handed d-men. Although they do have young right-handed defenders in Jalen Chatfield, Madison Bowey, and Brogan Rafferty, they are inexperienced. Along with the team potentially losing Edler and having to replace him with other young players in Rathbone and Joulevi, the Canucks may have to keep Hamonic in order to provide some veteran experience on the back end.
Breakdown: Chatfield has spent the 2020-21 season with the Canucks and has been in and out of the lineup. He has played 12 games and has one assist so far. The right-handed defenceman has been a depth defender for the main roster all season long.
Odds: 85%. Chatfield is only 24 years old and has been with the organization for four seasons. The Canucks will likely re-sign him since he will come with a cheap cap hit and could be a bottom pairing or a seventh d-man.
Breakdown: Since signing a three-year extension with an AAV of $3.36 million, which started in the 2018-19 season, Baertschi has completely fallen out of the Canucks lineup. He was a top-line winger with Bo Horvat before suffering a concussion. He then lost his main roster spot in the 2019-20 season, only playing six games in the NHL. The Canucks were also unable to trade Baerstchi over the last two seasons.
Odds: 0%. There is no chance Baesrtschi re-signs with the club. The Canucks have attempted to trade him over the past two seasons. Therefore, it is unlikely they have a desire to keep him. Baerstchi also opted out of the team’s return to play in the Edmonton bubble last year. It is better for both sides to move on.
Canucks Have Key Players to Re-Sign
Outside of the club’s UFAs, there are two key RFAs the club will have to extend first. Pettersson and Hughes are due for a big payday. Juolevi is also set to be an RFA but won’t receive too much of a pay raise. The Canucks have some important young players to bring back for next season. General manager Jim Benning should prioritize these three before looking at his UFAs.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.