Throughout Jim Benning’s tenure as the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks he has been heavily criticized for the contracts he has handed out. The franchise moved three of those contracts this offseason by trading Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel to the Arizona Coyotes. Additionally, Benning acquired a Conor Garland in the trade, and he later signed to one of the better contracts on the roster.
3. Bo Horvat – $5.5 Million
Bo Horvat’s contract has been one of the best since he signed the extension prior to the 2017-18 season. He signed a six-year, $33 million deal. With two more seasons left, the contract remains as one of the three best on the team. Over the first four years of his contract, Horvat has gradually improved. He scored 22 goals and posted 44 points in 64 games in the first year of his contract. He followed up the next season with a career-high 34 goals and 61 points in 82 games. The following two seasons were impressive as well. Although they were short, the captain totalled 41 goals and 92 in 125 games.
Horvat’s production has exceeded the value of his contract. Not only has he been one of the team’s top producers, but he has also been the team’s leader. As the 14th captain in team history, he led the team to its first playoff appearance since the 2014-15 season in the 2019-20 season. The captain is looking to lead the team to another playoff appearance in the fifth year of his six-year deal (from ‘Canucks captain Bo Horvat on offseason changes, vaccination and impatience: ‘I want to be in the playoffs’,’ The Athletic, August 26, 2021).
We can just completely throw it in the rearview, but I think it’s going to fuel our fire even more to try and prove ourselves this year. For me, I think I can continue to get even better. Everybody knows we have better in that locker room and our top guys need to be our best players. Everyone has to contribute in a certain way that’s going to help the team win. We can’t have any passengers next year if we want to come out firing on all cylinders right off the hop. I’m really looking forward to it.Horvat on moving forward from last season.
2. Thatcher Demko – $5 Million
With Jacob Markstrom leaving the team last offseason, Thatcher Demko has had to take the next step in his progress a lot sooner than he originally may have had to. Although he split starts with Braden Holtby last season, he was the more impressive goalie of the two. Demko had a tough start to the season, but a hot March reassured Canucks fans of how good the 2014 second-round pick is. Through 11 games, he posted an 8-3-0 record with a .937 save percentage, a 2.15 goals-against average and his first career shutout. March continued to be a good month for him as he received a five-year extension with an annual average value (AAV) of $5 million.
Demko will be 31 when his deal expires. The goaltender and the franchise are hoping to have a lot of success throughout those five years. If Demko plays to the same high level as he did in the three playoff games during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs and during March in the 2020-21 season consistently, this contract will be a steal for the Canucks.
1. Conor Garland – $4.950 million
The Canucks were able to dump three of their worst contracts for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Garland. While Ekman-Larsson’s contract is still up for debate, Garland’s contract could very likely be a steal. The forward was a restricted free agent (RFA) before joining the Canucks and signed a five-year, $24.75 million contract ($4.95 million AAV).
“We’re pleased to have reached a long-term deal with Conor today. He’s a skilled young player, who plays hard, produces offensively and will complement our top-six forward group.”Jim Benning said in the team’s press release.
Garland will be 30 in the last year of his contract, which gives the Canucks a player on a team-friendly deal during his prime. Garland’s contract could prove to be a steal, especially if he produces as he is expected to. He scored 13 goals and posted 18 points in 47 games in his rookie season with the Coyotes. He followed up with 22 goals and 39 points in 68 games the following season, and last season, he posted 12 goals and 39 points in 49 games.
His offensive production is made much more impressive when the Coyotes’ stats over his first three seasons are taken into account. The club has ranked in the bottom five among NHL teams by goals for per game in each season (from ‘Canucks continue to go all in: Inside the Braden Holtby buyout and Conor Garland extension,’ The Athletic, July 27, 2021). Garland should be able to continue his progress with the Canucks and set career numbers. He will be a big part of the team’s top-six and could be the perfect linemate for Horvat.
Canucks Slowly Clearing Bad Contracts
The Canucks have locked up two players, who should be key to their team’s success for the next five seasons. Meanwhile, they have their captain signed to a great contract for the next two seasons. Although Benning has signed a few team-friendly contracts, he has two important RFAs to sign in Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, before the 2021-22 season starts.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.