Last season I took a look at the Vancouver Canucks’ three worst contracts heading into the 2020-21 season. Jay Beagle, Brandon Sutter and Loui Eriksson highlighted the list. Heading into next season, the team no longer has all three contracts.
Beagle and Eriksson were traded in a package with Antoine Roussel, another bad contract from last season, along with a few draft picks to the Arizona Coyotes for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland. Meanwhile, Sutter’s contract ended after last season, and he signed a one-year, $1.125 million deal in the offseason. Heading into the 2021-22 season, the worst contracts aren’t as bad as last season but are still questionable.
3. Oliver Ekman-Larsson – $7.26 million
Ekman-Larsson’s contract is likely the worst part about trading for him. Although he makes the Canucks a better team heading into next season, his cap-hit and term could be a problem. He has six years remaining on his contract with a $7.260 cap hit. A noticeable issue with Ekman-Larsson is his decline in play in recent years.
The defenceman was once one of the elite blueliners in the NHL, being able to play on both ends of the ice. The Athletic’s Harman Dayal points out, Ekman-Larsson was a top-end defenceman in the mid-2010s, but since 2018, he has lost that form (from ‘Can Oliver Ekman-Larsson bounce back as a high-end top pair defenceman with the Canucks?,’ The Athletic, July 14, 2021). His struggles have hurt the Coyotes as well, as in the last five seasons, the team scored 45.8 percent of five on five goals with him on the ice, which means the opposing team outscored the club when Ekman-Larsson was on the ice. Another sign of decline in the Swede is the drop in his time on ice. He once averaged 23-25 minutes of ice time, but last season that average dropped to 20:58.
Ekman-Larsson could bounce back with the Canucks thanks to a fresh start. The shift from Arizona to Vancouver is big, as he is going from a non-hockey market to a major one. Additionally, the Canucks have a better chance of making it to the postseason next season than the defenceman’s former team. Throughout his 11 year tenure, the club only made the playoffs twice. A fresh start could help Ekman-Larsson over the remaining six years. With Quinn Hughes as a top-pairing defenceman, the Swede only needs to play at the level of a second pairing d-man. If he is unable to perform at that level, his contract will be hurting the franchise thanks to the high cap-hit and term.
2. Tucker Poolman – $2.5 million
The Canucks signed Tucker Poolman to a four-year contract, which carries a $2.5 million cap hit. The club needed multiple right-handed shutdown defenceman, and Poolman was one of the blueliners general manager Jim Benning decided to sign.
The reason Poolman’s contract is one of the worst on the roster heading into the 2021-22 season is he hasn’t played enough NHL games to earn a contract with a four-year term. Over three seasons, he’s played in 120 games with the Winnipeg Jets. During his time with the Jets, his performance was inconsistent, and he usually struggled while playing against top players (from ‘Bo Horvat’s Olympic odds? Vasili Podkolzin in the top 6? 1 big question for every Canucks skater this season.’ The Athletic, September 11, 2021). The Canucks may need him to play in a similar role, as the club doesn’t have a clear top right-handed shutdown defender. Whether Poolman thrives with his new team or not will show the value of his contract.
1. Tyler Myers – $6 Million
Tyler Myers is heading into the third year of his five-year deal with a cap hit of $6 million. Although Myers brings a lot on the offensive side of things for the Canucks with skating ability and skills, he is a liability on defence, based on JFreshHockey’s player card.
Offensively, Myers ranks well among defencemen. Last season, His even-strength numbers are offensively better than 67% of other NHL defencemen, while his goals per 60 is higher than 84% of the defenders in the league. His struggles on the defensive end are also noticeable. His even-strength defence is at 0%, which means he is one of the worst defenders at five-on-five on the defensive end.
Although his offensive ability is a useful tool, the Canucks don’t really need another offensive defenceman. With the addition of Ekman-Larsson and rookie Jack Rathbone, along with Hughes, Myers isn’t needed as much. Also, his cap hit is pretty high, and the Canucks have better options for offensive defencemen. Unless Myers can shift into a solid shutdown blueliner, his contract is the worst on the roster.
Canucks Have An Expensive Blue Line
All three contracts on this list belong to defencemen. The Canucks will have a very expensive blue line heading into next season, especially after they re-sign restricted free agent Hughes. The team’s defence has been one of the weaknesses over the past few seasons, but if they improve and the players above are a part of the improvement, the money spent towards upgrading the blue line will be worth it.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.