It’s been a tough week for Vancouver Canucks fans. From trades that never materialized before the trade deadline to a string of losses, fans need an alternative means of hockey related entertainment and joy. Even if it involves the the local team. Luckily, the youth movement seems to be going well enough and that lends hope to this demoralized fan base.
That hope is bolstered by the next wave of Canucks prospects. There’s new cause for excitement on that front to boot, as 2014 third-round pick, Nikita Tryamkin, concluded his KHL season on Thursday and is now available to sign with the Canucks. Reports indicate the Canucks are intent on signing him, too.
Now that’s cause for excitement. A puzzle-piece in the Canucks future could be put into place before season’s end. It would give fans something to smile about, anyways. The lanky Russian defender could be patrolling a blue line near you not-so-long from now.
Or at least it seemed that way…
VAN sources say the #Canucks are trying to sign defenseman Nikita Tryamkin but are dealing with some cap issues.
— NEWS 1130 Sports (@NEWS1130Sports) March 3, 2016
Initially, one wonders how that is even possible. I had seen some suggestions of the Canucks possibly having some cap issues, but it was placed on the back-burner with the trading deadline. But the tweet above peaked my interest again to dive deep into this.
So I enlisted the help of fellow Canucksarmy writers Jeremy Davis and Petbugs to try and figure out how this happened. Surely if three basement bloggers could figure this out, the Canucks can too.
All the information below is how it appears to us based on our best knowledge.
Setting aside the obvious fact that a roster of this quality should be nowhere near the cap, let’s get into this. Put simply, the Canucks have tied their own hands contractually going forward and the impact has the potential to reach beyond Tryamkin. General Fanager has confirmed that the Canucks have only placed Brandon Sutter on LTIR, meaning they haven’t filed Alexander Edler for that same distinction. Based on this, Jeremy Davis was able to figure this all out with his calculations below (with Sutter on LTIR):
So as mentioned, the Canucks are alright. As long as Sutter is on LTIR, they can exceed to cap to ‘replace’ his salary. However if Sutter is deemed healthy and available to able to play, they would need to activate him and thus would need to fit him underneath the cap ceiling; that’s where things start to turn. Once again, Jeremy ran the numbers and if the Canucks re-assign Gaunce back to the AHL, and activate Sutter:
With that, the Canucks run into serious issues. This basically means that Sutter is stuck on LTIR, unless the Canucks are able to put Edler on LTIR. But Edler is actually expected back before Sutter. So they may be able to buy some time, but having both of them isn’t an option. This isn’t the end of the world, as Sutter may not be back, but the Canucks have to be ‘set-up’ to allow his return.
So how does this precarious situation hurt the Canucks in the future?
Once again the key part here is, that these implications will only rear their ugly head if both Sutter and Edler are available to play. Although not definitive, that is a plausible situation. As mentioned above, at this point, they are unable to activate Sutter from the LTIR. But if he becomes healthy enough to play, there could be some issues that arise:
The Canucks inability to sign Tryamkin and assign him to their AHL or NHL roster could have significant impact on his desire to come to North America. The financial implications especially could scare Tryamkin away. Vancouver does have the option of signing him, having his entry level contract start next season and then have him sign a PTO to play out the remainder of his season in the AHL. From Tryamkin’s standpoint though, why?
After playing a full KHL season and playoffs, the thought of extending his season by another month for limited compensation may not worth while. Obviously, we don’t know what Tryamkin is thinking or what his motivations are, but the Canucks are now unable to offer him the ability to burn one year of his entry-level contract and the few weeks of NHL salary due to the possibility of Edler and Sutter coming back. That is the worst case scenario, but still a plausible thing that could happen.
While looking into this further, another detail that could not be looked over came up and it’s huge.
If unsigned by June 1, 2016, Nikita Tyramkin would become a UFA. Due to the fact that the Tryamkin was drafted in his 20-year-old season and D+2 season, he isn’t subject the ‘standard’ 4 years of rights for European players. The CBA rule can be found below:
Given this, if the Canucks are unable to sign Tryamkin before June 1, 2016, he would become a UFA. If Sutter remains on LTIR, this won’t be an issue. There have been reports that Tryamkin has already agreed to a deal. But until it is official, there may be some issues getting the deal done.
This issue also reaches a bit further to another current prospect – 2014 2nd round pick Thatcher Demko. Let’s preface this with, if Boston College makes the NCAA Frozen Four (Apr 7-9), then the following point is moot. But as with any playoffs, the Boston College Eagles could lose, and Demko would be available before then. As with Tryamkin, the Canucks haven’t signed Demko, and the one favourable option they had to offer was the burning a year of his ELC by having him appear in one game with hopes of leaving school a year early. So if Demko’s season ends before the Frozen Four, and the Canucks approach him to sign, the financial and contractual benefits of getting in one NHL game are gone.
If that wasn’t enough, another issue of their cap problems is that if the Canucks approach any high end NCAA or CHL unrestricted free agents, they once again, are unable to offer burning that one year of ELC. Whether the Canucks are pursuing players like Yale goaltender Alex Lyon, Providence’s Brandon Tanev or University of New Hampshire’s Andrew Poturalski – the Canucks are now unable to offer that. Since, like every other NHL team, the Canucks are limited to certain levels of financial compensation with entry level contracts, the Canucks are now a step behind other teams. Current prospect Mike Zalewski was even able to get this ‘benefit’ by appearing in two games at the end of the 2013-14 season, after the Canucks signed him as an undrafted NCAA player. So it’s safe to assume the aforementioned highly sought after free agents will at least factor that into their decision.
For a team that is rebuilding on the fly like the Canucks, the fact that they may lose out on any of these free agents just because of this issue, would be considered a serious misstep.
How they could’ve fixed it
You can look back at the past year and half and see where the Canucks could’ve made moves to avoid this issue. Even looking as far back as the Luca Sbisa and Derek Dorsett extensions as the first mis-step of not trying to save every dollar possible. Could they have found a taker for Chris Higgins or Brandon Prust before their value sewered to zero?
This past Monday’s trade deadline was another opportunity to make room. Moving any one of Matt Bartkowski, Radim Vrbata, Yannick Weber, Linden Vey and of course Dan Hamhuis would’ve gone towards creating enough space to at the very least limit this issue.
This could all obviously be moot, if another Canucks player were to suffer an injury that would allow them to place said player on LTIR. But, waiting for an injury isn’t a prudent way to run an organization.
In fairness, this issue isn’t so bad that they can’t ice a full time like the Calgary Flames of a couple of years ago. It just means that they have limited their options for the reminder of the season. Time will tell if it will cost them in the long run in the form of Thatcher Demko, Nikita Tryamkin or possible NCAA free agents. But at the very least, in regards to activating Brandon Sutter, they’ve put themselves in a corner that they can’t really get out of.
I mentioned earlier this week that the Canucks did not ‘paper’ any players to the AHL, thus eliminating the ability for them to sign them to the AHL. That same papering could have also been applied to Yannick Weber. Since Weber cleared waivers earlier this month and did not appear in 10 NHL games or been on the NHL roster for 30 days since the waiving, they could’ve easily assigned him and recalled him. If they had done this papering transaction for any of Markus Granlund, Bo Horvat, Ben Hutton or Yannick Weber, they would at least have some more flexibility to allow the activation of Edler and Sutter. Since that was not done, none of those players can be assigned to the AHL.
Their options to fix it now
The simplest and most likely situation will be keeping one of Edler or Sutter on LTIR for duration of the season. All they would need to do is take the path of ‘shutting them down’ for the remainder of the season. Doesn’t need to be both, just one or the other. The only issue with this is, if the team doctors deem both of them to be healthy to play, they would have to play but the argument can easily be made that due to Sutter’s jaw injury, he was having issues eating and thus was unable to maintain conditioning etc. As I mentioned above, this is the probable sequence of events.
The other option is not pretty, and that would be assigning one of Jake Virtanen or Jared McCann back to junior. So after 70+ games on the NHL roster, they get re-assigned to the CHL. Optically, this would be awful. The Canucks have been selling youth, and the would need to send one of the their future building blocks back to the CHL for a handful of games (if any).
So the Canucks do have options available to them to fix this issue, but the fact that they have put themselves in this situation is of great concern. As outlined above, in the past there have been a handful of simple ways to fix this. Now they tow the line trying to avoid making the issue any bigger than it needs to be.
There is obvious events that may simply be avoided by it playing itself out naturally, but they are in this situation. Based on the rumours of Tryamkin being signed, it would lead us to believe that one of Sutter or Edler won’t be back this season. But until that deal is officially announced, we won’t know for sure.
Once again, thank you to Jeremy Davis and mystery man Petbugs for the help with untangling this web.