Photo Credit: Kim Klement – USA TODAY Sports
I’ve been having an internal debate over these last few weeks over why the Canucks have held at 46 salaried player contracts for the season.
At a glance, flexibility seems the most obvious reason. With 46 contracts, the Canucks can add players without too much handwringing. There’s value in peace of mind, and by not overextending themselves it’s likely the Canucks granted themselves just that.
However, another angle has come to the forefront. It’s one I’d given consideration to but never credence, without definitive information to reaffirm it. What if the Canucks are saving contract spots for their NCAA prospects so that they might use games this season as an ace in hand and entice them to sign? With the possibility of burning a year of their ELC as a carrot to dangle?
The following tweets had been sent out from various interviews last week. The first is Adam Gaudette speaking with News 1130:
Gaudette met with Gm Jim Benning on Monday and president Trevor Linden last Friday and was at the #Canucks game in Boston on Saturday.
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) February 16, 2017
Gaudette says he will talk with his advisor and family after the season about staying in college or turning pro next season. #Canucks
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) February 16, 2017
The second is from an interview on TSN 1040 with University of North Dakota’s coach, Brad Berry:
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) February 14, 2017
Boeser turning pro at the conclusion of the season isn’t much of a surprise. Former Canucks Army writer Josh Weissbock spoke about the likelihood of just that, concluding Boeser will likely sign during the summer of 2017. Gaudette, on the other hand, is a bit of surprise, but given how well he has played for the last 14 months, you can understand why the Canucks would want to get him signed.
First off, we need to determine what ‘age-year’ they are in, which is stipulated in Section 9.2 of the NHL/NHLPA CBA:
So – both players will be ’20-year-old’. As per Section 9.1b in the NHL/NHLPA CBA are required to sign a three-year entry-level deal:
Since both players are 20 years old on September 15th, 2017, they are not eligible to have their entry level deals slide, as outlined by 9.1d:
If either appear in an NHL game, it would eat their first year of ELC. This would provide the Canucks with another ‘tool’ at their disposal to get the players signed. They can sign them to an entry level contract and have it start next season. He would be able to sign an ATO with the Comets to finish the season there, or return to school for the remainder of the year to finish classes/exams.
Once a player’s signed their ELC, they’re ineligible to participate in NCAA sports, but they can still complete their classes. If the player goes this route, their ELC starts next season.
Now, we can see if their schedules’ would allow them to come into the Canucks organization before years end.
For Gaudette and Northeastern, it seems possible. Northeastern has struggled this season and currently sits in 8th in the Hockey East Conference. Their regular season is set to conclude on February 25th, but all Hockey East teams qualify for the Championships, as outlined below:
All 12 teams will once again qualify for the 2017 Hockey East tournament, with the top four teams in the league standings enjoying a first round bye into the quarterfinals. Teams seeded 5 through 12 will face off in best-of-three series at the campus sites of the higher seeds (No. 5 hosting No. 12, etc.). Advancing teams will then be reseeded and will play best-of-three quarterfinal series on the campuses of the four highest seeded teams.
The four quarterfinal winners will be reseeded again as they advance to the TD Garden in Boston for the semifinals and Championship Game.
The championship schedule is:
Last season, Northeastern won the Hockey East title, thus qualifying for the Frozen Four (we’ll touch on that in a minute). But this season, they will likely be unable to replicate their run. It’s fair to believe their season will be over on the weekend of March 3-5. An example of a player leaving at that time is Andrew Poturalski, who signed with Carolina on March 8th, after the University of New Hampshire’s season finished.
Once Northeastern’s season ends, the Canucks can sign Gaudette.
There is a possibility to more games, which I will cover in the Boeser part.
Boeser’s schedule is a little more complicated.
The University of North Dakota plays in the eight-team NCHC, with all the teams making it to their Championships. Their opening round is the following weekend from Hockey East, on March 10-12th. North Dakota currently sits 5th.
The NCHC Frozen Four goes from March 17-18th in Minnesota. So it’s entirely possible that Boeser and UND will still be playing until then.
Here’s where things get a little complicated.
If UND does win the NCHC Championship, they will automatically earn a berth in the NCAA Frozen Four, which takes place the following weekend. The qualification process is outlined below:
That same logic applies to Gaudette and Northeastern, but they obviously have a tougher road.
Back to Boeser, the wrinkle here is that the NCAA has chosen North Dakota as the West Regionals host. Furthermore, the six conference champions qualify for regionals and then the top 10 teams that did not win their respective conference.
At this moment, UND sits 16th in USCHO National Rankings.
Given that, and since they are hosting the regionals, it’s not crazy to conclude they will be playing then. If they can get through, then they would be playing in the Frozen Four from April 6-8th in Chicago. The Semi-Finals are on April 6th, with the winners playing for the title on Saturday, April 8th.
This would obviously apply to any NCAA free agent who may turn professional at the conclusion of their season.
The Canucks schedule in April is as follows:
So if North Dakota makes the NCAA Frozen Finals on Saturday, April 8th. There would be less than 24 hours to get him signed, fly him to Edmonton, and get him into the lineup.
It’s fair to believe that getting Gaudette into a game this season if they so choose wouldn’t be an issue. Unless Northeastern goes on a magical run, Gaudette’s season should be over sooner rather than later. If he so chooses, then the Canucks have all the options above to present to him. They can offer to get him into an NHL game right away, and offer the incentive of a burning a year of the ELC.
The same applies for the UFA seniors on Northeastern, Zach Aston-Reese and John Stevens, but that is a topic for another day.
Boeser presents an interesting case, as it’s fair to believe that the earliest his season will end, will be March 24th. That would give the Canucks plenty of time to get the young winger under contract and into some games. If the Canucks season doesn’t end in a playoff spot, having someone like Boeser to point to, would be a good PR move.
But if North Dakota does go on a run, it could complicate matters. I don’t think this ‘burning a year’ will be a deal-breaker in getting Boeser or Gaudette signed, but it could be something that makes it easier for the Canucks.
It’s good to see that aside from UND making the NCAA finals, the calendar shouldn’t get in their way.