Is Brock Boeser the light at the end of the tunnel?

It’s probably fair to say that I have been one of Jim Benning’s harshest critics here at Canucks Army. The tide turned for me almost two years ago with the extensions to Sbisa and Dorsett. Those signings were the canary in the coal mine, and it has felt like this team has been buried under a mile of rubble ever since.

But two weeks ago, I finally saw a glimmer of daylight.

The return on Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen at the trade deadline was some of Jim Benning’s finest work as the GM of the Vancouver Canucks. Finally, it looks like he might have started to dig up.

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Mind you, Benning’s performance that week had a lot of parallels to Donald Trump’s.


If you remember, Trump was widely lauded for his Joint Address to Congress on Tuesday, but by the weekend, reality had set in and expectations of a substantive change in direction had quickly come crashing back down to earth. The same was true for what some have dubbed ‘Tuesday Jim’, who walked back much of what he had said following the deadline, needlessly used up a contract spot on Zack MacEwen, and saw his coach cause a furor after pinning the flashy Goldobin to the bench against the Kings.

But that aside, acquiring Dahlen and Goldobin were definitely steps in the right direction and Benning deserves all due credit for coming out the big winner of this year’s trade deadline.

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And as we enter the NCAA and CHL signing season, there’s an opportunity to build on this momentum with another shrewd move or two. While they have recently signed UFAs Drew Shore from Europe and Jalen Chatfield from the CHL and are reportedly one of a handful of teams in on NCAA free agent Zack Aston-Reese, it is one of their own prospects that perhaps presents the greatest opportunity.

The expectation is that the Canucks are on the verge of signing Brock Boeser as soon as his NCAA hockey season ends.

Much has been made of the idea that one of the carrots that a team can dangle to entice an NCAA player to leave school and sign an NHL contract is the promise to play them in a game and thus “burn” the first year of the Entry Level Contract (ELC). However, I can find nothing in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that suggests they actually need to play in a game. Simply signing a contract for the current League Year should be enough to “burn” that first year, whether you play in a game or not. As Ryan pointed out in that piece, Boeser is 20 years old and does not need to play 10 games to avoid having the start of the ELCs slide a year:

Beyond that provision, there is nothing that says an entry level player needs to play any games in order for a contract to kick in. So when Boeser signs the Standard Player’s Contract, the determining factor will be whether it is dated for the current League Year, or next season, which starts on July 1:

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Regardless of whether it is necessary to actually play in a game or not, this is often seen as either (a) an enticement for teams to use to get players to leave school early, or (b) as leverage that players have over teams to force them to “burn” that first year, thus getting the player through that ELC and into their second contract a year faster. Either way, this is something that is often portrayed as benefiting the player.

However, there are a couple of mitigating factors here. First, other than top tier players that will command a hefty raise coming out of their ELC, getting to that second contract sooner rather than later might actually benefit the team in the long run. Heading into Restricted Free Agency as a 22 year old, with only two seasons to put together a pro resume that commands a big raise, it is much more likely that most players in this situation will wind up with smaller second contracts than if they were a year older and had three seasons under their belt. There are, of course, some downside risks to this course as well, and in the end it simply becomes a trade-off between more money sooner, or potentially more money later.

But one aspect of this situation that I haven’t seen discussed at all is the type of Restricted Free Agency that these players could wind up finding themselves in. And this is where perhaps Jim Benning has an opportunity to come out looking like a wily genius.

It has to do with a unique provision of the CBA that puts certain players in a bit of free agency limbo. Typically, when a young NHL player comes out of his ELC, he becomes a Group 2 Restricted Free Agent:

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However as you can see, to be eligible for Group 2, a player needs three years of pro experience, i.e. basically the length of their SPC, except that to count as a year of professional experience, they need to play at least 10 games in a given season. Notice that for 20 year or older players, the requirement is for 10 Professional Games. The distinction here is important. Professional Games are defined as follows:

So this would include any regular season or playoff games Boeser plays with Utica. But if Boeser were to sign his Entry Level Contract to take effect this season and he does not get in to at least 10 Professiona Games, he will be on a path to reaching the end of his three year ELC with only two years of professional experience.

This is exactly the situation that Johnny Gaudreau found himself in last summer. When he entered the league with Calgary, Gaudreau played in a single NHL game with the Flames and did not play for their minor league affiliate. As a result he did not qualify as a Group 2 Restricted Free Agent. Instead, he fell under section 10.2 (c) of the CBA , which is basically a catch-all for any players that don’t meet the Group 2 requirements:

This is by far the most restrictive non-contract status in the CBA. Not only do they not have Arbitration rights, they are not eligible for Offer Sheets from other teams. So in effect, they aren’t even “restricted” free agents. The team that owns their rights is the only team allowed to negotiate a new contract with them, provided they have tendered a Qualifying Offer. The only recourse left to the player in this situation is to hold out.

Going down this route gives the team holding the player’s rights pretty much all of the leverage when negotiating that second contract. And for a player with offensive upside like Brock Boeser, that leverage might just come in handy if he has any kind of immediate success at the NHL level. Burning that first year of his ELC without letting him get in on 10 games either with the Canucks or down in Utica is a relatively low-cost strategy that could help limit the cost of an early breakout season from Boeser.

There are a number of other factors at play with Boeser, including how long his NCAA season lasts, which depends a lot on whether North Dakota makes the Frozen Four. But even if North Dakota’s season outlasts the Canucks’ season, if Benning could still ink him to a deal and get him into between one and nine games with Utica, he could be setting himself up to have the upper hand in two year’s time.

And that would go along way to restoring confidence in his ability to effectively manage assets at the NHL level.



  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    This is the first compelling case I have seen so far to sign him to an ELC for this year. The idea that a 20 year old kid needs some kind of special prodding to sign a deal to play pro hockey above and beyond the maximum sized contract paying him nearly a million dollars per year, when the alternative is to go back to the dorms and risk a career ending injury in college when he can’t possibly get a bigger contract out of it, is just ludicrous.

    But if this helps to reduce his leverage after his ELC a little bit, it’s a decent manoeuvre. I don’t know that Boeser is going to make that much of a splash right away, but he’s definitely one of our best prospects so we have to hope so.

  • wojohowitz

    Benning has commented on burning a year. It`s a negotiating position and a reality that has to be factored in. For Boeser burning a year might be worth million of dollars later on as a free agent rather than completing university and then going to the highest bidder. I wonder what Jimmy Vesey would say about it.

    On top of that Boeser had a so so year. He was not the first line winger like the year before and he might still be having a wrist problem. I suspect he will sign and get his pro career started rather than return to UND.

    • DJ_44

      The comment about Vesey is not quite accurate, I think. He did not go to the highest bidder. The bid price was set at the max ELC; the term was two years; just what Nashville, and I am sure Buffalo, were offering.

      The difference is he could choose where he would go and spend is ELC/RFA years.

      Same with Auston-Reese this year.

      • wojohowitz

        A day later and I`m still wondering about this. If you take dollar amounts and term off the table then what`s left to entice? Location; Winter in Edmonton or Florida. Personnel: Play with McD or Shane Doan. Management; Babcock and 74 year old Lucky Lou in Toronto or Tippett and 27 year old Chayka in the desert. Vesey goes to Manhattan and Caggiula goes to Edmonton. So what are the variables?

  • TD

    I’m not a big fan of leverage. Having the hammer over Boeser in two years and forcing him to take below market value will only cause ill will and could lead to a trade being demanded or an early free agent exit. I like having cost controlled players, but solid relationships are more important. Until the hole in the CBS gets fixed, burning the first year of NCAA players ELC is just the cost of doing business.

  • Whatthe...

    “The tide turned for me almost two years ago with the extensions to Sbisa and Dorsett. Those signings were the canary in the coal mine, and it has felt like this team has been buried under a mile of rubble ever since.”

    I will never understand the above attitude regarding these two signings. Canucks Army et al. act as if Benning signed these two players in an attempt to finalize a Stanley Cup contender. Sbisa is a place holder (and now an expansion draft option whose contract expires after next year) and Dorsett is a vet with a superior work ethic who offered some protection for the young players (he is signed for two more seasons after this one at only $2.5M). Neither contract impacts the team financially and Benning’s draft picks/signings/trades are now starting to supplant Sbisa.

    The intense focus on moves like these does not provide a persuasive argument against Benning’s plan. The rebuild was going to take some time regardless and no one has a guaranteed blue print. If in two years (after this one) the team is still not making the playoffs (or the prospects are failing) then you can claim victory…but in my opinion there will be egg on a lot of bloggers’ screens.

  • Ronning4ever

    “The tide turned for me almost two years ago with the extensions to Sbisa and Dorsett.”

    Here’s the problem. Those have not turned out to be bad signings. Sbisa hasn’t been any worse than what we have, and while some consider the defence to be “an area of strength” I think it’s clear that the weakest part of the Nucks.

    Dorsett is a plug. But whatever. He hasn’t taken anyone else’s spot, and the Canucks aren’t buried in salary hell at the moment. Cap space hasn’t been an issue for the team since the Gillis days.

    Benning has had more winnings (2014 draft, Miller, Granlund, Baertschi 2017 deadline) than losses (Sutter, Gudbranson, Garrison, 2016 deadline).

    • Chris the Curmudgeon

      You’re going to give him the 2014 draft, where we ended up with Virtanen over Nylander/Ehlers and McCann over Pastrnak? I’m sure not, even if he did hit on a few players later on.

  • Roy

    So we didn’t get Aston-Reese. The Penguins got him (I thought Edmonton or Calgary were a good bet). Is that a comment on Boeser? Did the Canucks “go after” (heavy quotes) Aston-Reese to let Boeser know he isn’t the only NCAA forward prospect out there. Also, random question, are AHL players or Juolevi exposed in the expansion draft? I would really, really, really love to read about the detailed mechanics of the upcoming expansion draft and what exactly we stand to lose as a team. *HINT*

    • Dan B

      1st and 2nd year pros are exempt. A overseas pro season doesn’t count if it’s before a player’s first contract. So Tryamkin, despite playing in the KHL before coming here, is still a 2nd year pro. Some AHL players are exempt, some are not, it depends on how long they’ve been in the AHL. You can have a look at Capfriendly to see each player’s status. Juolevi is a 0th year pro, since he’s still in Jr. The Sedins and Errikson have to be protected since they have NMC. The general consensus is that Sutter, Baertschi, Horvat, Granlund, Edler, Tanev, and Gudbranson will be protected. The most likely candidates for selection are Sbisa and Gaunce. This is pretty good news, since our worst-case scenario is losing a 3rd pairing defensemen or a young 4th-liner with 3rd-line potential. And it could get even better – Sbisa and Gudbranson could be packaged for a better defenseman that another team can’t protect. (That team would lose someone they would have lost anyway, Vegas would take Gudbranson, and that team would still have Sbisa instead of nothing.)

  • Bud Poile

    Granlund for Shinkaruk
    Baertschi for a 2nd
    Sutter (Bonino) /Sbisa/Mcann (now Gudbranson) for Kesler’s one team trading partner.All three are tradeable assets.
    Goldobin for NMC Hansen
    Dahlen for NTC Burrows
    Tyramkin 3rd round pick
    Boeser 23rd pick
    Demko second round pick
    Gaudette fifth round pick
    Stecher F/A
    Juolevi, Virtanen, Lockwood, Brisebois, Neill

    Benning inherited 10 NTC’s,Hutton,Gaunce and Bo after six Gillis draft years and has had 2 .75 years to fill two teams with players n prospects.

    Boeser’s signing will mark yet another realised Benning asset to become a Canuck but there is this long list of picks and prospects,already.Benning has had to reconstruct the base of the franchise in a couple of years and the compete level has also been there
    each year.

    • Braindead Benning

      Benning has had to reconstruct the base of the franchise in a couple of years and the compete level has also been there
      each year.

      Yes the compete level for the most part has been there but the standings and other metrics dont lie.

      Next year will and should be the epitome of the JB “rebuild”in regards to where this team will be going forward.

        • Braindead Benning

          ??? Gillis again… I still don’t comprehend what MG has to do with this beside your hatred of him…the fact of the matter he always picked 20th and over (besides his first year)

          if you want to continue the comparisons then come back and boast when JB and CO. Get 2 presidents trophys and 7th Stanley cup deciding game.

          • Bud Poile

            6 Gillis years.
            6 picks in the first round (after losing Schneids) .Only Bo plays NHL hockey.
            6 Gillis drafts and he kept 3 second rounders.None play NHL hockey.
            6 Gillis drafts and he lost 3 third rounders. Only Connauton plays NHL hockey.
            He never played one game for us as he was traded with a second for 12 games worth of Derek Roy.
            Hutton and Gaunce are the only current NHL’er Gillis has on this roster from rounds 4 through 6 over 6 NHL drafts.
            3 Gillis picks over 6 drafts that Benning inherited.

            Benning’s first draft year he pulled five players that have or will play NHL hockey.
            Benning’s second draft looks like he pulled five players that could play NHL hockey:
            Benning’s third draft it is too early but looks like he has pulled three NHL players.

            The real fact of the matter is glaringly obvious.

          • pheenster

            Gillis did a great job building a team that got within one game of winning it all. Gillis did a horrible of job of building a team that came within one game of winning it all while keeping one eye on the future. He overpaid hideously in most of his major deals (members of #teamgilly give Benning endless hell for the Sutter trade but never mention the abberation that was the Ballard deal – hey let’s massively overpay for a player that the coach doesn’t like and won’t play) and his drafting record is by any measure atrocious, especially in the first round no matter where he was picking.

            The way I kind of look at it, Gillis was given an endless credit limit – “hey, if all you need to win a Cup is a book of matches and you have to buy a $3-million book of matches, do it” – and if they had won Game 7 we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But they didn’t, we are and while he might have done a passable job as a Win Now guy, he did a lousy job as the steward of the future of the organization. In that regards, Benning has passed him in pretty much every category.

        • Pat Quinn Way

          “This is a team we can turn around in a hurry” – Benning

          “Bud has generally served to make the comment section an unwelcoming place not just for the authors but also for a lot of the commenters as well. – Jackson McDonald

          move along now Bud – nothing for you to see here.

    • Freud

      I awoke to groundhog day. A simple minded response to a complex question and a lazy list. Bud, you need to go down to the minors and work on your game, you are in over your head here.

    • Seth

      As much as I had liked most of those you listed as astute moves, alot of them the jury are still out on.

      However you have omitted the giving away of Gustav Forsling for Adam Clendening, which in retrospect was a bad move.

      Gillis has had some of this franchise’s bad draft years, but we will have to see how many games played in the show that Benning picked before stating that he is that much better yet.

      My biggest issues with Benning is his ability to re-sign players but overpaying them for potential (Gillis and Gilman were good at giving cap friendly deals to Hansen and Burrows as examples).

  • Braindead Benning

    IMO, NO… he is not the light at the end of the tunnel as “perhaps” suggested unless he turns into the second coming of Ryan Kesler?

    He is clearly a high prospect in the organization that would have looked really good playing RW on a line with a player like Tkachuk…Joulevi has potential however, MT has exactly what this current Canuck team clearly needed.

  • TheRealPB

    While you still couldn’t avoid the snark, this is by far the best article you’ve posted in a long long time. This is a really interesting take on the pros and cons of signing Boeser early. I think it would be best for his development to likely sign and either play in a third line role or — ideally — in the AHL. I was wrong about that with Stetcher though; I thought he’d need at least a year as a pro in the minors before maybe making the jump. He’s surpassed and supplanted Subban on our depth chart; not sure who Boeser would replace immediately. Better not to have him collapse in under the weight of saviour expectations; it would be good to have a solid learning experience for a cohort of prospects in Utica. That would be the next thing that I’d hope the management here focuses on. They’ve done a pretty solid job of drafting and now some trades for prospects as has been noted. But I think the attention has to turn to Utica as I don’t think Travis Green is necessarily the best down there. For all the criticism of WD, Green hasn’t exactly produced a lot of NHL-ready players. The young players who’ve succeeded outside of Gaunce have really been developed in Vancouver, not Utica.

    • Dirty30

      While the ideal situation would be a pool of prospects learning together in Utica, the reality is they are playing together in Vancouver. Brock would likely get some very challenging on the job training with the big club, and there would need to be some organizational shift in thinking to facilitate “learning to win” over “make a mistake and you’re benched.”

      I was actually a bit shocked to read in the Province that JB talks with WD every day and that Willie is now “on board” about development over trying to make the playoffs.

      It’s too bad management won’t make the obvious decision to let Green go, send WD to the minors and hire a new coaching team to implement systems that work. It’s disingenuous to talk about developing a winning environment using systems ranked in the bottom of the league and then blame the players for not being in shape or defensively responsible for not making the playoffs.

      Time to dump the plodders and develop systems and players that work successfully together. There is some offensive potential in Goldy and Boucher — put them on the PP … it can’t get any worse than it is now.

      • Chris the Curmudgeon

        Agree with everything you write, except for the notion that Willie would accept a demotion to the AHL. I think the only option is to fire him too and start fresh at both levels.

    • Chris the Curmudgeon

      Agreed, I never understood why there seems to be such a “next one” attitude towards Travis Green as a possible NHL coach. The Comets are shockingly inconsistent, he greatly prioritizes AHL vets over prospects and Gaunce is the only guy to actually graduate to any significant role in the NHL after being “developed” by him, and he’s still a bit of a fringe player at present. What’s to like, exactly?

  • Jabs

    The extensive commentary at the beginning lost me on this article. What a hack job by a hack writer. Why the alias anyway? Is it so your mommy doesn’t come downstairs and spank you for being bad to the Canucks?

  • Naslund

    Boeser is unlikely to be the “light at the end of the tunnel”, but another cliche may better describe him; he may be the icing on the cake. It’s best to build a team from the goalie out. Demko may be the goalie of the future; he looks better now. Juolevi, Stecher, Tryamkin, and Hutton, provide hope for the D, but I still think they will need a stud Norris caliber guy in there to win the cup. Next is centre, and although Horvat looks good, I still think he will end up being a very good second line centre. Gaudette, if the Canucks are lucky, will reach the same level. Scoring wingers are the last concern when building a team. With Boeser, Goldobin, Dahlen, Baertschi, Granlund, and whoever else may emerge, they should be fine at wing. What they really need is a superstar D or a superstar centre, which certainly makes Canucks fans wonder why they are trying so hard to distance themselves from the chance to get Nolan Patrick.

  • wojohowitz

    Five articles yesterday and none today and today is the big news. Benning says; `Reality steps in`, `Willie on side`, `Time to play the kids`. Thirteen games left in the season and Benning just woke up. Is Willie really on side or is Megna still the goto guy. After saying that they send down Grenier with no callups. Where`s Subban and McEneny/ Lets have a look.

    • #29JackMack

      These articles are thought provoking but how can these authors claim to have expertise in judging talent (i.e. Zach McEwan) then the actual scouts who view these players for a living. You really lose credibility when you use your “analytics” to project a player you may have seen on TV a couple of times. A few guys are late bloomers and worth the risk (or lack of risk) of a ELC. Looking forward to the day that McEwan plays his first NHL game so the author can look in the mirror.

      • Pat Quinn Way

        “This is a team we can turn around in a hurry” – Benning

        “Bud has generally served to make the comment section an unwelcoming place not just for the authors but also for a lot of the commenters as well. – Jackson McDonald

        Go away bud/crofton – you are pathetic.