This past weekend the Canucks signed Jayson Megna to a one-year, one-way contract extension for next season.
I theorized on Twitter, as many others have, that there were expansion draft related reasons behind it. The Canucks need to ensure that they have two players that meet the exposure requirements:
There had been rumblings that Derek Dorsett wasn’t going to meet the requirements as he’s sat with a neck injury for most of the season. But it would’ve required the injury to be considered ‘career-threatening’ to be excluded from the expansion draft. Jason Botchford confirmed with Canucks management that Dorsett is expected to make a return, and will count towards the required exposure thresholds.
Megna meets the requirements, so the Canucks are now meeting these thresholds without any issue. The Canucks could’ve also achieved this by signing pending RFA’s Reid Boucher, Joseph Cramarossa, Michael Chaput or Brenden Gaunce to a new contract.
Now, about that Gaunce who is heading for restricted free agency…
Currently out of the lineup with an injury, he is one of the players analysts often forecast the Vegas Golden Knights as perhaps having interest in drafting. Obviously, every team is going to lose a player through the expansion draft, but it’s important for a team like the Canucks to direct the Golden Knights towards a player they feel is most expendable.
Gaunce has shown well at the AHL level through years of development within the organization. Despite not scoring a goal this year, he’s kept his head above water in a ‘shutdown’ role on the fourth line. Obviously, losing Gaunce isn’t going to be a huge impact to the organization, but still, a player that Canucks management might be loathed to lose.
With Megna signed, he meets the exposure requirements, making Gaunce just another player within the exposed list. Furthermore, there is an important rule for the Golden Knights when it comes to selecting players:
With Gaunce a pending RFA, without a contract for next season right now, he would fall into the category of a *maximum of 10 players that are without a contract for the 2017-18 season. It’s not a huge difference, but it is something that does play into consideration.
To retain Gaunce’s rights, the Canucks can provide him with a qualifying offer prior to the deadline, then wait to sign him to a new contract after the expansion draft or after July 1. This is fairly standard practice, so the suggestion isn’t outlandish.
By doing so, it forces Las Vegas to use a 10/30 spot instead of the 20/30.
All of this is to say that it makes Gaunce a slightly less desirable choice for Las Vegas for the reasons below:
- Gaunce hasn’t scored this year
- Returning from an injury
- Las Vegas would need to negotiate a new contract, uncertain of cost/expectations
- Using 10/30 unsigned spot instead of 20/30 signed spot
There is only so much the Canucks can do to help make Gaunce a less desirable selection as they wouldn’t be wise to use a protection spot on him, unless you are part of the #exposesutter movement. But this appears to be the best way possible to direct the Golden Knights away from taking the young centre.
By deferring signing Gaunce to a contract until the summer, coupled with the reasons mentioned above, the Canucks give themselves the best shot at doing this.
Obviously, losing Gaunce in the expansion draft isn’t the end of the world. He fits the desirable age group the Canucks want to add, has shown well at the NHL and AHL level so far and likely still projects into being a serviceable, cost-controlled depth centre for the foreseeable future.
That’s likely why the Golden Knights management team would be interested in taking Gaunce if the opportunity is available to them.
If the Canucks can direct Vegas away from Gaunce and towards a higher salaried player like Luca Sbisa (or the aforementioned Sutter), then it would provide some beneficial results for Vancouver’s salary structure. I am not suggesting that it will work, but it’s worth a shot.
Expansion draft rules/images taken from here.