Photo Credit: Eric Hartline - USA TODAY Sports

The Canucks Army Free Agency Preview

It’s the start of a new league year, which can only mean one thing. The free agency frenzy is nigh upon us, and it’s about to get awful silly.

To what extent the Canucks will contribute to that silliness remains to be seen. If their last few cracks at the bat are any indication, take the under.

The Canucks have as much capital at their disposal as they’ve had in what feels like ages. What they don’t have are any pressing needs that they can address in a meaningful way through free agency — or any they should try to address in that fashion, anyway.

The calibre of player that can right the Canucks’ ship isn’t walking through that door. There are depth options aplenty, though. If the Canucks goal going into next season is to surprise the punditry that has already earmarked them for a last place finish, they’ve ample opportunity to help the cause. They just might add to their tradeable asset base, whether by design or otherwise.

With that, let’s set the stage for the Canucks as they embark on one of the spendiest, busiest days of the year.


Contracts: 34/50 (14 one-way Contracts and 20 two-way)

Salary Cap Outlook: $55,254,999 spent/$19,475,001 available

Restricted Free Agents: Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce, Reid Boucher, Michael Chaput, Joseph LaBate, Evan McEneny

Unrestricted Free Agents: Joseph Cramarossa, Jack Skille, Ryan Miller, Alexandre Grenier, Michael Zalewski, Michael Garteig, Borna Rendulic

Draft Pick Outlook: Canucks currently hold possession over all seven of their picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft

Trade Chips: Christopher Tanev, Alexander Edler, Erik Gudbranson, Jordan Subban

Team Needs: Depth defender(s), goaltender, centre depth

The Rumour Mill

The Canucks front office have been an active bunch this week, taking full advantage of the extra time allotted teams to express interest in uncertain terms about unrestricted free agents set for market.

So far, the list of players the Canucks have at least expressed a passing interest in includes: Michael Stone, Sam Gagner, Anders Nilsson, Lance Bouma, Stephane Da Costa, Michael Del Zotto, Jordan Weal, Paul Postma, Keith Kinkaid, Steve Mason, Dennis Rasmussen, Martin Hanzal, Alexander Burmistrov, Brandon Pirri and Mike Condon.

It sounds as though we can count the Canucks out on most of those names. To their credit though it sounds like they’ve identified a handful of players that fit specific niche roles and sound poised to put pen to paper on each as soon as they’ve the opportunity to do so.

It seems like the Canucks aren’t just looking at free agents as a means to build their roster. The Florida Panthers are shopping 29-year-old right-shot defenceman Jason Demers, and the Canucks have some level of interest according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

If the Canucks interest in Demers is sincere, this might be a move that, while at first appears counter-intuitive to their nominal rebuild, could make sense in the bigger picture.

Jason Demers was the Panthers second-best defenceman by GAR (Goals Above Replacement)

The Panthers are shedding salary at every turn. I might consider Demers fair value at $4.5-million for another four seasons, but it’s Panthers general manager Dale Tallon who has to justify cutting those cheques to ownership, and this isn’t even a player he signed. That Tallon protected four defencemen and Demers wasn’t one of them isn’t exactly a vote of confidence. I don’t think it unfair at this point to suggest the Panthers want a mulligan on this deal.

If the Canucks can get Demers for pennies on the dollar, that could free them up to explore the trade market for Chris Tanev or Erik Gudbranson. Better still, they can begin to entertain the notion that they can sustain the loss of either without immediate returns — something the Canucks brain trust can’t quite reconcile yet.

The Frontrunners

Sam Gagner

Industry insiders have connected the Canucks to free agent centre Sam Gagner all week long, and the team hasn’t exactly shied from those rumours. Canucks President Trevor Linden had this to say about the Canucks interest in pursuing the former Columbus Blue Jacket…

Gagner, 27-years-old, visited the Canucks this week, and every indication is the two sides hit it off. Certainly, that was the impression going into Friday. When TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that Gagner and the Canucks might have already agreed to a three-year pact, you knew it was real.

It’s not hard to see where the Canucks are coming from on this front. Canucks general manager Jim Benning seems to covet positional versatility, and Gagner provides that in spades — he can play any forward position relatively effectively. That Gagner is a right-shot makes him compatible with the Sedin twins on the Canucks power play, and they can point to the success he had on Columbus’ first unit as a proof of concept.

At the right cost, Gagner could prove a useful addition to the Canucks’ middle-six. And at just three years, he could prove a tradeable asset at some point down the road.

Michael Del Zotto

The Canucks seem poised to replace Luca Sbisa (who they lost in the Expansion Draft to the Vegas Golden Knights) with the addition of left-shot defenceman Michael Del Zotto. Perhaps upgrade is a more apt description of what’s at work here, though.

It sounds like Del Zotto is as good as signed. McKenzie’s report seems to suggest the Canucks have something in the works in the two-year range. No word on the value of any Del Zotto deal, but given the extent to which he struggled in Philadelphia last season, one would think he’ll come at a discount this time around.

For the Canucks, who’ve been especially toothless from the point, Del Zotto makes sense. As Satiar Shah suggested, Del Zotto steps into the Canucks’ lineup, and he’d immediately be their best offensive defender. He can be a fire drill defensively, but that’s the cost of admission.

Anders Nilsson

Of all the players the Canucks have been linked to this past week, I’m the most certain of their intent to sign Nilsson in the early hours of free agency. Everyone is at this point. Nilsson was among the first Ryan Miller alternatives the Canucks explored, and it sounds like they haven’t had to consider many other since.

According to Andy Strickland, Nilsson and the Canucks already have a two-year deal lined up. I’m hearing the cap hit will fall between the $2-3-million range, and the plan is to have Nilsson push Jacob Markstrom for starts.

Consistency has been something of an issue for Nilsson. At times, he’s looked like a bona fide starter; he’s also had his share of bad stretches too. Overall, I think he’s shown enough to warrant an extended look, and it sounds like the Canucks are all too willing to do just that.


  • Killer Marrnot

    So instead of losing to the Oilers and Flames this season with scores of 2-1 and 3-1, the focus seems more on 5-2s and 4-3s. That should put bums in seats.

    • Ragnarok Ouroboros

      I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that these signing will make the Canucks a Stanley Cup contending team, but I do think it improves the team over last year, and possibly gives the Canucks some trade chips at the deadline. Canucks won’t be contending for about 3-4 years.

  • Pat Quinn Way

    Well firstly, I can confirm that Jason Demers will not be coming to the Canucks. He’s used his modified ‘NoTrade’ clause to completely snub any trade to Vancouver.

    Anyway, the Linden and Benning clown show says we are shopping for a goalie, centre and (offensive) D-man… so
    Vancouver will sign the following uninspiring band aids
    G- Anders Nilsson
    D- Del Zotto
    C- Gagner

    Here’s who Vancouver ‘should’ be bringing in
    G – Grubauer (solid available UFA)
    D – Schultz or Shattenkirk (top end offensive D)
    C – Duchene (trade) or Bonino (lose Sutter, bring back the 2x SC champ mistake reversed)

    Guys, these are the kind of bold moves you make (like Calgary/Edmonton) when you have cap space to turn a team around, especially in the powerhouse Pacific, not putting cheap band aids on a gusher. Of course a gutless moron like Benning won’t do any of this, so we will continue to trend downwards.

    Happy Canada Day weekend windowlickers (but not so much so Canucks fans).

    • Dobtrov

      Del zotto has shown offensive upside in his career, how would any of these moves be bad???

      Depending on the term is all but don’t you think it be better to have more assets on a team and say gagner, del zotto have good years we can flip them at trade deadline?

      Trade for duchene?? Give them what juolevi and tanev + first round 2018 are you delosional??

      We all know their not gonna be a a cup winning team next year these would be good moves, not sure why they let hopeless fans like you on this page when all you do is whine and complain.

    • Whothesteal

      I can see Pat Quinn Way is writing his clueless garbage again. Love this guys I come here just to read his brainless ideas. So funny. Keep up the entertainment Pat. Van should not bring in any high price players over the age of 25 at this time in their rebuild. If they are going to trade for a top player like Duchene it should be a young player no older than 23.

  • canuckfan

    Signing Gagner, Del Zotto, and Nilsson would be decent and would still offer competition for roster spots from the younger players and the term listed would create opening for when the next generation is ready. Having players who have had success on the power play are desperately needed.
    We will be able to compete with Edmonton and Calgary no problem and if the 13 million dollar man in the Oilers jersey gets hurt they are toast.

  • andyg

    This is exactly what they need to do. Bring in some low cost fillers so the kids don’t need to be rushed. Become some what competitive but not too good. Keep cap room for signing their future stars and mayb pick up a few more draft picks.

    • Pat Quinn Way

      Yeah, the ticket buying public and season ticket holders who keep this sh^t shower going must be falling over themselves to ‘support’ this disgrace… but hey, we can’t rush four years of f^king draft picks can we. Idiot!

      Guys, Nick Bonino gone to the second best team in the league, the Preds… her are some great comments from Pens fans to YOU morons…

      ”Canucks fans would blindly laugh at any offer the Pens throw for any of their players. According to them, the Pens had to unload a really great 3C in Sutter! They’ll just fleece the Pens again! I’ll never get over how dumb those fans are. Never.”

      ”Remember when they said PIT wasn’t going to win the SC after the Bonino for Sutter trade?”

      Remember when they said Sutter would score 25 goals 50 points and shut down all the top players in the Pacific, and all the math that showed Sutter wouldn’t do a single positive thing for them was all wrong lol? ”

      ”Thanks for being awesome and the two back to back cups Nick Bonino”

      Guys…we are the laughing stock of the league… stop embarrassing yourselves and man up!

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    I would like to see the Canucks sign Jagr. His production has tailed off massively, but he is highly marketable and you would at least be getting ticket sales from the travelling Jagr’s. A Sedin, Sedin, Jagr line sounds nice doesn’t it?