Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag Part 2: Logos, Bad Contracts, and “Stealth Tanking”

Not much, I’d imagine. They’ll still have a good farm system, and if Quinn Hughes has another good season that should drum up some good will for the organization. They’ll also have the draft and the prospect of drafting a future cornerstone in front of the home town fans. That’s not nothing, but as far as the big club is concerned hope will be pretty scant if Elias Pettersson sputters out of the gate and Brock Boeser takes a step back.

I’m going to sound like a broken record answering questions about the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. It’s just too early to make even so much as an educated guess. Fifth overall seems high for Philip Broberg for my liking at this stage, but who knows?

I have no idea. It’s always been strange to me. For the optimists among us, the prospect of a sub-par management group is infinitely more preferable than meddling or incompetent ownership. And even if ownership is unfair or impatient, it doesn’t excuse poor decision-making in the process of executing their vision. No owner in the league is going to their general manager to demand they spend $12 million on Jay Beagle, regardless of how they feel about the team’s competitiveness.

I don’t know any of the players personally and haven’t spoken to them, so I can only speculate that most players just want to explore the widest possible variety of options and go with the one that’s best for them. The NCAA offers different opportunities and experiences than the CHL and vice-versa. For some players, the possibility of gaining an education might seem more palatable than sticking around in the CHL for two or three years playing against younger competition. In other cases, players might realize they’re only a year or two away from pro and would rather play closer to the city they’ll soon be living in. It’s tough to say. Both leagues offer different advantages and disadvantages, and players are allowed to change their minds.

Generally, I think the “stealth tank” is a myth. If you’re looking to tank but you don’t want to be open and up front about it, you sign players to cheap one or two-year deals. What you don’t do is sign a lot of veterans for significant money and term. For better or worse, Jim Benning wants the team to be competitive and thinks the signings will help the team achieve that goal.

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It can be hard to predict the trade market. I’d have thought a player like Jeff Skinner could have fetched a better haul from the Sabres than what Carolina was able to get in return, for example. So it’s difficult to say what the price would be for Nurse, especially given the fact that Peter Chiarelli’s record has been spotty at best when it comes to player transactions. I’m inclined to believe the Canucks would be better off building through the draft and holding on to the assets they have than trying to find a shortcut, but obviously if it’s something they should explore if he’s available for the right price.

The best part of next season will be getting to watch Elias Pettersson on North American ice against pro competition. The Canucks haven’t had such a highly-touted rookie in their lineup since the Sedin twins, and keeping tabs on him will be interesting if nothing else. The worst part is going to be the likelihood that the team is unable to score for a good 30-40 minutes a night with both Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle getting significant minutes at even-strength.

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You’re correct, Nikolay Goldobin will require waivers next season. Unfortunately, I think this is a bit like the Frankie Corrado situation from a few years ago in that while there will certainly be teams interested in taking a chance on him if he ends up on waivers, there probably isn’t much interest on the trade market. Hopefully he can play well enough to earn a regular spot on the team and they won’t have to explore a trade. If there isn’t room for him, getting something back would be preferable to losing him for nothing.

Supposedly the Stars were reluctant to include Miro Heiskanen in a trade with the Senators for Erik Karlsson, so I’d assume the Canucks aren’t getting him regardless of what they give up or what they’re willing to take back. Taking on Jason Spezza’s contract would be a worthy option to explore, though.

I’d imagine it’s a decision made collectively between ownership, management, and whoever is in charge of graphic design and marketing. Generally, introducing a new third jersey or a change to the primary jerseys is a way of generating extra revenue.

Stranger things have happened, but I’d imagine Travis Green would be reluctant to put three mostly unproven youngsters on a line together. If Pettersson is as good as we think he is and Goldobin takes a step forward, it might work.

I think it was a couple years ago that Jason Botchford included an anecdote about Jim Benning’s attitude towards acquiring bad contracts. It was something to the effect of “why would I trade for a bad contract when I could just use my cap space on free agents?”. I don’t think the issue is that a deal hasn’t been presented to the Canucks. It’s more likely that that reluctance stems from something else. Perhaps they’re reluctant to spend money on players who won’t be on the active roster, or perhaps the deals haven’t been attractive enough to justify taking on dead weight. It’s a shame they haven’t been able to make such a deal thus far, they could use the additional assets.

  • Sandpaper

    In regards to Tkachuk, he may just want to get a season under his belt with more games, similar to what the nhl plays.
    I believe any Jersey change or added, has too be approved by the league.
    Agree with your opinion on building through the draft, it is a longstanding proven way of having solid teams. Going back to the 70s, Canadìens, Islanders and Oilers of the 80s, Penguins of the 90s and of course more recently.
    You also have New Jersey, Detroit and Colorado that were built mostly because of their drafting.

  • Bud Poile

    Jay Beagle is one of the very best defensive centers in the league.
    Lots of teams wanted him.
    The Canucks offered an extra year.
    The Canucks two best centers went down with injuries and with them the season.
    Beagle is great insurance and gives Bo far more offensive opportunities.
    Bo and Hank pretty much sucked defensively so large hole filled with a #1 defensive center.

    • apr

      I will hold stead fast that Canucks were surprised what teams were willing to offer for Brandon Sutter, and that signing Beagle gives the team and the kids cover for the inevitable Brandon Sutter trade at the TDL.

      • bobdaley44

        With all that depth up the middle lets trade Sutter. Horvat, Beagle and Gaudette will put fear in opponents. Canucks can’t afford to trade any centers until Pettersson takes the reigns or they get a center back in trade. Theres a reason teams coveted him.

        • argoleas

          Sutter will likely be traded, and Canucks will go forward with Pettersson, Horvat, Gaudette, and Beagle as their spine. But as you point out, that will not happen until both Pettersson AND Gaudette show they are ready to primetime. That may actually take as long as Sutter’s entire remaining term. I would bank more on middle ground – 2020 TDL, just in time for Seattle expansion.

  • canuckfan

    We haven’t had a great all rookie line since Smyle, Gradin and Fraser they were really fun to watch. I hope that in preseason at least Green tries a few all rookie combinations out like Gaudette, Pettersson and Dahlin.

  • Beer Can Boyd

    What do you honestly think Dallas would give them to take on Spezza’s contract?Probably a 2nd rounder, with Dallas sure to rebound this year? So, to acquire a pick in the 40’s or 50’s for 7.5 million $, thats considered good management these days? Ridiculous.

      • Beer Can Boyd

        Well, I didn’t like either of those deals either. But no use throwing good money after bad. And honestly, how many points would Spezza get as a Canuck this year?

    • Puck Viking, I’m not sure these things are related…

      I’ve seen a lot of people pontificate about how much Dallas would be willing to pay to get out from under Spezza’s contract, and most of them seem to ignore the fact that this year is the last on Spezza’s deal. If Dallas isn’t taking a swing at a big free agent signing, why would they pay to get out from under it at all? Just suck it up and over-pay Spezza as the team’s 3rd line centre this year and then it’s over, without giving up any assets.

      • Puck Viking

        I agree, but if we could get spezza and a 2nd for nothing why not do it? The point is we waste cap space and real dollars on terrible players so why not get picks to rebuild at the same time. But this would have only worked with tavares going to dallas at this point its not happening.

        • apr

          If the Nucks are going to be terrible anyway, I can’t see any business willing to eat $7.5 million just to get a draft pick. The Leafs, and only the Leafs, could have eaten the uninsured Horton contract. Given how much this owner is pining to get into the playoffs, so he can clear $2-3 million per game – I just don’t see any scenario where management would go up to FA (or any owner outside the Leafs) and ask to eat millions for a draft prick. Its like going to a wing night for 10 cent wings, and have the place triple the price for beers. As a wing and beer loving guy, that’s pretty stupid.

      • DJ_44

        @Goon — exactly this. A second rounder? I cannot recall a deal where a bad contract was traded for a second rounder, let alone a serviceable third line centre on an expiring deal. Dallas has not reason to give up anything. If Spezza was moved, it would have been an addon to a larger trade (like 95% of the bad contract swaps. If Spezza has a bit of resurgence, he may actually be worth a mid-round pick at the deadline.

        The entire idea of “weaponize the cap space” by taking on bad contracts is miscast by those that think it works. It has not proven very fruitful, with only one or two deals even coming close to being valuable. Better to overpay and then flip useful free agents, while retaining salary. Higher value of assets in return and no contract/buyout slots are occupied.

      • Dahlenfan

        That would make a lot of sense. Bite the bullet for another year and be done with it. Next years UFA market is supposedly good as long as they don’t sign with their team that is

    • Dan the Fan

      Spezza is still a serviceable 3rd line c. Probably worth about 4m. So really, the overpay is about 3.5m in extra money to get a draft pick. You can only count the full 7.5m as the draft pick cost if Spezza was going to play in the minors, or basically provide zero value to the team.

      Personally, I’d rather overpay the dollars for Spezza for a year to be a 4th line C, (if he came with a second round pick,) than sign Beagle for 12m for 4 years.

      Spezza buys the team a year to find out if EP and AG can cut it as NHL centers. If EP and/or AG don’t work out, then look for another stopgap center after Spezza’s contract is up. (And if the Canucks finally win the draft lottery, then ‘problem solved’)

      I think he would have been perfect for the Canucks this year.

  • TheRealPB

    The thing I don’t understand about ‘weaponizing’ cap space is why this is a legitimate way to game the system but we’ll still get screwed if Luongo retires early. I know most of the GMs hated Gillis but this seems totally unfair. Most of the teams that seem to ‘weaponize’ the cap need to use the (often not actual) money just to get to the cap floor (like Bolland and Hossa in Arizona).

    I also think that there’s a presumption that other teams want to do this for the Canucks but often there isn’t a desire to help out another team in your division or conference in this manner. I know there’s an assumption that the Canucks don’t WANT to do this but I am not sure there’s proof that it’s as easy to do as some people think.

    • LTFan

      RealPB – agree with the acquiring of other teams contracts – a way to get around the rules. It isn’t all that easy to do – there are many moving parts in running a professional sports organization. Every team is looking for an “angle” to improve their roster at little cost in money and/or players.

      • Puck Viking

        both the deals that were done this year would have helped this team, we could have used the players and picks got back and you cant say that we wouldnt have benefited

        • TheRealPB

          It’s not my money, so I guess it comes down to whether or not the real money owed Mason and Hossa is worth Hinoztroza, Armia and a 3rd, 4th, and 7th. It probably is — I think only $5 million owed to the two of them, which we could easily absorb for the next couple of years. But it’s not a king’s ransom (two decent prospects and some lottery tickets) that it’s sometimes made out to be.

    • Macksonious

      An article in the Province newspaper by Patrick Johnston on Dec 9, 2016 displays the potential cap recapture penalty that the Canucks could pay if Luongo retires early. These numbers were supplied by a James Mirtle tweet:

      2018 $2,130,093 / 4 years
      2019 $2,840,124 / 3 years
      2020 $4,260,186 / 2 years
      2021 $8,520,373 / 1 year

      Understandable why they might be hesitant to take on bad contracts.

      • The smart thing for the Canucks to do would be to trade for Luongo when he’s ready to throw in the towel, and put him on the injured reserve for the remainder of his contract. Then Florida/Florida’s insurance doesn’t have to pay him, and Vancouver can avoid the recapture penalty.

        • Macksonious

          Here’s Florida’s cap recapture penalty, as shown in the same article:

          2018 $1,453,240 / 4 years
          2019 $1,287,209 / 3 years
          2020 $73,147 / 2 years
          2021 $0 / 1 year

          Could be a smart move, depends on what Florida would want in return.

      • I’m pretty sure that Luongo will just go on LTIR if he can’t play anymore, just like everyone else. If he retired at the end of this season and went on LTIR, then he collects $1M in salary for the remaining 3 years. Retirement means he forfeits $3.7M that he would have received for nothing.

    • Puck Viking

      jb is going to say what he can to keep his job. at the end of the day he is the least forward thinking gm in the league. he flat out doesnt get it, just look at his ufa signings over the last 4 yreas.

      • PQW

        Bang on viking… let’s see

        aside from Boeser clown Benning signs/overpays/over terms the likes of – Nilsson (sabres cast off) Gagner, Slugbranson, Sutter, Beagle, Shaller, Roussel, Leipsic and 7 mill per for 6 years with a NTC – Loui Erikkson… and then there is NO OVERHAUL of the worst D in the league the past three years!

        menwhile here is fellow bottomfeeder Buffalo under mastermind rookie gm Jason Botterill –
        Sheary 26 (speedy 2 time cup winner), Skinner 26 (30 plus scorer), Scandella 28 (solid aggressive powerhouse shutdown D) , goalie Hutton (2.09 gaa, .931 sv), Scott Wilson 25 (versatile speedy cup winner), Dahlin (18 elite generational D), Middlestadt 18 (outstanding centre talent) and quality depth in Sobotka, Berglund, Okposo plus THREE first round picks in next years stacked draft.

        THIS is how you turnaround a loser guys…see Benning for how you DON’T. No wonder Trevor bailed. Keep sucking on the sour grapes blowhards.

  • neal

    Building through the draft has indeed been the way to build a solid club for the future.
    Overpaying fourth liners to long term just delays the process.
    Squeaking into the playoffs for short-term revenue at the risk of losing future prospects is ludicrous.

    • Defenceman Factory

      Please explain how overpaying for 4th liners delays building through the draft. On and on people go about how terrible Beagle is. How is he going to make a difference on whether the Canucks make the playoffs?

      Signing 4th liners for too much may be a waste of money but I don’t see it having much impact on the future and it sure isn’t getting the Canucks to the playoffs and the Canucks have been clear it wasn’t intended to.

    • bobdaley44

      They have been building through the draft. You also need to ice a competitive team. I don’t see any hold overs from last year that can play the role the UFA signings will. These guys are competent veterans who know what their role is not to mention bringing some much needed physicality. Far too many nights last year they got pushed around. Lose for a few more ping pong balls? Give me a break. Not a team I’d want to play on. Good luck signing UFAs with a losing program.

  • bushdog

    hoping you will address this. when an nhl player signs with a european team who pays the salary? is this just a nice way of saying ‘retired’ or is it a cheap way to get the last year/s of a contract off the books? are all or any of these people free agents? i’m seeing a flood of players going overseas recently and i don’t understand how it works. i’m told that teams have a limit on how many they can sign as well. a draft pick stays in europe, who pays? is there a transfer fee involved in this stuff? i’ll take links lol…just want to understand

  • RE: Bellows and Cholowski. They actually took the same path and moved to WHL after one year in college. Cholowski to Prince George (later traded to Portland, ttl 69 gp, 14g, 52a) and Bellows to the Winterhawks (56 gp, 41g, 33a).