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Which Of The Canucks’ RFAs Should Receive Qualifying Offers?

With most fans of the Vancouver Canucks giving up on their playoff dreams—and slipping directly into fantasies about uniting the Hughes brothers—it’s time to start looking at the team’s offseason to-do list.

After the excitement of hosting the 2019 NHL Entry Draft is complete, Jim Benning and Co.’s next task will be deciding which of their potential restricted free agents (RFAs) to qualify—and which to let loose to the wilds of unrestricted free agency.

First, we’ll take a look at the rules and regulations regarding restricted free agency and qualifying offers, and then we’ll examine which Canucks are worthy of receiving them.

Qualifying Offers, Explained

A player who finds themselves on an expiring NHL contract—while also being under the age of 27 and with less than seven years’ experience in the league—becomes a restricted free agent, meaning their current team retains somewhat exclusive rights to them. However, a team can only retain these rights by making a “qualifying offer” to that player.

Qualifying offers are one-year contracts at set amounts—100% of the player’s current contract if the amount is over $1 million per season, and a higher percentage if it’s less. These offers cannot be rescinded once made, and they must be made by the first Monday after the Entry Draft in order to retain a player’s restricted rights. That makes for a deadline of June 24 in 2019. If a team does not send a player a QO before the deadline, that player becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Once a qualifying offer is made, the player is free to accept and sign it. However, they aren’t obligated to—and the player and team can keep negotiating a different contract from there on out. All a qualifying offer does is lock a player in to restricted free agency.

Restricted free agents can sign offer sheets with other teams, but such signings require draft pick compensation. RFA players who have accrued four years of experience in the league—or less if they signed their first contract after the age of 20—are eligible to invoke salary arbitration, allowing for a third party to award them a contract.

The Potential RFAs

Brock Boeser

Age Position Games Goals Assists Points Qualifying Offer Arbitration Eligible?
22 RW 56 22 25 47 $874K No

The Canucks should start negotiating Boeser’s new contract as soon as the regular season concludes—if they haven’t already begun. If Boeser is still without a new deal when qualifying offers start being handed out, it’s probably not a good sign. Qualifying Boeser is a no-brainer, but signing him long before that point is a much better option.



Reid Boucher

Age Position Games (AHL) Goals (AHL) Assists (AHL) Points (AHL) Qualifying Offer Arbitration Eligible?
25 LW 48 27 28 55 $761K Yes

Boucher has been a valuable veteran for the Utica Comets these last two seasons, but it’s time to move on. Boucher deserves one last crack at the NHL, and it’s become apparent that he’s not going to get that in Vancouver. He’s also blocking the progression of a number of wing prospects—like Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich—down on the farm. It’s best for both the player and the organization if he’s allowed to test free agency.

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Thatcher Demko

Age Position Record GAA Save % Qualifying Offer Arbitration Eligible?
23 G 1-2-0 3.21 .895 $874K No

The question of what sort of contract Demko receives after his brief big league audition is an intriguing one, but it has little to do with his free agency status. Demko will obviously be qualified, though he’ll probably end up signing for a larger amount than his paltry QO.



Brendan Gaunce

Age Position Games Goals Assists Points Qualifying Offer Arbitration Eligible?
24 C/LW 3 1 2 3 $840K Yes

Gaunce is an interesting conundrum. His development seems to have plateaued at the AHL level, and his opportunity to catch on with the Canucks full-time may have already passed. That being said, he remains a (surprisingly) effective call-up and lends some much-needed depth to Utica’s middle, so he’s still worth keeping around—especially with no center prospects of note incoming next season.



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Nikolay Goldobin

Age Position Games Goals Assists Points Qualifying Offer Arbitration Eligible?
23 LW/RW 60 7 20 27 $874K No

There was some debate about Goldobin’s future with the team around the Trade Deadline, but that’s quieted down as the dynamic forward has finally begun to find consistency in his game. Deciding to qualify Goldobin is the easy part—determining whether he’s truly become a top-six forward, and is thus worthy of a lengthy contractual commitment, is trickier.



Markus Granlund

Age Position Games Goals Assists Points Qualifying Offer Arbitration Eligible?
25 C/LW/RW 64 9 10 19 $1.475mil Yes

Granlund is a useful player—able to play all three forward positions and on both special teams. However, his contract is also inflated based on past statistical performance and he’s found himself a healthy scratch of late. Said past stats also make Granlund a threat to receive a substantial arbitration award. With Tim Schaller still on the books, the Canucks can’t afford another expensive pressbox fixture, and so they can’t afford to qualify Granlund. Younger and cheaper options, like Zack MacEwen, will replace him.



Ben Hutton

Age Position Games Goals Assists Points Qualifying Offer Arbitration Eligible?
25 LD 64 5 15 20 $2.4mil Yes

Hutton’s development has tracked well over the last two seasons, and he now looks like a borderline top-four defender at the NHL level. Qualifying Hutton is an easy decision, but deciding how large and how long of a contract to offer him thereafter is perilous territory—especially given that he’ll be competing with Alex Edler, Quinn Hughes, and Olli Juolevi for ice-time next year. Hutton’s solid offensive totals and increased ice-time make him a candidate for arbitration.



Tanner Kero

Age Position Games (AHL) Goals (AHL) Assists (AHL) Points (AHL) Qualifying Offer Arbitration Eligible?
26 C 56 21 28 49 $840K Yes

Considering what the Canucks gave up to get Kero—Michael Chaput—he’s been a solid acquisition. Kero is having the best offensive season of his professional career, and he’s currently Utica’s best option down the middle. Unless Tyler Madden signs, the Comets won’t have added any centers of significance next year, so they’ll still need Kero’s services.



Yan-Pavel Laplante

Age Position Games Goals Assists Points Qualifying Offer Arbitration Eligible?
23 C 0 0 0 0 $874K No

It’s been a rough couple of seasons for Laplante. After being limited to just five AHL games in 2017/18, Laplante developed a severe infection after surgery. He’s been unable to return to hockey since, and the future of his career is in doubt. Sadly, the Canucks have no reason to qualify his contract.



Josh Leivo

Age Position Games Goals Assists Points Qualifying Offer Arbitration Eligible?
25 LW 37 9 6 15 $971K Yes

Add Leivo to the list of players that the Canucks will definitely qualify, but who almost certainly won’t accept their QOs. Like Goldobin, Leivo has been noticeably better since the Trade Deadline, but his middling offensive totals should preclude him from getting too sizeable a raise. Expect a short-term, low-cost deal for Leivo.



Tyler Motte

Age Position Games Goals Assists Points Qualifying Offer Arbitration Eligible?
24 LW/RW 67 7 7 14 $874K Yes

Motte has played well enough for the Canucks to qualify him, but his play doesn’t justify much of a raise—if any. Motte might just accept his qualifying offer, or something close to it, and that would keep him in the picture as a budget utility player—and one who can always be sent to the AHL if need be.



Derrick Pouliot

Age Position Games Goals Assists Points Qualifying Offer Arbitration Eligible?
25 LD 61 3 9 12 $1.1mil Yes

With the era of Quinn Hughes upon us and Olli Juolevi and Ashton Sautner waiting in the wings, it’s already questionable whether there’s any need for Pouliot on the roster next season. Pouliot’s abominable play this season further justifies the decision to jettison him, and the fact that the Canucks would have to qualify him for more than a million dollars really seals the deal. Pouliot’s days in Vancouver should be at an end.




  • Killer Marmot

    Motte has played well enough for the Canucks to qualify him, but his play doesn’t justify much of a raise—if any.

    Shut down players don’t get no respect. But given Motte’s ice time and deployment, his offensive stats are decent. Used differently he could hit 30 points a season. I say he gets a 50% raise.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Motte and Granlund are both hard working players that skate really well. The kind of players you need to protect a lead and check other teams top lines. We should sign them both.

    • Freud

      Good gawd. Stop. Motte and Beagle have been destroyed all year at 5 on 5. They are in the bottom 1% of the entire league in goal differential, scoring chance differential and possession. You can’t explain the evidence away with the weak and usual zone start/ competition excuse.

      You appear to have “shut down” and “cannon fodder” mixed up.

      Teams with shut down guys are in the playoffs. Teams with cannon fodder are last in the league in scoring chance differential.

      • Killer Marmot

        Shut down lines typically get matched up against the best players in the league. Given the role that Motte has been asked to play, his inoffensive centre (Beagle), and his ice time, 7 goals and 7 assists is not bad at all.

    • Dirk22

      This guy named McCann just put up his 13th point in 20 games with the Pens. He done that in a shut-down role and has gotten 35% offensive zone starts. Imagine if he got used differently hey KM?

      • DogBreath

        Glad to hear he’s getting his act together. That act apparently wasn’t appreciated too much around here when he was traded 3 years ago. Hopefully he can keep it up.

        • Dirk22

          You’re making the case that Motte’s numbers (which as far as goals for percentage and scoring chance percentage are among the lowest in the league) are due to his matchups. I’m showing you what it looks like when a player is actually excelling in that role ie. McCann who has a 35% offensive zone start percentage in PIT. If you think Motte has been an effective player you are simply ignoring evidence and/or have unbelievably low expectations for what bottom six players should look like.

          • Killer Marmot

            McCann’s performance in Pittsburgh so far has been exceptional, and not too many people saw it coming.

            But finding one exceptional case in the league over the span of 20 games and comparing it to Motte is cherry picking outrageously. You could make almost anyone’s game look deficient using that strategy.

          • Dirk22

            True it’s a small sample size but those are the expectations the Canucks should be reaching for if they ever intend to be elite.

            How about we compare Motte to the rest of the players in a similar role then….it’s not gonna go well. He’s very near the bottom in goals for percentage, shot percentage, scoring chance percentage…you name it.

          • Killer Marmot

            There are about 15 NHL forwards who have both (1) 50 or more games, and (2) a greater defensive-zone start percentage than Motte. Beagle is one of them, McCann is not.

            Motte is a dedicated shut-down player, fed a steady diet of faceoffs in his end and taking on the best lines in hockey. To compare him to typical players using standard metrics doesn’t work.

            In regards to that stuff about what the Canucks should be reaching for, that’s not the issue here. The only issue is whether Motte deserves a raise.

          • Dirk22

            It absolutely is an issue because if they want to improve they’re going to have to find better players. Re-signing players who are routinely outmatched on the ice isn’t the best strategy for a team looking to get better. Again, raise your expectations. They need to br better next year – how is that possible if you’re running out Motte, Erickson and Beagle again as your 4th line!?

  • apr

    I’d still qualify Pouliot and Granlund, and just not be shy losing them on waivers if sent to the AHL. Let’s face it, injuries always ravage this team – and there is simply not enough organizational depth. I would rather have experienced NHL’ers mentoring the kids in the AHL than guys who never have or will make it. That said, so long as they don’t block kids. There has to be a balance there.

    • I can’t imagine why anyone would want to qualify Pouliot. Surely there are better defensemen available this summer for under a million.

      I hear what you’re saying on Granlund, but I’d argue that the team has plenty of bottom-six depth. It’s the upper half of the forward corps that lacks depth.

    • Goon

      CA’s hostility to Granlund is a bit odd. He’s not great, but he’s not terrible, he’s versatile, and the Canucks have a serious lack of versatile depth forwards.

      • I don’t agree with the argument in the article. For $1.5M, I don’t think that’s an overpay for a player that can play any position and any situation and has no black marks against him. I don’t think one year of inflated goal scoring with the Sedins would be persuasive during arbitration. And if we have the false choice between geting rid of Schaller or Granlund, why wouldn’t you get rid of the older, more expensive, less versatile, less proven, and less tenured pending UFA (i.e. Schaller) to make room for MacEwen? I don’t get CA’s logic against Granlund.

          • I appreciate your replies to the comments, Stephan! Regarding Schaller, I don’t think one automatically needs to give up assets to get rid of players. We could easily bury Schaller in Utica (see if someone will pick him up on waivers) or attempt a lateral trade that could be more useful in Utica.

  • TheRealPB

    I’d agree with everything except Granlund and Gaunce. I’d hold onto Granlund. Gaunce gives it a good effort but is more of a tweener. I’d get qualify Granlund and get rid of Schaller.

    • If it’s true that teams were calling about Gaunce, it would make sense to qualify and trade him at the draft for the best draft pick you can get rather than letting him walk for nothing. That said, Gaunce still has a few more years of RFA and he does well in Utica so it’s arguable that having Gaunce as a depth call-up and Utica leader (he was captain of the Belleville Bulls for 2 seasons) is more valuable than a low draft pick.

  • Cageyvet

    I would definitely qualify Granlund as depth, and see if I could flip him for a draft pick of any kind, rather than just see him walk.

    I have been disappointed by his play this year, so it’s not that big a deal, he’s replaceable, but there is some value there we should try and utilize.

    Pouliot is one of those guys who just makes bad decisions. He has the skill-set to play in the league, but man, he just hesitates when the play requires Swift execution.

    He’s off-and-on for his actual defensive coverage, but the puck on his stick anywhere on our side of center makes for a nervous time for fans.

    Letting him walk is understandable, but signing and waiving him to Utica is an option. If someone claims him, so be it, if not then he’s handy on the farm and determines his own future from there.

    • MattyT

      Another joke poster with more faces than the Gastown steam clock guys…

      How do these clowns sleep at night after patting a player on the back with one hand and stabbing them in the back with the other…

      “Pouliot is dripping offensive skill on a team begging for a dynamic point man.” – Cageyvet

      Pathetic double-talk as usual from cagey.

      • Cageyvet

        That was when I had hopes for him, despite all the negativity about his defensive play, his first dozen games with us he was shockingly adequate behind the blue line.

        I’ve seen much more of him now, and since I’m not of your ilk and deal in the real world, I modify my opinions and move along.

        I have one account, and one personality, and those are just a couple of the fundamental ways you and I differ. You are everything that is wrong with this site. It’s fun watching you, at least, your neuroses have been on full display for a long time.

      • If you think this sort of commentary is supportive of the CA writers, it’s not. Nobody appreciates personal attacks.

        Here’s a brainwave for you: People can change their opinions over time, and that’s actually a good thing. If someone’s opinion on a subject never changes, that’s usually indicative of some unfortunate personality traits.

  • Goon

    It’s worth noting that a team can re-sign a player without tendering a qualifying offer, potentially for less than the QO. However, if the team and the player can’t come to an agreement, the player becomes a UFA. This may be an option for the Canucks when it comes to players like Granlund and Pouliot – players who are might be useful depth but who have not played well enough to earn a raise.

    • Funny you mention that, I briefly considered labeling Granlund as “DON’T QUALIFY, BUT NEGOTIATE.” Ultimately, I decided that clearing space up front was the way to go, but I can see arguments both ways.

      Pouliot I want nothing to do with moving forward.

  • Locust

    Good article – too bad it’ll be ruined in the comments by the trolls who are allowed to run this site.

    Don’t understand why the writers here don’t stand up for themselves.

  • LemonHart

    Don’t forget that they can only have so many contracts on the books, so someone has to go to make room for the younger guys. I’m assuming that one of those contracts that won’t be around next year will be Pyatt’s and of course DD comes off of the books too.

  • North Van Halen

    I agree with most of the posters, for $1.5 mil, a team that should be way under the cap, why not sign him and if he can help, great, if he becomes a Comet, that’s okay, if he get picked up on waivers, see ya no big deal, or best of all, if they can flip him for a draft pick or asset later, best case scenario. I don’t see any down-side to qualifying him.
    Pouliot on the other hand, the only reason to qualify him is if you think you can get an asset in return (and MDZ got a 6th & a 7th this year so it ain’t impossible) otherwise, thanks DP but no thanks.

    • I can see both sides of the Granlund debate. I think space needs to be made at forward, and he’s the easiest way to do that. If you could ditch Schaller instead, obviously you do that, but who’s taking Schaller at $1.9 million?

      Honestly, with MacEwen and potentially a 2019 draft pick joining the forward corps, you might want to move both.

      • North Van Halen

        Fair enough but unless Benning does something crazy and signs Myers, Simmonds & Ferland (please god none of the above) money won’t be an issue, no sense giving away a free asset. Sign him and look to move him or, failing that, keep him in the minors until you can. Bury Schaller too. Stockpile assets for trades and to cover the inevitable slew of injuries. If you lose one on waivers, no big deal, if you can get a 5th or better, worth the investment.

  • DJ_44

    He’s also blocking the progression of a number of wing prospects—like Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich—down on the farm.

    While the article is appreciate, I find it difficult to understand the logic presented. The above line is from the Boucher evaluation. Blocking wingers? Nonsense.

    The entire argument that young prospects were stunted in Utica is crap. If they are good, they play. Gadjovich, while a left winger, is not competing for time with Boucher since they play much different roles. They can easily co-exist on a PP, with Gadjovich taking over MacEwen’s net front spot on PP1. As for blocking Lind, Lind is a right winger, Boucher is a left winger. Explain that logic.

    Maybe Boucher is above Palmu, but given Palmu’s play at the AHL level, he better pick it up if he want to play middle six left wing minutes in Utica. Hopefully he will be competing for time with Lockwood as well; maybe even Madden.

    • Boucher plays both wings at times. Hell, technically he’s listed as a center.

      The main thrust of this argument is that as long as Boucher’s on the roster, he’s the go-to guy. You can’t ask an AHL coach to put a Gadjovich or a Lind out there in important situations if he’s got the ability to call on Boucher. Eventually, the veterans have to go to make room.

      I’m not advocating for no veterans on the Comets, obviously, but just less than they currently have.

      • tyhee

        I think the Canucks will do as you’ve recommended and let Boucher go, though the reason I think they’ll do so is that there isn’t a place for him on the Canucks and I think they’d let him go if he thought there was someplace he might have a better chance of catching on.

        Until Lind and Gadjovitch can beat out the likes of Hamilton, Bancks, Jasek, Woods, Arseneau and Gardiner for regular playing time, then I don’t think the team’s best offensive winger is standing in their way and it makes sense to have a few good veterans to show the kids how it’s done and help the team win some games.

  • Killer Marmot

    Boucher should not be let go. He should signed and then traded. He’s one of the top scorers in the AHL, and there’s bound to be some teams willing to take flyer on him.

  • bushdog

    don’t forget seattle folks. benning hasn’t told me what he plans for that draft, but schaller and beagle look like good candidates to be made available. that would be a good plan behind those contracts. perhaps being on the team keeps someone in utica for a year or 2 to better develop…any of you 6 second geniuses thought of that? stephan offered a very reasonable take on rfa’s and there have been some good comments. unfortunately a lot of you fools respond to the trolls and that encourages them. ignore them – unless you’re one of them lol thanks stephan!