Jim Benning and Co. are rolling into the summer with a very favourable salary cap situation. While the team has some internal housekeeping to do, most importantly, a long-term deal for Brock Boeser, the front office has a lot of flexibility to improve the team.
The Canucks currently have about $53 million tied into their roster for the 2019-20 season. If the salary cap ends up at $83 million, as it has been suggested, that would give Vancouver about $30 million to work with this summer.
First and foremost, the Canucks have some players in need of new contracts. At the top of the list is budding star, Brock Boeser, whose entry-level deal expires on July 1. Beyond Boeser, the Canucks have Markus Granlund, Josh Leivo, Tyler Motte, Nikolay Goldobin, Ben Hutton, and Derrick Pouliot in need of new deals as restricted free agents. Vancouver’s only key player set to hit the unrestricted free agent market is veteran defenceman, Alex Edler.
Boeser is coming off of a 56-point-in-69-games showing in his sophomore season and it probably wouldn’t be prudent to give him a bridge deal. Stephan Roget wrote during the season about contracts for similar players to Boeser over the past few years. I think a nice comparable is William Nylander, who inked a six-year deal worth ~$6.9 million annually after holding out for the first few months of the season. Something around that would be ideal for Boeser.
The more difficult decision for the Canucks revolves around veteran defender Alex Edler. The Canucks are thin on the blueline and Edler is a nice veteran to have around as a stop-gap as prospects like Quinn Hughes work their way up to the NHL level. He’s coming off a resurgent season in which he posted 34 points in 56 games, but injuries have always been a concern for Edler. Given the Canucks’ situation, signing Edler to a higher AAV, lower term contract would be the smart play here.
Utilizing cap space
The two big tickets in free agency this year are Erik Karlsson and Artemi Panarin. Both players would be welcomed additions to the Canucks and the team has the cap space to make it happen. The issue, of course, is whether or not Karlsson or Panarin want to come here and join a team in the middle of a rebuild.
We’ve seen Jim Benning make ugly signings like Loui Eriksson, Michael Del Zotto, Sam Gagner, and Jay Beagle in recent years that didn’t make the team any better. If you can add Karlsson to the blueline, Panarin up front, or another game-changing free agent, then sure, flex the open cap room, but just because you have money doesn’t mean you have to spend it in free agency. There are other ways the Canucks can utilize their bevy of cap space.
One strategy would be opening themselves up to being a bad contract dump for the year. In the past, we’ve seen teams like the Arizona Coyotes take on the contracts of Marian Hossa and Pavel Datsyuk in order to acquire assets. The Canucks could likely net themselves some prospects or draft picks if they were willing to help some other teams navigate their salary cap woes.
The Toronto Maple Leafs need to sign restricted free agents Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson, and moving out Patrick Marleau, who has one year left on his deal, would make that much easier on them. The Tampa Bay Lightning are in the same situation. They have to sign Brayden Point and would love to dump the final year of Ryan Callahan’s contract.
Even if it isn’t for a one-year dump, the Canucks could still take advantage of a team in cap hell. The Vegas Golden Knights have painted themselves into a corner with big free agent contracts to Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, and Paul Stastny. This could make a solid player like Colin Miller, who has three years left on his deal at $3,875,000, available to acquire for cheap.
Any of these situations would be better than signing mid-level free agents to larger contracts than they’re worth just for the hell of it.