With the Canucks signing free agent forward Michael Ferland to a four-year deal with an AAV of $3.5M and still needing to re-sign Brock Boeser, there’s been plenty of speculation regarding the team’s cap crunch.
One player receiving lots of attention this offseason is 33-year-old veteran forward Loui Eriksson. Eriksson has underperformed since arriving in Vancouver and has three years remaining on a six-year contract with an AAV of $6 million. He will be the second-highest paid forward on the Canucks in 2019-20 after Boeser signs.
GM Jim Benning has said he’s trying to figure out a solution with Eriksson’s camp. Benning stated the Canucks are looking to move a player out right now, but he hasn’t ruled out keeping Eriksson.
“He’s still a useful player for us,” Benning said. “He can kill penalties, play a matchup role against other team’s top lines, he’s a good two-way player, so we’ll continue to look at our options and see if something makes sense and talk to Loui and see where he’s at and go from there.”
Eriksson signed in Vancouver as a free agent during the 2016 offseason after a 30-goal season in Boston. He’s managed just 32 goals and 76 points in 196 games with the Canucks over three seasons. Eriksson’s role has also diminished into more of a third-line checking type instead of a top-six scorer. He saw just just 1:16 of power play time last season after averaging 2:28 with the man advantage time in his first year with Vancouver. He was a healthy scratch for the first time with the Canucks in March.
It just doesn’t seem likely Eriksson will be playing for the Canucks in 2019-20. Most of the concern surrounding Eriksson’s future in Vancouver stems from comments he made to a Swedish publication back in May about how he feels playing under head coach Travis Green.
“It is difficult when I do not get the same trust that I received from all the other coaches I had during my career,” Eriksson told hockeysverige.se. “Of course, it is tough on that front.”
Benning has talked to the media about Eriksson’s comments and doesn’t appear concerned.
“I think his comments, I don’t think they were as egregious as people think,” Benning said. “He is just trying to be honest with the situation, but we had a really good conversation and that will stay between Loui and I and we will continue to talk and work things out.”
Elliotte Friedman of the 31 Thoughts Podcast on Sportsnet believes this upcoming year will be huge for the Canucks.
“This is a year where you know everything is on the line,” Friedman said on the July 11 episode. “They are going to be one of the most fascinating stories in the league next year. You get the sense they are trying to turn their roster over a little bit obviously. It’s going to be a massive year there.”
Friedman had an interesting thought on Eriksson and how he sees this cap situation playing out for the Canucks.
“What I think you’re looking at is Loui Eriksson… he wants to go and they [Canucks] want him to go. He’s got some control over the situation with his clauses. I think what they’re kinda telling him is if he doesn’t play ball, he could be in Utica. That’s kinda where we are at this particular point in time. They’re going to have to do something.”
“You know changes are coming”, Friedman continued. Roussel is going to be out for the beginning of the year. That gives someone a chance to keep a job or something like that.”
“The Eriksson thing has to end. After what he said about Green. I know Green was really upset at that. That’s gonna happen one way or the other. I can’t see how he’s on their roster at the beginning of next season. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Even if the Canucks went that route and sent Eriksson down to play for the Comets, they wouldn’t really be saving much money. Due to what’s been deemed the “Wade Redden rule”, an NHL team can only unload a certain amount of a contract in the minors. For the 2019-20 season, that amount is $1.075 million. The rest of a player’s cap hit still applies to the NHL team. The Canucks would still have a $4.925 million cap hit for Eriksson if they sent him to Utica.
Another interesting note from the podcast was Friedman stating that Ferland received a ton of interest in free agency, including from Calgary, Vegas and St.Louis. Out of all the players that waited to make their decision, Ferland was believed to be the most attractive player. The four-year term sold Ferland to the Canucks. You can listen to the full episode here.
If the Canucks can get out of Eriksson’s contract, it will be huge for the younger players and the team moving forward. Benning likely isn’t receiving many calls on Eriksson based on his recent play and massive cap hit, but if a team is interested, Benning will need to use whatever leverage he can to make Eriksson waive his NTC and get the deal done.