The Canucks Will Be in a Cap Crunch if They Mismanage Any More Situations

There has been plenty of chatter lately about the Brock Boeser contract and for good reason, training camp is approaching and one of the Vancouver Canucks’ young stars is not yet signed. The bargaining table has gone cold according to sources in touch with Octagon Hockey and Boeser’s camp but this Boeser contract isn’t the problem. The big picture is that this Canucks team could be in a cap crunch unless they are almost perfect with handling contract situations over the next 10 months.

Jim Benning has committed big money to free agents these past few offseasons and if he makes any more mistakes it could result in the team being in an extreme cap crunch with some important restricted and unrestricted free agents to sign next offseason. It’s possible but at the same time unlikely that all of the next handful of contract situations fall Jim Benning’s way, here’s how it can happen.

It’s Possible

Before we get started, huge shoutout to PuckPedia for their great work making all of this readily available to the public.

Ok, it’s time to play with some hypotheticals, I want to show that if the best case scenarios happen for the Vancouver Canucks then it is possible that the team stays out of cap trouble next season and can get to 2021-22 where we will see the $24 million dollars come off the books just in time to sign Pettersson and Hughes and only be one year away from seeing the end of Loui Eriksson’s six million dollar cap hit.

We’re also going to be setting the 2020-21 Salary Cap at $83 million dollars, it’s a rough estimate but a generous one at that. 

Let’s start with the dead money in 2020-21: Ryan Spooner’s buyout, Roberto Luongo’s recapture penalty and the two buried contracts of Jalen Chatfield and Loui Eriksson will be costing the Vancouver Canucks $9.116 million dollars. Moving the Loui Eriksson contract would be the perfect scenario but just from personal beliefs I do not believe that it is possible to move that contract without moving a top 50 draft pick or one of the Canucks’ top prospects so I believe it’s better to let the contract fade in Utica unless he is able to turn it around this season and be a bottom six contributor. 

To assume that Jim Benning doesn’t make any mistakes here are the contracts that he will have to make happen:

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Adam Gaudette 1.25$ x 2 years
Jake Virtanen 1.5$ x 2 years
Brock Boeser 7.25$ x 3 years
Josh Leivo 1.3$ x 2 years

For Adam Gaudette to receive a $1.25 million dollar contract over two years doesn’t seem too out of reason, if he is able to take a leap and become a full time NHL centre then he will likely deserve a bit of a raise but unless he is a mid-tier NHL third line centre throughout next season he should likely only be getting a pay bump of a few hundred thousand.

Jack Virtanen is next and to believe that he is possible to extend for two seasons with a 250,000 dollar raise is believable if he isn’t to have his breakout season in 2019-20 like all Canucks fans crave so badly. With a shotgun count under 14 this season he could be in line for something similar to a 1.5 million dollar contract for a two year extension.

Josh Leivo could find himself battling for a position on the team in camp this year but he is able to play up and down the lineup and landing a 2 year contract at an average annual value of 1.3 million dollars is a good deal for an ideal 13th forward.

The final signing is Brock Boeser, coming in on a 3 year bridge deal signed between training camp and the regular season. The 7.25 million dollar cap hit over three seasons is probably something that the Boeser camp could be inclined to sign as they draw closer to the season. When a reporter is reporting that the Boeser camp is not close at the bargaining table right now they are likely trying to use media tactics to show that they have the power but we have seen in the past as recent as last season with William Nylander that a long contract dispute can result in not only a tough season on the player but a loss for the team in the playoff stretch.

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Brock Boeser’s deal needs to get done and if Jim Benning is able to lock him up for a longer term at a decent cap hit then he deserves a hat tip because with the changing RFA market it gives the players a very different view when it comes to evaluating their worth to an organization. Going into camp without a contract isn’t even close to as important as it is to land the right deal, the Canucks shouldn’t blink when they are in a pressure situation, instead they need to make their move count when they are under the gun.

Let’s move to the back end and what moves Jim Benning has to make to keep this team under the cap:

Troy Stecher 3.8$ x 3 years
Jacob Markstrom 4.0$ x 2 years

Not too hard to do, sign two players who will both request raises when their contracts expire after this upcoming season. One of those players being an RFA defenseman who plays in the team’s top four and the other being the starting goaltender who will be hitting unrestricted free agency as his backup Thatcher Demko makes the puck to be the team’s starter in 2020.

Let’s start with the hometown kid, Troy from Richmond. It’s safe to say that Stecher deserves a raise from his current contract that sees him make under $2.4 million. If the Canucks were able to extend Troy Stecher for three seasons at a 3.8 million dollar cap hit it would sure up the top four with the loss of Chris Tanev to free agency or ideally a loss of Tanev to trade at the deadline to return draft picks.

Stecher is due for a raise and if Benning can make the local guy take a hometown discount and sign a multi-year deal under four million it will leave more room for Pettersson and Hughes when their contracts are up. Having a top four defenseman under four million dollars would be one of the better moves that Jim Benning has made in his role as General Manager. He signed two top four defensemen this offseason and they cost six million dollars apiece.

Markstrom is an interesting situation as the organization needs to be silently hoping for Thatcher Demko to push for the starter’s role throughout this upcoming season and if he is successful then the Canucks will have even more cap space in 2020-21. The likely situation is that Markstrom gets his games this season as the starter and if he improves like he did last season he will be the most viable option for the Canucks starting goaltender spot in 2020-21.

Getting Markstrom at a four million dollar cap hit over two seasons would be tough, but I wanted to give Jim the benefit of the doubt and think that he could convince Markstrom that he may not be making as much of a raise as he though with other free agent goaltenders like Brayden Holtby, Robin Lehner and Anton Khudobin set to hit the market at the same time.

These are not line combinations

LW C RW Forwards
Micheal Ferland

Rating: 72.7#85 LW

Elias Pettersson

Rating: 76.0#46 C

Brock Boeser

Rating: 80.2#5 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 76.26#27 FL1
Tanner Pearson

Rating: 74.9#37 LW

Bo Horvat

Rating: 77.0#37 C

J.T. Miller

Rating: 73.8#48 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.24#14 FL2
Sven Baertschi

Rating: 74.1#45 LW

Adam Gaudette

Rating: 69.6#207 C

Jake Virtanen

Rating: 71.5#101 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 71.72#26 FL3
Loui Eriksson

Rating: 71.4#120 LW

Jay Beagle

Rating: 68.1#233 C

Brandon Sutter

Rating: 71.5#158 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 70.36#27 FL4
Alexander Edler

Rating: 77.1#14 LD

Troy Stecher

Rating: 73.7#42 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 75.41#20 DL1
Quinn Hughes

Rating: 73.4#53 LD

Tyler Myers

Rating: 74.1#37 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 73.76#16 DL2
Jordie Benn

Rating: 73.0#66 LD

Chris Tanev

Rating: 72.1#70 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 72.57#14 DL3

These are not line combinations, they are simply players being placed in the position column that they will be playing in during the 2020-21 season. There are a few names we need to talk about that made their way onto this team and are also very positive situations for the Canucks organization.

Let’s start with the most optimistic take in Jett Woo making the team out of camp in 2020. Woo would have to outplay Josh Teves, Brogan Rafferty and Mitch Eliot at camp and as absurd as it may be to believe that Woo would make the team out of camp it is probably the least likely roster change that needs to happen. With this Canucks roster and the $9.116 million dollars in dead cap there is still over 3.5 million in cap space to sign a seventh defenseman in free agency if we are assuming the cap is to grow to 83 million dollars.

When you look at the talent that Woo would have to outplay it is optimistic but possible that he could win the role of 7th defenseman at camp in 2020 even without professional experience.

Even if for some reason the cap is to drop to 80 million dollars this team is still capable of fitting in one of Woo, Teves, Rafferty or Eliot as their seventh defenseman and if the cap is to stay put at 81.5 million the team can sign an Alex Biega or Oscar Fantenberg type of player for 1-2 million dollars to round out the team.

The 14th forward will be Kole Lind, his spot on the roster is also very interchangeable with players like Zack MacEwen if he were to sign an extension or the Canucks could go the more common route of carrying 8 defensemen and have a Rafferty or Teves be that player. Kole Lind having a bounce back season this year and knocking on the door at camp in 2020 is another optimistic take and it would be great to have him be a contributor in years to come.

Everything Seems Fine

Yes, it is possible for the Canucks to avoid a cap crunch, it takes a lot of moving parts but it is possible. The question is will the best outcome be the future of the Canucks or will they make any more contract mistakes that bite them when the salary cap matters most.

Yeah, we all miss Gilman and his magic with the cap but Jim Benning is fresh off of arguably his most impressive offseason and just received an extension with items left on his “to-do list” for the 2019 offseason. Believing that Gaudette can be an NHL 3rd line centre, Juolevi can be an NHL defenseman and Markstrom can sign for a four million dollar cap hit are very optimistic ways of looking at this team.

Optimism can get you very far in life but it isn’t always the best way to look at a situation, sometimes you need to adjust plans and be able to roll with the punches that come with the evolution and constantly transforming the situation that is an NHL roster.

Believing that things are going to be fine is simply that, it’s fine.

If Jim Benning and the Canucks management group are able to make good to great moves as they move forward towards being a Stanley Cup contender they will be fine but with any more mistakes like a Sutter or Gudbranson extension, they will be digging a hole deeper instead of filling it and trying to rise to the top.

Mistakes can’t be tolerated at this point in the Canucks’ transitional phase, the team has a core that is solid, they have prospects that project to be high end contributors and have the type of leaders in Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat that can bring that magical playoff feeling back to Vancouver.

If they stay the course with the current development and get a few lucky breaks along the way everything will be fine.

Who knows? Maybe even great.

This roster should be very different in 2021-22 and that Canucks team should feature a nucleus of high end young talent and prospects chomping at the bit to be contributing to this young firecracker team. If mistakes are made we could be in for another rebuild and frankly, I’m just not ready to do this all again. I want to believe that the management group has learned from their mistakes and they will look down the road instead of simply one step ahead.

Jim Benning clearly has ownership’s support in creating his ideal roster and has been given years to see it come together. If he has learnt from his early mistakes and continues to improve as a GM then he will see his team come together, but with any major mistakes he could find the Vancouver Canucks in a tough cap situation for years to come.

How worried are you about the team’s cap situation? 

Photo by Bob Frid via Getty Images