GM Jim Benning used the 2019 offseason to give the blueline of the Vancouver Canucks a makeover, with the addition of Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn, and Oscar Fantenberg and the addition by subtraction of Derrick Pouliot—to say nothing of the prospect of a full season from Quinn Hughes.
Despite the renovation, some fans are still waiting with bated breath for the arrival—or, more accurately, the return—of one more defenseman. We’re talking, of course, about Nikita Tryamkin.
The hulking blueliner’s contract with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg expires at the conclusion of this KHL campaign, meaning that Tryamkin could return to the Canucks—who retain his RFA rights—for the 2020/21 season. He could—in theory—even return much earlier than that.
But in order to answer the quandary posed by the headline, we’ll have to wait on some answers to a handful of other vital questions.
Does Nikita Tryamkin Want To Come Back?
Nikita Tryamkin’s exact reasons for leaving the Vancouver Canucks in the first place will likely never be known—he’s mainly cited dissatisfaction with coach Willie Desjardins’ deployment, but Desjardins had already been fired by the time Tryamkin returned to the KHL.
Jim Benning on Tryamkin – I don't really know why he left, I think he had his reasons. We did everything on our end to convince him to stay. It could be a maturity thing. I think he made good strides.He sees the good young players in our system and maybe he wants to be part of it
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) June 10, 2019
Beyond that, there was the whole “dope city” thing.
Nikita Tryamkin: Vancouver is a dope city. Everywhere you go it’s not just smell, it really stinks of weed #Canucks
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) September 24, 2017
Following his departure, Tryamkin has been cagey about his 2020 intentions—as this author detailed in an article last year.
In the time since, Tryamkin’s agent has made it as clear as possible that his client is leaning toward rejoining the Canucks organization—consistently dropping hints to the Vancouver media in a somewhat transparent attempt to keep the fanbase’s interest in Tryamkin alive.
Nikita Tryamkin's agent Todd Diamond on @Sportsnet650: "From the #Canucks standpoint, there is a new regime and new coaching staff. I think under this coaching staff they would have a much better ability to utilize Nikita"
— Adam Forsythe (@adamforsythe) March 22, 2019
Tryamkin has been his trademark silent self on the subject of late—but his presence on social media speaks loudly. He uses his Instagram account to interact with the official Canucks account on a regular basis—often logging on to watch livestreams of practices and other events. He’s been known to react favourably to fans’ questions about a Vancouver comeback—though almost exclusively in emoji.
His Instagram profile picture now features him in a Canucks’ jersey.
There seems to be every indication that Tryamkin himself wants to return to Vancouver following the expiry of his deal with Avtomobilist—but is the feeling mutual?
Do The Canucks Want Nikita Tryamkin To Come Back?
As we’ve covered on CanucksArmy before, Nikita Tryamkin’s KHL homecoming hasn’t been everything he hoped it would.
— Botchford's Army (@CanucksArmy) October 24, 2018
His initial season back with Yekaterinburg was fine enough—25 points in 51 games while serving as an alternate captain—but Tryamkin failed to receive much consideration for the Russian Olympic entry and went pointless in six playoff games as Avtomobilist flamed out early.
Things would only go downhill from there. Tryamkin struggled throughout the 2018/19 season—suffering a handful of healthy scratches and being stripped of his captaincy at one point. Scouting reports on his play did improve as the season wore on, and Avtomobilist lasted a little longer in the playoffs this time around—with Tryamkin himself putting up two assists in nine games.
Now, in 2019/20, the situation looks like it’s at its statistical worst—but looks can be deceiving. Tryamkin has just two assists and six penalty minutes in 12 games—though his ice-time has rebounded from the previous year and his former level of defensive responsibility seems to be returning.
Moreover, Tryamkin has played an important role on a team that has a record of 8-4-1 and are on pace to outdo their 2018/19 performance—though half of their wins have come in overtime.
— CanucksAbbyFan2 (@Fan2Abby) August 7, 2019
In summarizing his KHL exodus, it’s safe to say that the now 25-year-old Tryamkin didn’t enjoy the career-redefining renaissance of a Mark Giordano—but he does represent a slightly more polished version of the defenseman who left Vancouver in 2017, and that still represents significant value for the Canucks organization.
When Jim Benning last spoke on the subject this summer, it sure sounded like the interest was mutual.
Benning on if there is a future for Tryamkin in Vancouver : "There sure is, I met his agent last week. We would love to have him back, look at the size and strength of the Blues blueline. He can be a big part of our group. We will keep talking to his agent." #Canucks
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) June 5, 2019
As it stands now, the Canucks don’t have much room for Tryamkin on the right side of their depth chart, where Tryamkin typically plays, with Troy Stecher, Tyler Myers, and Chris Tanev—but that could change soon.
If the Canucks find themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in, they will likely deal Chris Tanev at the Trade Deadline—opening up a spot for Tryamkin. If they’re in the hunt for the playoffs come February 2020, Tanev probably stays—but it’s hard to imagine him being offered a contract of any significant length thereafter.
The chances of Tryamkin unseating someone on his natural left side is significantly more remote, with Alex Edler, Jordie Benn, and Quinn Hughes are signed for the next two years at least and Olli Juolevi on the way.
Tryamkin makes for a logical successor to the spot that Tanev will eventually vacate—or, at the very least, a more-than-adequate stopgap between Tanev and Jett Woo.
It’s thus safe to say that Nikita Tryamkin wants to return to the Vancouver Canucks and that the Canucks want him back—so how soon can they make that happen?
How Soon Can He Return?
Technically speaking, Nikita Tryamkin’s KHL contract expires on April 30, 2020.
Todd Diamond, Nikita Tryamkin's agent, just now with @DonnieandTheMoj offered a bit of an update on Tryamkin..
– Today better than 50% chance he returns to #Canucks
– Feels much better about current #Canucks team than the one he left
– His KHL contract expires April 30 2020
— Ryan Henderson (@RJHenderson7) June 19, 2019
In reality, however, he can sign with the Vancouver Canucks as soon as Yekaterinburg Avtomobilist is eliminated from the KHL playoffs—and that could happen while the Canucks still have regular season games on their schedule.
Avtomobilist plays their final regular season game on February 27 against Ak Bars Kazan, and if they don’t make the playoffs at all Tryamkin would be eligible to return then—but Avtomobilist will almost certainly make it to at least the first round.
Beyond that, it’s a guessing game as to when Tryamkin’s KHL season will end. The first round typically ends in early March, the second round by March 22, and the third by early April—the same time the NHL regular season ends.
If Tryamkin’s team makes it all the way to the Gargarin Cup Finals, his contract won’t expire until well into the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs—too late to make a late-season comeback.
What all that means is that Tryamkin could return as early as the final month of the Canucks’ regular season—but that will require Yekaterinburg to once again lose in one of the first two rounds of the KHL playoffs. If not, he won’t be able to return until the beginning of the 2020/21 season.
Does He Have To Pass Through Waivers?
The Vancouver Canucks retain Nikita Tryamkin’s RFA rights and have him on their Reserve List—which means that they can sign him and add him to their roster at any point, regardless of the deadlines that govern other signings from European leagues. He would not have to pass through waivers and could theoretically start suiting up for the Canucks immediately after signing his new contract—following a lengthy flight across several time zones, of course.
It’s still a waiting game for fans eager to see Tryamkin in Canuck colours once again—but at least the game finally has an endpoint in sight.