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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: We Just Don’t Know

Everything is on hiatus this week, whether it be the Vancouver Canucks’ season or Jackson McDonald’s answering of the Monday Mailbag – but Stephan Roget has got you covered!

 

Like most of the questions in today’s mailbag, this one was a lot easier to answer a week ago.

With ten points in ten games since his arrival in Vancouver, re-signing Tyler Toffoli is definitely the smart and desirable move.

And with the price Vancouver paid for Toffoli, the onus was always going to be on Jim Benning to extend the UFA winger – a pressure that’s going to double if it turns out that ten games is all the Canucks get out of the deal.

So, the Canucks will definitely try to re-sign Toffoli, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to.

If the rest of the 2019/20 season ends up being scrapped, that’s probably going to put a dent in those lofty estimated cap totals for next year. A lower cap would have a massive impact on the Canucks, who would need to find even more room to re-sign players like Toffoli and Jacob Markstrom. They’d also have a tougher time moving their less-desirable contracts in a cap crunch, and eventually someone is going to have to go – maybe it’s Toffoli.

 

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Two people asked roughly the same question, and they’re both going to get an answer that’s going to be common tonight – we just don’t know.

This current crisis is unprecedented, and there’s no way of knowing what the consequences will be. If the result of a season shutdown is a lower-than-expected salary cap next year, then it would make sense for the league to provide some sort of leniency for teas feeling the squeeze. I don’t think, however, that another round of compliance buyouts is a likely answer. There’s no provision in the current CBA for them, and it doesn’t seem like something the NHLPA would agree to without the threat of a lockout to pressure them.

If a compliance buyout were to be offered, there’s no real debate as to who it would be used on – it’s Loui Eriksson, all day, every day.

 

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I have no way of knowing what the Canucks’ management thinks, but I will say that I’d be very, very surprised if were leaked that they thought of Guillaume Brisebois as a potential replacement for Chris Tanev.

I think Brisebois has been identified as a tweener, and that’s why he’s been recalled so frequently this season for stints in which ice-time hasn’t been guaranteed. Calling up a more legitimate prospect, like Olli Juolevi or Brogan Rafferty, and stuffing them in the pressbox wouldn’t make much sense.

If Tanev – or Troy Stecher, for that matter – moves on in the offseason, look for Rafferty, Jordie Benn, and perhaps Nikita Tryamkin to get serious looks on the right side. Brisebois could always surprise and make the roster as an extra defender, but he’s probably not in the long-term plans at the moment.

 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – we just don’t know.

It’s another one of those unprecedented question, but it’s one that has a fairly straightforward answer if you really think about it.

Whether or not the 2019/20 season recommences – and it’s beginning to look a lot like not – the NHL will have to determine a final order of the standings for the purposes of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and its accompanying lottery. If they go by points percentage, which seems like the most likely outcome, then the Canucks would be in a playoff position and see their 2020 first round draft pick go to the New Jersey Devils, by way of Tampa Bay.

If for some bizarre reason the league decides to stick with the final order of the standings regardless of games played, then the Canucks would be out of a playoff position and retain their 2020 pick, with the 2021 first rounder then going to Jersey.

Of course, the league could always decide to completely revamp the draft rules in the wake of this pandemic, or lay down very specific rulings in the case of conditional draft picks.

We just don’t know.

 

At this point, the most likely outcome is that the NHL won’t need a method by which to determine playoff teams, because the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs are probably going to be cancelled. Make peace with that now, sports fans.

If the league beats the odds and manages to get back into action in time for a playoff season, truncated or no, then points percentage would seem like the fairest method of determining spots – though there are some arguments against it.

Take the Vancouver Canucks, for example. The Winnipeg Jets are currently two points ahead of the Canucks in the standing, which means they are in a playoff spot and the Canucks are not. But the Jets have played two more games than the Canucks. If playoff spots were determined by points percentage, the Canucks (and Predators) would bump the Jets out – BUT, there’s really no guarantee that the Canucks would actually pick up points if they were to play those two extra games.

In actuality, the fairest way to determine playoff position would be to play a miniature regular season until all teams had played the same amount of games – which would double nicely as an impromptu training camp – and then beginning the postseason after that.

But the chances of there being enough time for that are looking pretty slim.

 

I think for someone like Richard Bachman, it wouldn’t be a very fulfilling gig. He still wants to play hockey regularly as a team’s goaltender, not sparingly in practice as their registered third-stringer. The same probably goes for most goalies good enough to play pro-quality hockey.

The best idea I heard floated to solve the EBUG (emergency backup goaltender) issue was to have every franchise hire an individual with recent junior or college netminding experience as a video coach, or something to that effect, who traveled with the team and served as their EBUG.

There wasn’t much interest with it, and it’s entirely possible that teams would find even that position difficult to fill. There are only so many good goalies out there, and most of them want to play.

 

A week ago, with talk of the salary cap going as high as $88 million for the 2020/21 season, I would have argued that Brandon Sutter could be traded for a modest return this summer.

Now, it’s not so simple.

It seems likely that if the salary cap rises at all for 2020/21, it won’t be anywhere near that upper limit of $88 million. That makes it tougher to move a slightly overpaid player like Sutter, and it definitely increases the cost to do so.

Without knowing what the cap will be, it’s impossible to put a hard value on it. But with every team in the league presumably feeling the pinch of a lower-than-expected cap ceiling, it’s fair to say that the price to deal Sutter may be excessive.