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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Prospects, Prognostications, and Goldobin’s Departure

Fans that want to maintain a grasp on reality will say Jake Virtanen, because his value is fairly high at this point. The cranks will say Kole Lind or Jett Woo because they don’t realize that every team has that type of prospect in their system already.

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I agree, I think you’d have to go with Luongo in that scenario. Loui Eriksson may be a shell of the player he used to be, but at least he can actually hold down a role in the team’s bottom-six and be semi-competent in the process. The recapture penalty on Luongo’s contract amounts to just over half of Eriksson’s salary, and the Canucks get absolutely no value out of that money whatsoever.

As far as the second question goes, I don’t see how the Canucks could buy out a player who has already retired, but if the cap recapture situation has taught me anything it’s that the league can essentially do whatever it wants, so I suppose anything is possible. The NHL is going to be making things up as they go along when play finally resumes, so I can’t completely discount the possibility that they might waive the cap recapture penalty or allow the Canucks to use a compliance buyout to free themselves of Luongo’s cap hit.

There are a few possibilities. The first is that Hansen, whose game has always been heavily reliant on speed, did what countless players of his generation did as they reached their thirties and simply hit a wall. Age-related decline has ended the careers of better players in the past, and from the outside looking in, it seems like that’s the most likely reason.

There’s also the possibility that Hansen just wasn’t put in a position to succeed. Given how quickly he went from a useful player in Vancouver to a press box staple in San Jose, I don’t think we can entirely discount the possibility that he was miscast, misused, or simply got off on the wrong foot with the Sharks.

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I assume hockey is going to occur at some point in the future, yes, but I wouldn’t bet on the NHL completing the 2019-20 season.

As I mentioned in a previous edition in the mailbag, Philly would be the first team I’d be looking at as a partner in a potential Jake Virtanen trade. Their one of the few teams in the league that can afford to give up a young defenseman and Jake could fill a perceived need in the Flyers’ middle-six. You’d likely have to add assets to pry someone like Shayne Ghostisbehere, but with the season Jake had I think his value is high enough now that the cost wouldn’t be prohibitive.

I love the idea, but at this point I’m not sure how realistic it is. Travel has been heavily limited, there seems to be no sign of social distancing ending any time soon, and experts now seem to be pointing towards the pandemic resurging in the fall. I’m happy to be wrong on this one, but I think at this point cancelling the remainder of the 2019-20 season is the most likely outcome.

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As a general rule, I dislike the practice of ranking a team’s prospect pool against other teams in the league because it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the team’s future. And since the whole point of ranking prospect pools in the first place is to determine which team has the brightest future, that means it’s a pretty useless exercise.

The Canucks are a perfect example. Just two years ago, the Canucks had the second-best prospect pool in the league, according to the Athletic’s Cory Pronman. This year, they were ranked 13th. The reason is that their best prospects, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, had graduated to the NHL. That’s a good thing, but it results in a negative outcome for them in this respect. By the same token, Olli Juolevi is one of the few players from the top end of the 2016 draft not to graduate to the NHL, but the fact that he remained a prospect well into his twenties meant the Canucks were rewarded in prior editions of Pronman’s rankings.

I don’t say this to put Pronman on blast. He’s a great scout who’s earned his reputation. I’m just trying to illustrate that looking solely at a team’s prospect pool gives a very incomplete picture of the health of a team’s system as a whole. Bad teams with good prospect pools can stay bad, and good teams with bad prospect pools can stay good. It all depends on the talent you have, who’s in charge, and whether or not you can lock down your core players to good deals and find replacements for the ones you have to let go.

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The truth is that it’s unrealistic to expect a team to always have an elite centre in their prospect pool given how quickly players graduate these days. If your prospect pool is bad because all your good prospects have graduated, that’s ultimately a good thing.

So, to answer your question, I agree with your assessment that the Canucks’ pool is weak at C, but it’s not my biggest area of concern. The Canucks are likely going to have Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat locked up for a long time, and Adam Gaudette can provide some cost-controlled depth over the next few years at the very least. While eventually you’d like to see someone in the system that’s capable of taking over from Horvat someday, it’s not an immediate priority. The immediate priority is on defense. The Canucks have one defenseman signed past 2022, and he’s not exactly a lock to provide value over the course of his contract. Tanev is a UFA at the end of this season, Edler’s contract is up the following season, and Stecher is a pending RFA. Obviously you’d expect Hughes to stick around for a long time, but he’s going to command a lot of money.

When you look at the age and contract status of every player on the team’s defense aside from Hughes, it’s clear the team is going to need a massive overhaul on the back end within the next couple of years. The easiest way to survive that overhaul is to stock the pipeline. Brogan Rafferty, Jett Woo, and Olli Juolevi are all intriguing enough prospects, but are far from a sure thing at this point, so that’s where my concern is, even if they’re technically thinner at C.

50/50. The COVID-19 pandemic and possibility of cancelling the season has put a serious damper on the potential for 2020 free agents to cash in, but the Canucks desperately need to hold on to their starting goaltender. While Markstrom’s injury and the season pause may have deflated his asking price, they also prevented a possible regression. At the end of the day, Markstrom ended his season on top (at least for now), and if attempts to resume the season are scuttled, he at least avoids the nightmare scenario of hitting a wall at the end of the year and significantly diminishing his perceived value. Ultimately, it’s going to have a lot to do with what happens to the cap and whether or not the league decides to allow compliance buyouts. Obviously, the situation is very much up in the air right now, so it’s impossible to say for sure.

I was already preparing for the Canucks to be worse next year given the run of good luck they had this season and the likelihood that they’ll lose one of Chris Tanev or Troy Stecher this summer. I can see a blueprint for the Canucks improving, but only if they’re able to retain all their players, and that doesn’t seem possible right now.

Once again, I’d set the chances that they improve next season at around 50/50 depending on how the salary cap/compliance buyout situation shakes out.

First of all, let me just say: RIP to a real one.

The Goldobin thing was a great example of Canucks fans doing what they always do: picking one player, seemingly at random, to serve as the battlefield for a greater ideological war.

It’s never a good idea to accept the terms of engagement in those situations because then the argument becomes about that specific player rather than about philosophy. In this case, the philosophy espoused by the #FreeGoldy people was essentially that the Canucks should live or die by their young players, and that the team’s ceiling would be higher if they leaned on their young players as opposed to their vets, even if it meant they’d potentially surrender more scoring chances.

So, to the Goldy people, I say this: you lost the battle, but you won the war. Quinn Hughes is on PP1, Adam Gaudette and Jake Virtanen have developed into usable offense-first middle-six forwards, and Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle are mostly afterthoughts. The premise at the centre of all those arguments about Goldobin turned out to be true. There were indeed players on the roster who were better suited to play in the team’s top-9 than Brandon Sutter and Tyler Motte. Goldobin just wasn’t one of them.

At the same time, there’s also a lesson to be learned here about knowing when to cut your losses. Goldobin was worth fighting for for a time, but he blew his last chance to make a name for himself at the start of the season. I loved the kid, his skill set, and his DIY plywood folk art, but for whatever reason he just couldn’t get it together. Maybe he could have figured it out somewhere else or under different circumstances, but ultimately he just didn’t look like he gave a shit when it really mattered. Maybe that’s an issue of messaging, but you lose the benefit of the doubt if you can’t even look engaged when you’re fighting for your NHL career.