Welcome back to another exciting edition of WWYDW. Thanks, as always, for sticking with us during these strange, strange times.
We at CanucksArmy have spent the last couple weeks waxing poetically about the season’s end that never was, but recent rumblings now indicate that 2019/20 might not be dead in the water quite yet.
The NHL is exploring the option of finishing the regular season in several “hub cities,” with an estimated start-date of July 1. While this plan is anything but set in stone, Dr. Bonnie Henry sounds like she’s on board, both with the overall idea and the potential for Vancouver to serve as one of those hubs.
— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) May 4, 2020
If the season does resume in July, the Vancouver Canucks should be something that they weren’t at any other point in 2019/20 – completely healthy.
When the NHL went on hiatus, all of Jacob Markstrom, Brock Boeser, Chris Tanev, Micheal Ferland, and Josh Leivo were on the sidelines with significant injuries. But all indications are that each of them will be ready to return by July – and, in fact, all but Leivo are ready to roll right now.
When the season began, Antoine Roussel was on the LTIR, and the team hasn’t had all hands on deck since. But a July resumption of play would give the Canucks a full lineup for the first time in recent memory – and with that comes some difficult decisions.
Who gets shuffled down the lineup? Who gets sent to the pressbox?
Who gets that coveted spot on the top line right wing – Tyler Toffoli or Brock Boeser?
Who gets sent back down to Utica?
Ultimately, coach Travis Green will have to make these choices, but he won’t have to do so for a number of months. That’s why, in the meantime, we’re asking you:
What would you do with a completely healthy Canucks lineup in July?
Last week, we asked:
What would you do as GM of the Vancouver Canucks if the salary cap stayed flat for 2020/21 and NO compliance buyouts were offered?
Your responses are below!
Beer Can Boyd:
(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
I’d probably start looking for work, because the UFA contracts I signed over the last five years have put the team in such a terrible position cap-wise. The Canucks will be losing at least two out of Markstrom, Tanev, Stecher, Virtanen, Gaudette and Toffoli. And perhaps only Rafferty and Lind are ready to make the jump from the AHL. The fourth line will still be Eriksson, Beagle, and Sutter…oh, and welcome back to the NHL, Sven Baertschi.
I really hope that when the NHL decides what it’s doing about this years draft, that they consider the Canucks to be above the playoff bar, and we lose the pick this season – because without the players above, Marky in particular, this team will struggle mightily to make the playoffs next season, whenever that happens.
Being the ever pessimist (and realist), I cannot help but think that a flat cap and no buyouts will be the most likely scenario for the 2020/2021 season.
All things equal, I would first prioritize locking down our goalie situation by trying to sign Markstorm to a team-friendly contract no longer than five years and no higher than $5 million per ($6 million at four will work too). Hopefully, economic uncertainty and relative oversupply (plus his professed love for this city) will dampen the goalie market enough to secure us his services.
Failing that, I would look at the best value (keyword) UFA option (nothing over $5 million AAV) or see if a reasonable trade can be made with a team with a crowded crease for a solid 2A type backup. In my view, the team will need slightly above average (but not necessarily spectacular) goaltending in order to remain the playoff picture.
Also, hope Tanev will be amendable to an Edler-type deal ($5 million @ three years, no NMC). If doable, then I would look into moving Stecher as a RFA (love his heart!) for a pick; if not re-sign Stecher to a bridge deal and let Tanev walk. Either way, at least one spot needs to be opened up for our defensive prospects next season (Rafferty?) plus a couple of replacement-level depth defensemen we can stash in the AHL.
Next on the agenda will be to free up any possible cap space. See if Winnipeg is willing to trade for Myers, he is at best a low 2nd pairing defender with an expensive price-tag, but they have a burning hole in their D. Replace him with Tryamkin (less experience and also less money). I would try to trade Sutter or Beagle without losing any draft picks (a little salary retention ok). This would give a better idea of what salary cap is left for the forwards.
I would definitely re-sign Virtanen and Gaudette (hopefully lock them down to three-four year extensions). Let Leivo walk. Take Motte back at the league minimum and see if a prospect can beat him out for a job. If a Toffoli deal is reasonable, then I would also pull the trigger and use Boeser as a possible trade chip.
If this occurs, then the Canucks should admit that next year is going to be a rebuilding one. Their strategy should be to not lose their younger players for the sake of trying to be competitive. So…
- Re-sign Virtanen, Gaudette, Motte, MacEwen, and Stecher.
- Try to re-sign Leivo, but don’t go over $2.5 million.
- Try to trade Eriksson, Baertschi, Beagle, Sutter, Benn, or Roussel, but don’t hold your breath. It wouldn’t surprise me if none of them can be moved.
- Make Markstrom a reasonable but not excessive offer, and be prepared to say “no”.
- If there’s enough cap space left (e.g., Markstrom can’t be re-signed and they make a trade or two) try to re-sign Toffoli or Tanev. Otherwise thank them for their services.
Depending on how it plays out, the Canucks could be left scrambling to find goaltending, right defense, or centers, but that’s what happens in a cap squeeze.
There are (or should be) so many moving parts this summer, it’s difficult to see how this plays out. Regardless, this is the year Benning must make significant progress on clearing up salary to be ready for next summer.
Jettison, in one form or another, Eriksson, Baertschi and one of Sutter / Beagle. Their greatest need is right-side D, so converting a high-end asset (Boeser or Virtanen/Stecher) to fill this gap may be necessary. (Toffoli must already be signed for this to occur). Try to sign Tanev for value, if not let him go and keep Stecher (assuming he’s not packaged). If Tanev is signed, move Stecher for picks (or part of moving expensive assets out).
In goal, stay firm with Markstrom, no more than four years at $5.5 mill. If he wants more, move on and sign a vet to back-up Demko.
Finally, and this will never happen, take Bettman to court on the Luongo recapture.
(Author’s note: Hard agree on that last point!)
In this scenario, I’m letting Tanev and Toffoli walk. The team is backed into a corner and you have to go with youth. They technically still haven’t even made the playoffs yet.
Regardless of the situation, I’m still trying to ship out Eriksson, Baertschi, Beagle, Benn, and Roussel. I have no issue with the latter three, but their contract value and age aren’t my direction. We should still be aiming a bit further in to the future than 30+-year-old depth players being paid well. Let Sutter expire. Spend money on top of the lineup and let youth fill the depth roles for now. If you can move out any of those contracts, I’m bringing Tanev back – if he accepts an Edler-type contract.
If there is a flat cap with no compliance buyouts, the owners should say no to hockey in the ‘20/’21 season. Lock everyone out until they get their way.
Looking at Sportrac, looks like Canucks will have $18 mil in space – I could be wrong just going by that number.
I think given last season, Ferland will be put on LTIR which would free up $3.5 million. I truly believe Toffoli and Marky will take shorter-term deals to establish value once the cap goes up, and not sure Tanev will want to leave – a la Edler.
One-two year contracts at similar cap hits to what they have now, except Markey goes to $5 mil. No teams are going to be handing out big contracts, at least not many in a position to make playoffs.
If there is one guy to “jettison,” it would have to be Marky given the depth at goalie position in the system. Bring in a vet on one-year contract to split time with Thatcher next year.
Benning has to sign Markstrom and be prepared to lose either Tanev or Stecher on the backend. Upon this club turning the corner towards contention, Toffoli may be too old and too rich for their blood to keep him, but the guy is a good hockey player. Have to keep Shotgun Jake and Gaudette as per their youth going forward. No one wants Loui, Beagle, Roussel and probably not Benn either, as one can’t see these guys being in the cards when the Canucks get to the next level. What a mess the salary cap has made of hockey.
In the cap era, one thing I have seen with the Blackhawks’ success is that you sometimes have to lose good players to keep better ones. As such, I am not too worried about losing UFAs that much. Since the Canucks have yet to enter their window, I would look at each contract and project if they will be contributors when the team is ready to compete.
The only UFA I would see as important is Markstrom, only to prevent a free fall in case our goaltending isn’t ready. Not to mention preventing a nightmare scenario with the Miller pick. I would not give out a no-trade though, thinking about the Expansion Draft. If I couldn’t sign any of Tanev, Toffoli, Leivo, or Fantenberg to a reasonable contract, then so be it.
For the RFAs, I would sign Gaudette and Stecher due to lack of positional depth. I would sign Virtanen too, but he is one of the wingers I look to move. In this case, I would focus on trying to find young D-men that are ready to make the move to NHL and who are stuck behind deep rosters. I said during the trade deadline WWYDW that Jake Bean is one I would target, and if I had to give up Virtanen, then I would (probably would ask for more than just Bean if I was giving up Jake). Some other D-men I might consider trading for are; Brendan Guhle from Anaheim, Honka from Dallas, Addison from Minnesota, or Santini from Nashville. With the likes of Podkolzin, Hoglander, and Lind coming up, I am not too concerned about losing winger depth.
The only regular buyout I would be willing to spend on is Eriksson. I take the small cap hit for the extra years to open that roster spot. I could ride out the year with the likes of Sutter and if I needed to buy out players next year, like Beagle, I would do it when it is cheaper to do so. I would keep both for centre depth anyways.
During next season, I would continue to look to get younger and cheaper with an eye on future upward value, aiming for a 2022 or 2023 window, if this could be done without losing a potential playoff spot.
One last thing, I think there is a way to get out of KHL contracts early. If that can be done, I would try my best to persuade Podkolzin to do so.
With the cap staying the same, I’d trade Boeser for a young, promising right-handed defender as a replacement for Tanev. I’d then use that cap space to sign Toffoli.
If you can’t find a buyer, I’d let Fantenberg, Tanev, and Toffoli walk, and would re-sign everyone else (Markstrom, Stech, Leivo, Virt, Gaudette, Motte, MacEwan) and would use some combo of either Rafferty, Brisebois, Benn on the right side and/or Tryamkin for the D replacements.