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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: The Canucks’ top 5 defence prospects, the book on Conor Timmins, and what price to walk away from Markstrom

Another week, another mailbag. Let’s see what you wonderful people asked this week!

The past week can only be considered disheartening when it comes to whether the NHL’s return to play plan will be doable. Toronto Maple Leafs’ star Auston Matthews tested positive for Covid-19, along with 10 other players since June 8th.

I would not be surprised to see the NHL postpone their target date of July 10th for when training camps will get underway. Maybe by an extra two weeks? Then again, there have been reports that the league, even after these new cases, isn’t considering delaying the start date of training camps. If there are more and more cases however, their hands may be tied.

Furthermore, there still isn’t any confirmation that the mandatory two-week quarantine from those arriving in Canada from outside the country will be lifted or modified to accommodate the NHL. Granted, it was hinted at before by both government officials and Dr. Bonnie Henry, but that was before these cases were made public.

If the NHL is forced to look at starting training camps in August, I’d say that’s when they’ll really consider cancelling the season and getting ready for next season instead.

Beginning the play-in series in early September, late August rather than late July would only cause more problems with completing somewhat of a legitimate season next season.

And they’re going to have more than enough problems starting that season up as it is — they definitely don’t need to add more for themselves.

All that being said, all signs are pointing to the NHL staying firm on their July 10th date, and we should hear an announcement on the hub cities this week.

Although, I did really enjoy this response to the original cancellation question:

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The league has been known to be unclear on rules when the Canucks are in the finals, after all.

I’d say no, simply because there are no asterisk’s on any previous cup wins where players on the opposing teams went down with injuries.

Unlike traditional injuries, players won’t be playing through a positive coronavirus test (or at least they shouldn’t be) so I can understand how this would give some the idea that an asterisk is needed next to the cup winner’s names.

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I think to answer this question properly you need to judge it based on the situation. If it’s egregious and a team is missing five of the players in their top six due to Covid and lose in the cup final, then sure, maybe there’s an asterisk.

John Garrett of Sportsnet joined us on Canucks Conversation a few weeks ago and I asked him this very question — he said not only will there not be an asterisk but that given the circumstances, this cup will be harder to win than others. Ryan Johansen, Bo Horvat, and others have all echoed the same tune.

Speaking of Canucks Conversation, Chris Faber and I talked about this on this week’s episode!

I said in terms of a dollar amount, if you’re looking at any more than $6.5 million, you’re starting to get into some dangerous territory.

$5.5-$6.5 is probably where the final contract ends up at. Markstrom will almost certainly be looking for term, but how much longer can the Canucks keep Thatcher Demko in a backup position before his camp starts to flirt with the idea of asking for a trade?

The idea of keeping both Markstrom and Demko is either going to happen thanks to a side trade where the Canucks receive Seattle’s word that they won’t take a goaltender (which backfired on most teams that pulled one of these deals off during the Vegas expansion) or by structuring Markstrom’s contract in a way that makes it as “expansion proof” as possible.

Thomas Drance of The Athletic outlined the structure for Markstrom’s next deal that gives the best odds for Seattle passing over him in the expansion draft:

“The key element here is obviously the $7 million signing bonus in Year 2. Assuming the 2021 expansion draft occurs at the end of the 2020-21 league year (and who knows when that could be? The fall of 2021?), this contract structure would create an environment where, were the Canucks to expose Markstrom in expansion, the Seattle expansion franchise would have to factor paying Markstrom $7 million in a lump-sum signing-bonus payment almost immediately upon selecting him.”

This is the best case scenario, but to answer the question, I’d say any higher than $6.5 million is the number in which it might be wise to consider walking away from Markstrom.

Since we’re on the topic of the expansion draft, let’s answer this question.

I’ll give you my list of protecting eight skaters and one goalie, rather than the alternative seven forwards, three defencemen and one goalie (teams can choose one of these routes) since the Canucks have just one defender under contract beyond the 2020-21 season — Tyler Myers.

F: Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Tyler Toffoli*, Jake Virtanen, Adam Gaudette, Tanner Pearson*/Micheal Ferland

G: Thatcher Demko

*player will need new contract prior to expansion draft

The good thing here is that Myers’ contract doesn’t require him to be protected, so if his play were to fall off a bit next season, it’s unlikely the new Seattle franchise will want to take on his $6 million contract which will still have three years remaining on it. The Canucks keep him, and don’t have to use a protection spot on him to do it.

Ask me this same question in a year when the Canucks will presumably have new defencemen under contract, and my list will likely look fairly different.

I left Markstrom unprotected under the assumption that the Canucks will structure his contract the way Drance outlined above. It’s certainly not a 100% guarantee Seattle won’t still select him, but it’s the Canucks’ best chance at keeping both goaltenders.

This is a great question, but might be one that’s too early to answer definitively.

MacEwen has shown great progress, and yes, he was an effective center with the Utica Comets. When you look at the Canucks’ center depth, it’s important to also note that at about halfway through this season, Kole Lind shifted into the middle and started getting some reps at center.

The organization will eventually have to replace Sutter and Beagle, and they’re certainly hoping that they have an effective replacement for the fourth line center position right under their noses.

For now though, I think it makes much more sense to keep MacEwen on the wing on the fourth line. He brings speed, physicality, and nobody is complaining about Jay Beagle’s ability to win faceoffs. Keep him on the wing for the time being.

 

Conor Timmins was the 32nd overall selection of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. It’s no secret that the Colorado Avalanche are going to be just fine when it comes to young defencemen. They’ve got Cale Makar and Bowen Byram — two players you’re more than happy to structure a blueline around.

Timmins on the other hand, is a bit of a different story. Concussions have derailed his first two professional seasons. Despite being drafted in 2017, this was Timmins’ first pro season in the AHL, and he only appeared in 40 games.

Here’s what Scott Wheeler of The Athletic had to say about him:

Timmins has become a driving force, showing some dynamic elements and consistently making plays. The only real hole in his game at this point might be that he doesn’t have the hardest shot in the world. And on the scale of things that matter to me for a defenceman these days, a threatening shot is near the bottom of the list. Otherwise, he’s 6-foot-2, he has begun to fill out (he’s now 185 pounds), he’s a smooth skater who will get more powerful as he gets even stronger, he’s got NHL hands for his size, he’s a superb outlet and seam passer and he has always been a mature defender for his age, demonstrating an impressive ability to read the play and pick his spots. He’s got the offensive and defensive elements needed to be a good second-pairing defenceman, which would give the Avalanche an embarrassment of riches at the position.

You can never have enough good defence prospects, but the Avalanche almost have a surplus in comparison to other NHL teams.

I’d say that Timmins’ price right now may be too high given the uncertainty that surrounds his future. You just never know with concussions, and I would say the Canucks would be wisest to see Timmins get in more games at the AHL level before making a move to acquire him.

Right now his price would be that of a high second-round pick who is still very much widely regarded as having the toolset to become a top 4 NHL defenceman. Take into account that he’s also right-handed and you’re looking at a return that is much more than the Canucks should be willing to offer right now.

Here is my list:

Jack Rathbone
Brogan Rafferty
Olli Juolevi
Jett Woo
Toni Utunen

Woo is coming off a disappointing season which is why I rank him a tad lower than Juolevi. Rathbone looks like a surefire top 4 NHL d-man, and Rafferty looks like he’ll be more than capable of playing on a third pairing — and yes, I know it’s generous to call a 25-year-old a prospect, but hey, he’s eligible to win the Calder next season.

The book is still out on Woo, Juolevi, and Utunen, but I have high hopes for Juolevi and Woo based on the games I’ve seen them both play.

Speaking of which:

It’s basically a shot in the dark, but I’ll say if everything goes according to plan, he could play over 500.

Because Elias Pettersson, Jacob Markstrom, and J.T. Miller really don’t like losing.

No, he hasn’t unfortunately. Not only was Pettersson the most valuable Canuck this season, but he was also one of the most valuable players in the entire NHL. Don’t believe me? Give Andrew Harris’ latest writeup for CanucksArmy a read here.

That’s all for this week, folks! Thanks to all who asked questions, and my apologies to those I couldn’t get to this week. To ask a question in a future mailbag, follow me on Twitter @QuadreIli, and keep an eye out for that weekly mailbag tweet!