Welcome back to WDYTT, the only hockey column on the internet that hands out more awards than it receives.
And speaking of awards, all the regular-season NHL Awards have now been doled out, and the Vancouver Canucks went home empty-handed, despite a handful of close calls.
Quinn Hughes finished second in Calder Trophy voting, trailing Cale Makar by a larger margin than most would have assumed. Hughes also finished 15th for the Norris
Jacob Markstrom was fourth in line for the Vezina, just missing out on the sort of nomination that would have earned him an extra million on his contract.
Three different Canucks received votes for the Hart Trophy, with Markstrom and Elias Pettersson tied at 15th place and JT Miller bringing up the rear with a single tally.
Pettersson did not receive a single vote for the Selke Trophy, but Miller got one.
And off the ice, GM Jim Benning finished in sixth place for GM-of-the-Year, and Travis Green finished tenth for the Jack Adams.
In other words, Canucks were considered for basically every NHL Award of note, but none were actually chosen.
As fans, we could easily choose to be satisfied with these near-misses, and the mark of franchise-wide progress they represent, but where’s the fun in that?
Instead, this week we’re asking you:
Which of the Canucks got ripped off the most by the 2020 NHL Awards?
Last week, we asked:
Which Vancouver free agents do you want to keep, and which ones would you let go?
Most of you took the week off, but some of you chimed in, and your responses are below!
Before any decisions on who you keep, you must maximize your cap budget by trading away as many players as you can that are not contributing much to the team’s success. If LE, BS, and SB are moved with only a million or two retained, it opens up the door to keeping all your effective players. Use the RFAs like Jake as your sweetener, and/or late round draft picks. GMJB needs to move those guys out at almost any cost.
Failing that, maybe those players you want to keep might buy into the idea of one-year deals at the same money just to have one more shot at the Cup with this group. If winning the Cup is the priority and the dream of every player, this may be their best chance rather, than moving on to a new team and all the uncertainty and adjustments that they would have to face. Tanev said he would consider a one-year deal.
Who to keep in order of preference;
Markstrom – How many really great teams have bad goaltending and can’t get out of the first round of the playoffs because of it? We need to sign Marky and figure out what to do with him and Demko later on.
Motte – In my mind Motte is the definition of a real unsung hero for this team. He is everything that Hansen was and a valuable player for the team.
Toffoli – Goals are hard to find in the NHL and Toffoli has them. I think he can set new personal bests playing a full season as a Canuck.
MacEwen – The big man will be a very good Canuck and a cheap replacement to someone else who moves out to clear cap space. That likely will be Virtanen.
Tanev – By now the dollars are tight and I’d like reduced dollars and term for the Tan-man due to injuries, age, and reduced playing time. If this cannot be accomplished, we may need to move on.
Stecher – The unsung hero on defense – I love his work ethic and determination, but a defensive player who isn’t overly physical and adds little in scoring may end up as the odd man out or get replaced through the guys in the system to save on cap space. I want him back, but I think he can be replaced.
Leivo – A versatile player who is finding his groove. I would like to add him for a six-digit salary, any more and he can move on to greener pastures.
Shotgun Jake – Pass, see MacEwen.
Fantenberg – He was pretty steady all year but one of Juolevi, Rafferty, Chatfield and others should be able to step up and play this year.
I believe that the order of importance is Toffoli/Tanev/Leivo, but it all depends on who wants to stay and who wants a contract. Both Toffoli and Tanev have had pretty good contracts so I could see them taking a little less to win. This is Marky’s first and probably last big contract, so I don’t see him taking less years and less money along with NMC. He has earned it.
RFAs go Motte, Stecher, and Zack. Jake V has worn out his welcome, unfortunately. Maybe GMJB can get something in return or maybe get one more year of “show us” commitment, but not likely.
If only we knew! Benning and staff have every option on every player mapped out. What trade to accept, what price to pay, term, who to let walk, and on and on. It’s not a wait and see, kneejerk thing, unless something huge comes out of the blue. These guys have a job and they have figured out the options for most anything that might happen. We take blind stabs and those guys actually know stuff. I’ve learned to sit back and see what happens, not to get too bent out of shape about any of this. It’s a fun exercise though…
Gino uber alles:
UFAs/RFAs to keep, in order:
Toffoli – Don’t underestimate the importance of surrounding your young core with solid players, he makes Pettersson and Horvat much better, and we won’t have a top-six winger to replace him until Podkolzin comes of age. Signing him at a reasonable rate almost guarantees that we re-sign Pearson next year, Toffoli should be our priority and then you won’t have to worry about your top-six for years.
Tanev – Great in the room, great in front of the net, great teammate and mentor to the young core, definitely wants to stay. He should be flexible with cap hit and term to stay, and Benning actually has a pretty good record of re-signing players to do just that, as long as the date isn’t July 1st.
Stecher – Character player, solid option on the bottom pairing, and can sub up when needed. Should come with a hometown discount on cap hit and term. Just don’t get carried away and forget that he’s a third-pairing defensemen.
Motte – What more can you say about what he did in the playoffs? He won’t break the bank, so give him some term, he’s earned it.
Leivo – Easily the forgotten man this year but he was having a solid campaign and plays well under Green.
MacEwen – Seems almost criminal to have him this low on the list, but he’s a solid fourth liner and a great character player, he can grow with this team and fits in perfectly.
To let go:
Markström – Usually a reigning team MVP and clear #1 goalie would be an obvious priority, but the expansion draft and flat salary cap change this considerably. Personally, I’m not comfortable giving Demko the job just yet (he’s very, very close) but we’d only be able to keep Markström for a year anyways. If we can get him cheaply and with no trade protection, that would be perfect but not at the expense of losing the ability to sign other players, we simply don’t have the room to keep both him and a deep team around him. It’s sheer lunacy to let your MVP and Vezina caliber goaltender walk away for nothing, but Demko and a quality backup is the way to go here.
Virtanen – Writing this just breaks my heart, as he’s the ultimate “what could have been” player, but he simply has not shown a desire to improve and at 24 still makes remarkably bad decisions that even a junior player shouldn’t make; he just doesn’t get it. We need what he can be on this team rather desperately, but he’s much more of a passenger than a leader. It would be ideal to get him on another “show me” contract if we lose Toffoli, but if you can’t, then recoup picks through the draft if you can and pray that he doesn’t become a late bloomer and make you regret it.
Fantenberg – No disrespect to him as he did really well as the 6th/7th defenseman, but it’s time to give Juolevi a long-term look with this team. It’s been a long wait but he’s finally ready to step up.
For UFAs; I’d say Markstrom is the top priority, but only if it’s either a super-high number next year or two to balance out not having a NMC or otherwise walk (which it sounds like is already the bar the negotiations are setting), and then Toffoli because he makes the top-six so much better, and then Tanev because he is deteriorating but showed in the playoffs how good he can still be.
I do think it’s time to let Juolevi and some of the other young D get a chance. Fantenberg is fine for depth, but only if you somehow offload Benn. Domingue is good for the farm, we need some insurance there. I also wouldn’t underestimate how important Markstrom and Tanev are for team leadership and morale; just letting them walk also does have serious consequences in that respect.
For RFAs; I think you have to qualify Virtanen even if you’re going to flip him, Gaudette is easy (plus he has no leverage), Motte and MacEwen, too. Stetcher’s tricky – tons of heart, but he is overmatched as a regular top-four and I think we need to get away from overpays on the bottom-six and bottom pairing if we’re finally going to have some solid young players available to jump up into that mix.
Ken Priestlay Fan:
(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
With most of them it comes down to terms and AAV. The ones I definitely wouldn’t re-sign are Fantenberg (just circumstances, need to open up spots for young players) and (more controversially) Tanev. Unless Tanev signs for two years for less than he’s on now, I just don’t see how he’s good value at the end of that contract.
Markstrom needs to be three years or less, at less than $5million and no NMC, which I don’t think he’ll do. And to be fair, he probably deserves more.
Toffoli would be my priority. He adds value now and as long as the AAV isn’t ridiculous, he’ll be tradeable in a couple of years, assuming his production doesn’t fall off a cliff.
As for the rest, Virtanen should be traded unless they can move on Roussel and Sutter or Ferland retires. He’s going to be better value than those guys, whatever he gets paid, but if those guys are still there then I can’t see how keeping him is justified.
Gaudette will be re-signed, though for what is the question. Does he get a “show me” deal for a year or two, or do the Canucks invest in him and bank on the deal being a real bargain in a year or two?
Leivo, Motte, and MacEwen should all be affordable, though I’d want Leivo to prove his fitness first
Stecher is a really tough one; he’d crawl over broken glass for the team, but is he offering true value as a bottom pair defenseman, which is what he’ll be if this team want to contend? I wouldn’t want to make that decision
My prediction: Toffoli, Markstrom, Motte, Leivo, MacEwen, and Gaudette get resigned. Markstrom and Stecher get re-signed if they can shift out some salary in the interim. Tanev and Fantenberg go.