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Photo Credit: © Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

WDYTT: Who joins the top-six forwards next season?

Welcome back to WDYTT, the only hockey column on the internet that’s not growing a moustache for November.

The Vancouver Canucks have experienced many departures this offseason, including two forwards who spent time in the top-six in 2019/20 in Tyler Toffoli and Josh Leivo. That leaves the Canucks with five clear-cut top-six forwards — Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, JT Miller, Bo Horvat, and Tanner Pearson — and one spot that’s totally up for grabs.

Jake Virtanen may have the inside track on the job, but he’ll have plenty of competition for it whenever training camp opens. Adam Gaudette could slide to the wing. Nils Hoglander could leap right from Sweden to the NHL. Micheal Ferland could stay healthy. Sven Baertschi could earn redemption and a ticket back to the big leagues.

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But before they have the chance to fight for that spot, we’re giving you the chance to prognosticate, because we’re asking you:

Who you do think will join the Canucks’ top-six forwards in 2021?

Last week, we asked:

What moves would you make to get the Canucks cap compliant before 2021?

(Without Micheal Ferland on LTIR, specifically)

Your responses are below!

J-Canuck:

The easiest way to create the space is send both Sven and Loui to the AHL, whatever that looks like this year. Each player saves a little over a million, which gets them under the cap. I have no doubt Ferland comes into camp and tries one more time. His two exits last year came after fights, so maybe dropping that from his game might help. If he plays healthy, that’s good for the middle-six. If there is another concussion? Has to be LTIR, which will free up space for additions in-season.

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Defenceman Factory:

(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)

The Canucks have to move a contract out. I think they can find $5-600k by putting Rafferty and Hawryluk on the roster and sending down more expensive players (Baertschi, Rathbone). That isn’t enough. It is enough to get through being cap compliant on Day 1 by using a 22-man roster. This is not a sustainable strategy, but does get you to a spot of knowing if Ferland is headed for LTIR, which might be a reasonable gamble.

I think it’s Roussel who has some chance of being moved and the Canucks will try hard to. His contract is likely the most moveable and requires the least sweetening in a trade. Personally, I believe the Canucks should have bought out Baertschi or Roussel when they had the chance. Buying out Eriksson was too expensive and Sutter would have saved very little as another center would have had to be signed.

If the Canucks can’t move Roussel or Baertschi, they don’t get picked up off waivers, and Ferland doesn’t go to LTIR, the Canucks may be forced to trade Virtanen. The return will be weak as Benning will have no leverage. The Lotto Line stays intact and Horvat gets a RW who can play a shut down role (Hawryluk, Motte, Eriksson).

El Kabong:

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I never ever ever want to see Eriksson play a game in a Canucks jersey again. The fans, for some reason, have been really easy on Loui even though he deserves to be ripped apart. Bury his contract in the minors, let him retire, or whatever, just as long as he never skates for us again. Enough is enough. As for BearCheese, I think the Canucks have had enough of him and expect him to spend the season in the AHL. Other than that, we just need to let these contracts run their course and plan for the future.

Grayvee:

$1.5 million isn’t a big deal. Have a normal training camp and pick the best lineup. Between Baertschi, Eriksson, Roussel, Sutter, or Beagle, two won’t make the cut. I’m glad there were no buyouts. Better to deal with a tight cap now then spread the problem out over a few years.

Ragnarok Ouroboros:

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I would send an agent back in time to terminate the Eriksson contract before it even began.

wojohowitz:

They could trade Beagle if they eat half his contract because he has value; aka, leadership qualities.

They could give Roussel an ultimatum; retire or Utica.

They could trade Benn by adding a sweetener.

Benning thinks Sutter is too valuable to the team to move.

Ferland (like Eriksson) won`t go quietly. He`s going to squeeze every nickel he can out of his contract. That means he`s 100% healthy and ready to play for the start of the next three seasons, and if the Canucks don`t like it then it can go to an outside arbitrator…

Killer Marmot:

My first plan is this:

  1. Obtain some compromising pictures of Bettman. If you can’t get real ones, use photoshop.
  2. Using these pictures, get Bettman to allow a single compliance buyout per team.
  3. Buy out Eriksson.

My second plan has the benefit of being legal. Start the season with a 22-man roster as follows:

  1. Send two higher-paid forwards (e.g., Baertschi and Eriksson) down, reducing the cap by $2.35 million. That leaves 13 forwards and 6 defensemen.
  2. Bring Rafferty up, increasing the cap by $0.7 million. That leaves 13 forwards and 7 defensemen.

That saves $1.650 million, bringing the Canucks under the cap. When enough LTIR cap relief has been accumulated, expand the roster to 23.

TheRealRusty:

Run a 21-person roster (12 forwards, 7 defenders, 2 goalies) instead of 23 until Ferland inevitably gets injured again… Baertschi and LE would be the two forwards that I send down to Utica.

Captain Compliant:

(Winner of the author’s occasional award for a fitting username)

The roster minimum at the start of the season is 20 skaters. Provided that Ferland is destined for LTIR, the Canucks can send down Eriksson, Sutter, Beagle, and Benn to get down to 19 skaters. That would leave them with a little over $3.3 million in space to sign Hamonic, or Vatanen for the right side. Then on Day One, put Ferland on LTIR and call up the desired depth to fill out the roster. The Canucks may seem to be over the cap, but they really are not.

Long time reader, first time poster.

tyhee:

Right now, the Canucks are at about $83,002,000 or $1.502 million above the cap with a full complement of 23 players, but the total includes 15 forwards and only 6 defensemen. Rathbone shows on the roster on Capfriendly, but Juolevi and Rafferty do not.

If Ferland is healthy enough to play, there is a really simple solution; you can waive Ferland and Baertschi, assign them to Utica with Rathbone, and bring up Juolevi or Rafferty. The team would be cap compliant, one player under the roster limit, provided for the deferred bonus payments, and have not used up any long-term relief.

Things are harder to deal with if Ferland isn’t healthy enough to play, as then you can’t waive him and he stays on the roster until opening day. Now you need to cut at least $1.502 million (that is the figure before adding Juolevi) but you want to stay as close as possible to that figure to maximize your use of relief for long term injury.

Now to get under the pre-opening day cap with Ferland still on the roster, but having at least six defensemen, takes some juggling. Offhand, I think that waiving Baertschi and sending him to Utica and assigning Rathbone to Utica gets the team under the cap by about $500,000, though with only 21 players including Ferland. Now place Ferland on the injured list, get long-term relief, add a couple of defensemen (two or three of Rathbone, Juolevi and Rafferty) and there is room to play for a bit of time while the Canucks try to find a way to get space that can include paying the deferred bonuses.

I really dislike the idea of the cap deciding who is on the roster, even for a day, but if Benning can’t find anyone to take a contract off his hands the team can use roster decisions to stay under the cap while they continue to look for a better solution for the longer term.

51Geezer:

Yes, yes, waive the bums! The savings would be relatively minimal, but helpful.

The problems are that there is no Utica, and there is no AHL; they cannot be waived into the ether.

Kanuckhotep:

Will the Loui issue every subside on this site? The $6M elephant in the room isn’t about to go anywhere, because why pay a guy like five big ones to play in the “A”, assuming there will even be one? But this one is on Benning, not Loui; and please, everyone, no one wants Beagle, Sutter, Roussel, or Baertschi either. Not offering a solution to this problem, admittedly, just a realistic perspective.

DooDaaMan:

Benning should channel his inner Brad Pitt from Moneyball and just tell the coach, “Sorry, but you can’t dress all these losers tonight because we sent them all down!” He can also keep coaching on the last year of his deal until he stops playing guys like Eriksson in his top six. That means at the very least Baertschi, Sutter, Eriksson, and Roussel, with next up Benn and Beagle, all get waived.

Why waste draft picks and prospects as deal sweeteners to get rid of them when all we have to do is waive them goodbye? We can get around $1.1M off the cap from each buried contract, subtract that with an average of $800K for their roster young replacement. Do this five times and you have your $1.5M, or do it four times and start with a 22-man roster. The nice thing about this year is that you don’t have to force veterans with quality character to go ride the bus in Utica, they can just sit in their warm home, collect their salary, and wait for inevitable injuries to happen.

I like Ferland in our lineup if he’s healthy, it solves our top-six problem if he’s the Horvat line right winger, letting us keep the Lotto line together. It would allow Virtanen to be on a third line where he belongs and, with possibly Hoglander replacing Roussel on that line, it could a dangerous secondary scoring line. MacEwen is ready to take that 4th line spot over Sutter and Hawryluk can easily be our extra forward utility guy instead of Eriksson. Baertschi’s roster spot would go to Rafferty or Rathbone, who can be the 7th guy behind Juolevi and Benn. If Ferland ends up on LTIR to start the season, I would keep the same guys down and offer his $3.5M salary space to Hoffman if he’s still waiting around, cause none of those guys belong anywhere near our top six!