Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: How the Canucks can get Podkolzin to Vancouver before the playoffs, and when will the NHL season actually start?

Another week, another mailbag.

Let’s see what you wonderful people asked this week!

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I was texting back and forth with Patrick Johnston of The Province a week or two ago, and in doing so, it became more clear that the NHL season’s start date will likely be February 1st instead of January 15th.

The original proposed start date of January 1st is as good as gone, but I’m also skeptical that the league can begin its season on January 15th — the new date being floated around.

First, there are the owners, who are now realizing that the MOU they signed in the summer isn’t benefiting them like they originally hoped it would. A large part of that deal relied on the COVID-19 situation to improve, but quite the opposite has happened. The owners need their gate revenue, so it makes sense that they would try to delay the start date as much as possible in hopes that a vaccine allows at least some fans back into buildings before the end of the season. To be clear, I don’t see this being the case in Canada, but for teams located in the United States where some sports have been allowed to admit a set number of spectators into their venues, this makes sense.

There are also the players, especially the ones who would have to respect federal quarantine guidelines upon arriving into Canada. They’ll likely want to spend Christmas with their family and may not rush to come into Canada before they have official word from the league if there will even be a season in the first place. So let’s say a player comes in on December 27th, the player then has to quarantine until January 10th, which would mean the season would start five days later.

Teams will want to have proper training camps (remember, teams like the Ottawa Senators who didn’t qualify for the return to play haven’t played a game in almost 10 months) so you can expect a normal two-week training camp for all teams. That’s why it seems more realistic that NHL training camps will kick off in mid-January with the regular season beginning on or around February 1st.

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I say it’s a February 1st start date, and can’t see a scenario where the NHL doesn’t play games this season. There’s just too much money on the line for the league and its players.

The two sides are continuing to talk, and I wouldn’t be surprised to finally hear some actual news on the situation this week.

Olli Juolevi’s most frequent partner with the Utica Comets was with Ashton Sautner. From Cody Severtson: “43% of Juolevi’s event share was with Sautner, who played the right side, and 33% was with Jalen Chatfield.” 

The fact of the matter is, Travis Green almost certainly isn’t going to ice a bottom pairing with two rookies on it, no matter how well each of them plays at camp. Since Rafferty and Juolevi are among the front runners to win jobs at camp, it becomes even less likely that they’d form a third pairing together, given the fact they never really played much together at the AHL level.

If one of Brogan Rafferty or Chatfield makes the team out of camp, it likely means Juolevi is promoted to the top four to play big minutes with Tyler Myers or Nate Schmidt, and that’s just not realistic at this point in time.

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Also, don’t forget about Jack Rathbone, who’s a real wild card in all of this.

On episode 120 of Canucks Conversation, Chris Faber and I talked extensively about this, although he didn’t really want to imagine a world where Jake Virtanen has another poor showing at training camp. “It literally cannot happen,” Faber concluded.

But it can happen, and it happened twice last season. Virtanen knows all eyes will be on him at this training camp, and management has shown great faith in him by hanging onto him and carving out a spot for him in the top six. Now it’s up to him to come in and show he belongs in the team’s top six.

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However, if he doesn’t, things could get ugly. Is Antoine Roussel back in the top six? Zack MacEwen? Tyler Motte? If the Canucks want to compete in an ultra-competitive Canadian Division, they’ll simply need to do better than that.

There’s a spot on Elias Pettersson’s wing with Virtanen’s name on it, and it’ll be up to him to prove he can deliver results come training camp.

The Canucks owe Loui Eriksson $8 million USD in salary over the next two years.

One Bitcoin is worth $19,259 USD.

The remainder of Eriksson’s contract is worth 415.39 Bitcoin in total.

Bitcoin will likely continue to trend upward, while Loui Eriksson’s value does the opposite.

Bitcoin is objectively more valuable than Eriksson, but I’m not sure if Bitcoin can kill penalties as well as Eriksson can.

I’ve now checked with three different sources, and they have all told me this is flat out not an option at all for the Canucks.

Daniel Wagner of Vancouver is Awesome wrote an exceptional piece about when the Canucks can actually sign Podkolzin, and he really covered all the bases well, including the IIHF transfer agreement which could keep Podkolzin away even after his KHL season finishes:

Podkolzin is currently in the final year of his contract with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL. That season ends on April 30th, 2021. The assumption of most fans is that Podkolzin can sign with the Canucks after that date and, with the NHL season delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there should still be a decent amount of the regular season remaining to be played.

With that in mind, Podkolzin could sign with the Canucks and make an impact in the team’s drive to make the 2021 playoffs. He would fit a distinct need on the right wing and has the type of mature defensive game to quickly earn the trust of a head coach like Travis Green…

According to Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning, however, there’s one other issue. “Technically, his contract goes to the end of the World Championship,” said Benning. “That’s when his contract technically ends.”

The 2021 IIHF World Championship is set to take place from May 21st to June 6th in Riga, Latvia, and Moscow, Russia. If Podkolzin isn’t available to sign with the Canucks until after that tournament, then he wouldn’t be available until after the start of the NHL playoffs.

Podkolzin won’t be eligible for the Canucks’ playoff roster, so him suiting up in a Canucks’ uniform may have to wait until the start of the 2021-22 season.

That being said, if the World Championships are cancelled (a much more likely scenario than you may think), then the Canucks plan on trying to get Podkolzin to Vancouver as soon as his KHL season ends on April 30th.

“They haven’t been cancelled yet, but I’ll be very surprised if they have the World Championships,” said Benning. “Then we can contact the Russian Federation and IIHF and ask them since the World Championships are going to be cancelled, then we can sign him early.”

Really, this is the only way the Canucks can get Podkolzin to Vancouver before the playoffs begin. It’s almost out of their hands, but the Canucks will still need to contact the Russian Federation and IIHF, as Benning points out.

Hands down the VLK 3.0x optic scope. Can still aim down pretty quickly, but is really helpful in mid-long range target acquisition. Sometimes causes me fits in close-quarters encounters, but that’s my favourite AR scope regardless.

That’s all for this week! Thanks to everybody who asked questions. To ask a question in a future mailbag, be sure to follow me on Twitter @QuadreIli and keep an eye out for the mailbag tweet on Saturdays. Stay safe out there and have a great week everyone!