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Photo Credit: © Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Which Canucks free agents are going to re-sign (and which are entering their final month with the organization)

The Vancouver Canucks still have almost one-fifth of their regular season left to play, but we understand perfectly well if you’re not all too excited to hear that. Like many, our focus is shifting evermore toward the offseason to come, especially now that we’re officially in the final month of the Canucks’ season — which will be several players’ last month in the organization.

Below, you’ll find a listing of every pending Canucks free agent, of both the unrestricted and restricted variety, categorized by their likelihood of signing another contract in Vancouver, and the probable asking price were they to return.

It’s also quite likely, of course, that multiple other players are skating into their last month as Canucks due to trades or buyouts yet to come, but we won’t be discussing them here. We’ll also be leaving any unsigned draft picks, like Vasily Podkolzin, aside for now.

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Definitely Re-Signing

Unless something goes catastrophically wrong, these players will be returning.

Elias Pettersson

Negotiations with Pettersson have already gone on longer than the organization — and certainly its fanbase — would have preferred, but that doesn’t lessen the chances of him eventually putting ink to paper.

Pettersson’s new contract should have been the priority since he became eligible for an extension, and it certainly is now. The opportunity for a long-term commitment has probably passed, and that might be better for all parties involved. Expect Pettersson signed long before training camp opens.

Estimated Contract: $6.5 to 8.5 million for two to three years.

Quinn Hughes

Everything we just said about Pettersson applies to Hughes, but with some additional caveats. Hughes’ production in particular may be a little out of line with his actual on-ice value, but numbers still speak loudest when it comes to contract negotiations.

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That back-and-forth could extend the Hughes talks longer than those surrounding Pettersson’s new deal, but the fact that both players share the same agency probably ensures that negotiations will happen in tandem.

Estimated Contract: $5.5 to 7.5 million for two to four years.

Kole Lind

We would have had Lind on this list before his encouraging NHL cameo, but it’s even more of a certainty now. One of the Canucks’ top prospects and a burgeoning talent at center, Lind hopefully has a long future in the organization’s bottom-six, and that future should start in earnest next season — which also happens to be when his waiver exemption runs out.

Estimated Contract: Under $1 million for one or two years.

Olli Juolevi

The team has invested a lot of developmental time and resources in Juolevi, and they’re finally starting to see some returns in 2021. Juolevi’s progression has occurred on a soft slope, but it’s nowhere near finished yet, and the Canucks are practically obligated to see what more he can do from here.

As of right now, he’s pencilled into the top-four on the blueline for 2021/22.

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Estimated Contract: $1 to 1.5 million for one or two years.

Probably Re-Signing

These players not being offered a new contract would constitute a surprise, but not quite a scandal.

Jayce Hawryluk

Without much fanfare, Hawryluk has performed relatively effectively in the Canucks’ bottom-six during his debut season. His previously strong possession stats have taken a hit of late, but he’s still grinding it out, agitating opponents, and not being a total offensive blackhole.

Hawryluk would again need to fight for a spot in the lineup next season, but he’s done well enough to justify a qualifying offer at the very least.

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Estimated Contract: Under $1 million for a year.

Jalen Chatfield

Chatfield vaulted several others on the depth chart to earn far more NHL time in 2021 than anyone saw coming. His defending has been inconsistent, and he may never progress beyond the blueline fringe, but he represents a useful fill-in at minimum, and is still young enough at age 24 to have some untapped potential left in him. That alone makes him worth a contract offer.

Of course, as a Group 6 UFA, it will be entirely up to Chatfield whether he takes that offer or tries his luck elsewhere, but the organization has probably given him enough of a look this year to keep him in the fold.

Estimated Contract: Under $1 million for one or two years, possibly two-way.

Justin Bailey

Bailey only played 20:24 across three games for the Canucks in 2021, but as far as small sample sizes go it was rather impressive. Bailey’s Corsi remains the best on the team at 68.42%, and while that certainly would have gone down had he played more, his on-ice effectiveness and enthusiasm was also apparent to the naked eye. Then his season was ended by an unsuspended hit from behind by Milan Lucic.

Bailey is worth and deserves another shot, and all the Canucks need to do is make a cheap qualifying offer to keep him. Why not?

Estimated Contract: Under $1 million for one or two years.

Marc Michaelis

Michaelis’ first season with the organization has been significantly short of inspiring, with much of it spent on the taxi squad and the remainder spent struggling to keep up with the pace of the NHL.

The fact that it was his first season of professional hockey, fresh out of the NCAA, probably buys him at least another year via a qualifying offer, and hopefully he’s finally able to make it down to Utica for some much-needed development.

Estimated Contract: Under $1 million for a year, two-way.

Lukas Jasek

Jasek is the most unheralded prospect in the system, only rarely cracking potential-based lists of Vancouver assets despite steady progression through three seasons with the Comets. He’s almost up to PPG AHL production in 2021, and his two-way game is strong.

An NHL job may still be a longshot for Jasek, but it’s a lot less of a longshot than it used to be, and he’s well worth a qualifying offer to find out.

Honestly, the only reason he’s not on the “definitely” list is because of the small possibility that he eschews his QO to return to Europe and await unrestricted free agency.

Estimated Contract: Under $1 million for one or two years, two-way.

Guillaume Brisebois

Brisebois has been a good soldier for the franchise, especially during a 2021 season in which he’s been shuttled all over North America. Still just 23, Brisebois seems destined for life as an NHL/AHL tweener, but a team that travels as much as the Canucks do always needs blueline depth.

Brisebois will stick around for at least one more contract before perhaps trying his luck elsewhere.

Estimated Contract: Under $1 million for one year, two-way.

Possibly Re-Signing

We’re in Bob Barker territory now. The Canucks should consider re-signing the following players, but only if the price is right.

Travis Hamonic

Most would agree that Hamonic has performed reasonably well in his Vancouver debut, particularly as a partner to Hughes, even though the numbers don’t exactly support that notion. At the very least, Hamonic has been serviceable, and with no immediate help on the horizon for the right side of the blueline, it probably makes sense to keep him.

Hamonic’s unique situation should ensure that his contract demands are reasonable.

One hopes that a true upgrade will be found through free agency or the trade market instead, allowing the team to move on from Hamonic, but that might not be possible this offseason with limited cap space to burn.

Estimated Contract: $1.5 to 2 million for one or two years.

Alex Edler

Now we arrive at the tough decisions. Sentimentally, most would like Edler to get in at least one more year with the Canucks, lest his final season be defined by face-punches both metaphorical and literal. But Edler’s footspeed has, ironically enough, begun to catch up with him, and he’s in real danger of being passed on the depth chart by Juolevi, Jack Rathbone, and potentially whoever the Canucks pick in the first round this year.

If Edler is willing to accept a huge pay-cut and a lesser role, ideally one that sees him swap starts with the younger blueliners, the Canucks should go for it. If not, they walk away. The uncertainty is tragic, in a way, because it could lead to Edler exiting the organization without the sendoff he deserves, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Estimated Contract: $2 to 2.5 million for one year or they walk.

Brandon Sutter

Sutter was one of those contracts that fans were counting down the days until the end of, but now we’re there and, suddenly, an extension seems like a real possibility. The Canucks have an issue with center depth, and Sutter remains a decent enough stopgap.

If the Canucks can acquire someone else to fill that 3C spot, or if they decide to stick JT Miller there full-time, or if someone like Lind steps up and grabs it, there will be no need for Sutter. Even if not, you’d still hope to snag an upgrade of sorts via free agency.

But as a last resort…

Estimated Contract: Sutter probably gets $2.5 to 3 million for two or three years on the open market, but the Canucks will hopefully only offer him a single year.

Tyler Graovac

Graovac has been largely forgotten in a season that’s seen him mostly stashed on the taxi squad, but he’s been surprisingly efficient when given NHL minutes and has that coveted combo of size and skating ability.

If he’s willing to stay on as a depth center, the Canucks have no real reason to part ways with him. If he wants to see if he can move higher on the chart of another organization altogether, that’s fine, too.

Estimated Contract: Under $1 million for one year, two-way.

Probably Not Re-Signing

The following players will probably be moving on, but there’s still a small chance they return.

Travis Boyd

Boyd arrived in Vancouver with mild hype, but that probably had more to do with the state of the team than Boyd himself. Through a handful of games with the Canucks, he’s failed to make much of an impression at all, and re-signing him would just block the path of younger would-be fourth liners like Lind and Jonah Gadjovich. Boyd definitely struggled to make the adjustment from the high-flying Maple Leafs to the, uh, not-so-high-flying Canucks.

It’s best for both parties to move on here.

Estimated Contract: Boyd will get a contract worth under $1 million for a year or two from someone, but probably not the Canucks.

Brogan Rafferty

The Canucks apparently don’t have much interest in Rafferty anymore, and he’s got to be ready to go elsewhere. After a stellar rookie campaign with the Comets in 2019/20, Rafferty got into one NHL game this year and was then relegated to the taxi squad, watching players like Chatfield, Brisebois, and Ashton Sautner get called up ahead of him.

The sudden shift in opportunity may be a headscratcher, but Rafferty won’t waste much time worrying about it. As a Group 6 UFA, he’ll find somewhere else to play and see if he can’t find permanent work on an NHL blueline.

Estimated Contract: Rafferty will be offered something under $1 million and for one or two years by a whole bunch of suitors. A one-way contract will be what he’s really after.

Ashton Sautner

Sautner has been a trusted farmhand veteran for six seasons now, even if he didn’t actually make it down to Utica in 2021. There’s no harm in keeping him around, save for that space might need to be made for younger prospects.

Him being away from the team for much of the season makes cutting ties a little easier, but it also wouldn’t be all that surprising if he came back for at least one more year.

Estimated Contract: Under $1 million for one year, two-way.

Jake Kielly

Kielly’s future with the team is almost entirely dependent on movement elsewhere in the Canucks’ crease. If Braden Holtby stays for 2021/22, relegating Mike DiPietro back down to the farm for another season, there’s no harm in keeping Kielly to back DiPietro up.

If Holtby is bought out, selected by Seattle, or traded, however, that will probably mean that DiPietro is in the NHL and Arturs Silovs goes to the Comets. In that case, the Canucks will probably want to find someone with more veteran cachet to platoon with the 20-year-old Silovs.

Estimated Contract: Kielly will be fortunate to get an NHL contract of any sort, and he may be bound for an AHL-only deal or Europe.

Mitch Eliot

The existence of the taxi squad has opened up space for Eliot to actually get some games in with the Comets this year, but the results haven’t been all that encouraging. The Canucks really have no need to invest another contract in a player that hasn’t yet established himself as an everyday AHL skater, unless they really still believe in his potential.

Eliot is just 23.

Estimated Contract: In all likelihood, Eliot will not be receiving another NHL contract.

Definitely Not Re-Signing

These players are definitely in their final days as Vancouver Canucks.

Jimmy Vesey

Vesey just hasn’t been a fit in Vancouver. Through ten games he’s yet to register a point, despite ample opportunity in the top-six, and coach Travis Green would probably be healthy scratching him right now if he had a choice.

Vesey still has enough name-value to pick up another contract elsewhere, but he’s worn out his welcome with the Canucks.

Estimated Contract: Someone will offer something in the range of $1 million for a year or two.

Sven Baertschi

Baertschi is finally free. Whatever the reason for his exile from Vancouver, it was apparent to all that he wasn’t going to get another shot with the Canucks. He’s dutifully done his time in Utica, and now he gets to see if anyone else is willing to give him a chance at the NHL level.

If not, it’s probably back to Switzerland for him.

Estimated Contract: A one-year “show me” contract at around $1 million sounds right.

Nikita Tryamkin

Tryamkin just signed a two-year extension in the KHL, effectively ending his tenure with the Canucks organization. When that deal expires, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent, and able to sign with whatever NHL franchise will have him.

There’s no word on whether or not this new contract includes an “out clause,” but it’s clear that he wouldn’t have signed it if he had any intention of coming back to Vancouver.

Estimated Contract: None for the next two years, and then who knows?

Josh Teves

Since signing as an NCAA free agent in 2019, Teves has managed to get into fewer than 50 games between the Canucks, the Comets, and the Kalamazoo Wings. He might hold down an AHL job for a while yet, but at the age of 26 it seems his big league dreams are finished. The Canucks have no need to keep the pending UFA around, unless it’s on an AHL-only deal.

Estimated Contract: Teves will probably sign with an AHL club or go overseas.

Petrus Palmu

This one is just a formality. Palmu bailed on the Comets in late 2018 and hasn’t looked back. Two lackluster seasons in the SM-Liiga later, and he’s now skating in the German DEL — and still not putting up any numbers of any significance.

Palmu is unlikely to ever return to North American hockey.

Estimated Contract: At best, Palmu might receive a KHL offer.