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Photo Credit: © Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

BTTF: The Canucks are going to be contending for the Stanley Cup after being big spenders in the summer of 2022

In this Back To/The Future series, Chris Faber and Stephan Roget are making a collaborative effort to learn from the mistakes of the Vancouver Canucks’ recent past and offer solutions to salvage their immediate future — you know, just like Marty McFly did that one time. Each weekly Roget Reverse/Future Faber two-parter will start out with a critical look at some component of the Canucks’ game that went wrong in 2021, and finish by making some suggestions as to how it could get better in 2021/22. Whether you like to grumble about bad things that have already happened or dream about the good things yet to come, CanucksArmy has got what you need.

Hey Google, play Happy by Pharrell.

I’m here to talk about how the future is bright for the Canucks’ salary cap and how the 2021-22 season can potentially be the final year of financial pain for the organization.

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Say what you want about Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini, but over the past two months, he has invested in some good hockey minds for this Canucks organization. Signing the best goaltending coach in the world to an unexpected five-year extension along with investing in Travis Green and bringing in two of the smartest and most skilled former Canucks to help the front office are all good moves to bring more smart voices to the table.

These things all cost money and ownership could have gone a cheaper route but instead chose to invest into this team to make improvements.

After a 2020-21 season where it felt that the organization held down funds, ownership deserves some praise for what they have done recently. These coach extensions and the addition of the Sedin twins are all good moves.

Now it comes to the team on the ice.

Stephan Roget broke down the moves of last season and how the Canucks in hindsight, made some mistakes.

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Let’s now look forward to how the Canucks can fix the cap problem by not making as many mistakes this offseason.

Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson

The first big tasks at hand are the contracts of Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson. The two superstars of this organization and the duo that fans hope the club can build a core around and compete for a Stanley Cup when they are in their primes.

The overall feel out of what’s been reported is that Hughes and Pettersson will sign bridge deals that take them up to their final years of being restricted free agents with the Canucks. With this in mind, you need to put away 11-14 million dollars to lock these guys down in those bridge deals.

It’s not a tough situation. With your stars, you should be able to find a common ground on a number that works for both parties.

These two are the most important pieces to this organization and they deserve whatever contract Jim Benning and the agents can come to an agreement on.

As for the thought of a long-term deal, if the money works, and you can forecast the deal being worth the added cap hit for additional years of service then that is the right road to go down. Where the Canucks’ cap is currently at with bigger long-term contracts to players like Tyler Myers and Nate Schmidt along with short-term dead money like Loui Eriksson’s contract and Luongo’s recapture penalty — it makes it hard to believe that the Canucks can get both players signed to bigger money deals on longer term.

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There is a chance that one of them gets a longer deal as we have recently seen some long-term deals around the NHL but these players have a long career ahead of them and a bridge deal seems to be the best option for the duo and the organization to make the best of the surrounding cap situation.

The 2021-22 Season 

As we head into next season, the Canucks do not have much wiggle room to add to their lineup.

The combination of Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Braden Holtby, and Loui Eriksson’s cap hit alongside Roberto Luongo’s recapture penalty create a tough spot where over 18 million dollars will not be bringing a lot to the Canucks on the ice.
This 18 million comes from Eriksson’s contract being buried in the minors while the other three players are in the NHL.

Beagle, Roussel and Holtby can at least bring something to the team but their production simply does not match their contract and this limits the Canucks’ ability to make a move to attempt and acquire players who perform above their salary hit.

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After this season, the Canucks will need to make decisions on three important pieces.

Brock Boeser is coming off a season where he led the Canucks in points and is poised to be an even better point-producing winger once Elias Pettersson is back at centre on his line. Boeser is coming off a three-year, $17,625,000 contract. He will have RFA rights and will require a qualifying offer of $7,500,000.

If Boeser’s production increases from his career points per game total of 0.83 and he puts up something close to a point per game next season, he will likely be looking at a third contract that is somewhere in the eight to ten million dollar range.

With the $18 million of the cap coming off the books in which we talked about earlier, the money will be there to lock down Boeser through his prime years and we aren’t seeing a massive jump in salary as we will with Pettersson and Hughes coming off of their ELCs. With Boeser, he is seeing a rise on his current $5,875,000 cap hit, so a jump to $8,500,000 only actually adds about two and a half million dollars to the cap.

The two other important pieces are Jack Rathbone and Tyler Motte.

Both Rathbone and Motte are unlikely to require much of a raise. Rathbone is an RFA with the same 10.2(c) rights as Hughes, so he cannot be offer-sheeted and unless he sets the world on fire next season, he will probably still come in under two and a half million dollars on his second contract.

As for Motte, it will depend on how the Canucks use him and how he performs next season. This past year did not raise his worth much as he missed 32 of the possible 56 games. He’s a big piece for the Canucks’ bottom six and penalty killing unit so his contract may approach but not go over two million dollars.

The Canucks are looking good after this season with those three players, Pettersson, Demko and Hughes, good core boosting players like Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller and impactful young players on ELCs like Nils Höglander and Vasily Podkolzin.

As they reach the summer of 2022, it’s time for a re-tool as they shed salary on older veterans and will aggressively approach the free agent market with their eyes on players to help turn them from a team competing for a playoff spot to competing for the Stanley Cup.

By my rough math and calculations, the Canucks will have over $20,000,000 to spend on free agents or the trade market in the Summer of 2022. So, let’s explore what roles they will need to fill and how much they can spend on those positions.

What the team looks like after a productive offseason in 2022 

Here’s what the team looks like and how the salary cap shakes down with some rough estimates on contracts.

Forwards ($42,766,667) :

Miller ($5,250,000) Pettersson ($7,750,000) Boeser ($8,500,000)
Höglander ($891,667) Horvat ($5,500,000) Podkolzin ($925,000)
Pearson ($3,250,000) UFA/Trade ($4,500,000) Motte ($1,600,000)
Lockwood ($925,000) UFA/Trade ($2,000,000) Lind/UFA/Trade ($875,000)
McDonough/Focht/UFA/Trade ($800,000)

Defencemen ($30,300,000) :

Hughes ($5,250,000) UFA/Trade ($7,000,000)
Schmidt ($5,950,000) Myers ($6,000,000)
Rathbone ($2,000,000) UFA/Trade ($2,000,000)
UFA/Trade ($1,000,000) Woo ($1,100,000)

Goalies ($6,125,000) :

Demko ($5,000,000) DiPietro ($1,250,000)

With this roster, the Canucks set themselves up to have their salary cap be a grand total of $79,316,667. This gives them $2,183,333 of cap space wiggle room incase any of their RFA’s are to earn more money than the model presents.

There are surely things to move around but I’ll leave that for you in the comments section.

It’s amazing to see how quickly the team can turn around with a couple of good deals. This model still has players like Nate Schmidt and Tyler Myers making six million dollars each and you are only banking on a few prospects to hit as fourth-line forwards or bottom-pairing defencemen.

It’s a quick turnaround when you aren’t paying players like Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle or Antoine Roussel. The Luongo penalty completely disappears and opens up immediate space for upgrades and actually saves you money if you just cross off the recapture penalty with Boeser’s raise.

Things aren’t as bad as they seem.

It’s going to take a smart and quiet offseason this Summer to set the Canucks up to be aggressive in the 2022 offseason.

They will have cap space, they will have young players on cost controlled contracts and moving past the 2022-23 season, we should be expecting the salary cap to rise and open up even more space as this team is set to pay their players who deserve a raise such as Horvat, Rathbone, Lockwood/Lind/Woo/DiPietro or any other prospects who earn a bigger contract.

Free Agents and Trade Options for the Summer of 2022

There is an interesting free agent crop in the Summer of 2022. Some of the big names include: Evgeni Malkin (36), Claude Giroux (34), Phil Kessel (34), Filip Forsberg (28), Aleksander Barkov (27), Vincent Trochek (29) and Mika Zibanejad (29).
(Age at time of free agency 2022)

There may be something to adding a veteran on a two-three year deal that makes sense for the Canucks but for me, I prefer looking at the trade market that Summer to attempt and add a player of value who is on the final year or two of their contract.

A few examples of potential trade targets for the Canucks are: Ryan O’Reilly (contract expires in 2023, $7,500,000), Dylan Larkin (contract expires in 2023, $6,100,000), William Nylander (contract expires in 2024, $6,962,366), Aaron Ekblad (contract expires in 2025, $7,500,000) and Matt Dumba (contract expires in 2023, $6,000,000).

In the end, the big takeaway should be how many options the Canucks have in the Summer of 2022.

The problem has not been the core, it’s that the pieces around it have not been able to support the core enough to get them to the next level. The core will go through a massive re-tool next Summer and if Jim Benning and his staff can maneover their way around this the right way, we could see the canucks as a Stanley Cup contending team as soon as the 2022-23 season.

Now back to Stephan Roget as he listens to “Fix You” by Coldplay on repeat.

We will see you next week for our upcoming instalment of Back To/The Future!