5 ways the Canucks can create cap space
Photo credit:© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
By Michael Liu6 months ago
It’s not a secret that the Canucks are hard up against the cap. In fact, they currently are the only team over the salary cap for the 2023-24 season, according to PuckPedia.
Yeah, it kinda sucks. Technically speaking, Vancouver isn’t alone in dealing with money problems, but when a team needs as much tweaking as this roster does, the lack of flexibility does hurt. In management’s own words, major surgery needs to be done, and being capped out makes it all the clearer that money will have to be moved out.
Here are five ways that the Vancouver Canucks could clear cap space for the 2023-24 season.
1. Move a winger.
It’s a lot easier said than done with this one. The market for wingers is oversaturated to begin with, so of course the players the Canucks have most of and that are expendable are wingers. There’s been plenty of noise surrounding Vancouver forwards throughout the year, with even more picking up as the offseason continues.
Next season, Vancouver will commit 25.8% of its total cap space to Brock Boeser, Andrei Kuzmenko, Conor Garland, and Anthony Beauvillier. In a vacuum, their contracts aren’t awful when looked at individually. However, in the context of the Canucks’ cap picture, it starts to fall apart. Simply put, they can’t afford to dedicate that much of their cap to these four players.
Boeser will be the one that most fans would like to see moved out, having underperformed his $6.65 million cap hit last season. He’ll be the fourth-highest earner in 2023-24, and if his production doesn’t improve, it’ll be an increasingly inefficient contract that Vancouver will have to maneuver around. There are definitely suitors for his services, though Boeser would more than likely be accompanied by a sweetener for a team to take that cap hit.
Conor Garland is the classic example of the right player with a decent contract but at the wrong time for this franchise. Always an analytical darling, Garland refound his groove under Rick Tocchet at the end of last season and became his usual effective self at 5v5 play. He’s probably the one that is most easily tradeable thanks to his play, but even then, Garland would also have to be accompanied by something or someone else in a trade.
The saving grace for Beauvillier is that his deal is up at the end of next season. Still, $4.15 million in space could be very handy for a team looking to make upgrades elsewhere in the lineup. Keep in mind, Ilya Mikheyev will also be returning next season, thus adding another $4.75 million to the books. With teams around the league knowing how tricky the Canucks have it with their cap space, and a market flush with wingers, any move to get these players out isn’t going to come with a favourable return.
2. Move Tyler Myers.
There’s no pretending that it wasn’t a rough year for Tyler Myers. The much-maligned defenceman seems to have found a downward slope and kept on rolling, declining steadily through the contract that he signed all the way back in 2019. Making a $6 million cap hit next season, Myers accounts for 7.3% of the total cap alone, which is far too much money for a third-pairing defenceman.
The good part is that Myers’ contract is due up at the end of the 2023-24 season. If management wants and is willing to wait it out, it’s perfectly possible that they could keep Myers for this season and not lose assets attempting to move him out. However, considering the situation Vancouver finds itself in, they might not have a choice in the matter.
Myers would be a lot easier to trade away than Oliver Ekman-Larsson, so it’s a large reason why this is more feasible. It’s not like there isn’t trade interest surrounding Myers as well in the past, and with only a year left the Canucks could eat some retention to make it a more palatable move. Contending teams could use the depth that Myers provides, and he’s shown that if given sheltered minutes and limited deployment, he could still be effective in some situations.
Canucks fans are probably not going to be happy with the return that they get for Myers, or what they might have to add in order to offload him to another team. But, it’s not like they have a lot of options available to them to clear cap space this upcoming season, and no one is looking to do Vancouver a favour here.
3. Buyout Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
This has been an often-discussed option when it comes to OEL. His contract is hanging around the Canucks’ neck like an albatross, with an injury-riddled season seeing some horrific defending by the Swede. OEL still has four years remaining on his $7.26 million per year contract, and will more than likely not be worthy of being the second-highest paid Vancouver defenceman.
Buying out his deal would instantly save the Canucks some cap room. OEL’s hit would drop down to a much more manageable $146,667, thus saving Vancouver approximately $8 million to work with in the 2023-24 season. That money could be used to either extend Pettersson or find that missing piece in their top 4 to upgrade the back end.
However, there are just as many drawbacks to this option as well. In the third and fourth years of the buyout, the cap hit rises to $4.76 million, before dropping down to $2.12 million from 2027-28 all the way until 2030-31. During that time the Canucks will hopefully have a competitive window which wouldn’t jive well with the dead cap in their books. While OEL’s deal might not be an albatross anymore, it’s still a set of handcuffs that prevents the team from getting the most of their money.
Essentially, this is a look at the immediate gains that can be made while also considering that there will be punishment spread out over a number of years. It doubles the length of OEL’s original cap hit, though it will be cheaper. The question is if Vancouver is willing to stomach such a blow, especially when they’re hoping to make this a competitive team in the next two to three years.
4. Find a taker for JT Miller.
This is the longest shot of them all. JT Miller finished the year off well, another beneficiary of Tocchet’s systems and approach. However, he’s no longer at the very affordable $5.25 million cap hit starting next season, seeing his contract rise to $8 million annually. Miller will become the Canucks’ third-highest earner, behind Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson.
Now, JT Miller is a good player. He was a point-per-game player last season with a 99-point campaign in the year prior to that. Most Canucks fans wouldn’t mind keeping him around at all, and the team could definitely use his contributions on and off the ice. Miller is more than deserving of being the third-highest-paid player on the roster. The only question is if Vancouver can afford it.
The ship has more than likely sailed on making a JT Miller trade, but if Vancouver is desperate they would probably be able to find a taker for his services. Not a lot of teams can stomach an $8 million cap hit at the drop of a dime, but there are franchises that could help facilitate a move through retention and cap trickery. The problem is that if the Canucks were to make such a deal, they would also be having to give some assets up, thus diminishing the return of what Miller can bring back.
Again, this isn’t to advocate for trading Miller, but rather a consideration that his contract extension does occupy a large amount of the salary cap. If Vancouver truly needs the space, then his deal should definitely be on the minds of management to move around.
5. Get a time machine, go back, and never hire Jim Benning as GM.
The conundrum the Canucks find themselves in is this: in every single option where they are trying to shed salary, they also are more than likely to make a loss and give up assets while they’re at it. Vancouver hasn’t made it easy for itself in terms of its money management, and the problems that were a kick-the-can solution before have finally come home to roost. There are some very, very difficult decisions that will need to be made in the coming months, which could prove to be a turning point in the franchise’s trajectory.
Short-term pain for long-term gain.
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