6 free agents the Canucks could target without breaking the salary cap bank

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
9 months ago
Sometimes putting limits on people forces them to find creative solutions. And the Canucks have sure forced themselves to try exactly that this offseason.
Thanks to hefty overspending on veteran free agents over the last decade, the Canucks won’t have a lot of cap space to work with when free agency opens on July 1. After buying out Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s contract last week, the Canucks are expected to have about $6 million to work with, which limits how many issues Patrik Allvin can address in the open market.
So today we’re taking a look at some of the best options to fit the Canucks needs, along with Evolving Hockey’s projected term and cap hit for their next contract.

Pius Suter – C

Projected contract: 2 years, $2.237 million AAV
As far as cheap, short-term options go, Pius Suter might be the best centre available on the free agent market.
Suter turned a breakout season in Chicago back in 2021 into a two-year contract with Detroit, where he blossomed into a strong bottom-six centre for a developing young team.
The 27-year-old took 500 faceoffs last year – a decrease in use from his first year in Detroit, when he took over 800 – winning 47 percent of his draws. But he also has a knack for finding the back of the net in limited ice time, netting 60 points across the last two seasons.

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The Canucks are in desperate need for a third line centre who can take some of the heat off Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller, and Suter is one of the few options on the board who might be able to reach another level in a bigger role.

Evan Rodrigues – C/LW

Projected contract: 4 years, $4.83 million AAV
Evan Rodrigues’ name has come up in recent rumours, and for good reason. His 39 points with the Avalanche last season provided some of the better value in the league thanks to his $2 million cap hit.
Rodrigues has an existing connection with Canucks management, having joined the Penguins in 2019 under Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin. In 2021-22 Rodrigues notched a career-high 43 points with the Pens, and was on track to best it in Colorado last year if injuries hadn’t limited him to 69 games.
The main caveat is that Rodrigues has been used primarily as a winger in recent years, having taken just 241 faceoffs last year. For context, Mikko Rantanen, a natural right winger, took over 450 draws for the Avalanche last year. And after taking one-year bets for the previous three seasons, the 29-year-old is probably looking for the kind of longer term deal the Canucks aren’t really in the market for.

Teddy Blueger – C/LW

Projected contract: 2 years, 1.614 million AAV
Speaking of former Penguins with a Rutherford connection, Teddy Blueger is looking for a new contract fresh off of earning a Stanley Cup ring with the Golden Knights.
Blueger posted 16 points across 63 games with the Pens and Knights and played in six playoff games for Vegas. But he struggled to find a solidified role on Vegas’ stacked roster, spending the majority of the postseason in the press box.
But when the 28-year-old Latvian was in the lineup, he was great in the faceoff circle. Across his 500+ faceoffs, Blueger’s success rate never dipped below 50 percent, and even reached 56 percent during his brief stop in Vegas.
Despite having earned the Cup Tax a couple weeks ago, Blueger still likely wouldn’t break the bank to bring in. But his skill ceiling is also lower than some of the other options on the board like Suter and Rodrigues.

Carson Soucy – LD/RD

Projected contract: 3 years, 2.587 million AAV
Carson Soucy checks off a lot of boxes for the Canucks. Big, hard hitting and a solid fit for a bottom pairing shutdown role.
That’s not to say Soucy can’t show up as a playmaker from time to time. After being claimed from Minnesota in the Seattle expansion draft, Soucy scored a career-high 21 points for the inaugural Kraken team, and added another 16 this year.
But really, the man’s known for his hits.

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But even though Soucy can play on both sides of the ice, it’s worth noting that he’s a left-handed shot. The Canucks have plenty of LHD already, and if the team ends up letting Ethan Bear sign elsewhere, they’d be left with Filip Hronek and Tyler Myers as their only solidified right-handed defenders.
Unless they feel comfortable leaning on Kyle Burroughs a lot more this season (once they re-sign him, of course), Soucy might not be able to offer the biggest help they need.

Troy Stecher – RD

Projected contract: 2 years, 1.585 million AAV
It’s time to bring Troy from Richmond home.
Troy Stecher has bounced around the league since leaving the Canucks in 2020, with stops in Detroit, Los Angeles, Arizona and most recently Calgary. Stecher finished 2022-23 on a heater offensively, scoring seven points in 20 games with the Flames after a deadline trade from Arizona.
With the lack of depth on Vancouver’s right side and the front office that let him walk three years ago gone, Stecher could make a terrific stopgap for the blue line as the team’s defensive prospects continue developing.

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Stecher would not only be one of the better value right-handed defenders on the market to sign, but his familiarity with the locker room could help reinject some stability for the Canucks’ young core after a lot of shakeups in the last couple years, and potentially more on the way.

Michael McLeod – C

Projected contract: 3 years, $1.946 million AAV* (RFA)
Michael McLeod is not only one of the youngest free agents on the market, he’s also one of the few that fills every need the Canucks have.
He takes a lot of faceoffs – almost a thousand of them last season – and did so with a success rate of over 60 percent. He has no problem throwing his 6-foot-2 frame around to make hits and block shots. And he can set up teammates like nobody’s business.

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McLeod’s physicality is something the Canucks would be particularly interested in, with the team’s lack of heavyweights considered a major flaw. At 25 years old, McLeod also fits right in line with the front office’s current philosophy of making the team younger and presumably won’t come with the kind of hefty price tag that more experienced centres will fetch.
However, McLeod is still a restricted free agent, so any move to bring him in would either involve an offer sheet or a trade with the Devils. With the Canucks still looking to move some contracts off their roster, maybe there’s a good fit here.

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