8 ways the Canucks can use their two remaining salary retention slots
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
7 months ago
One down, two to go.
While there’s no limit to how many trades the Vancouver Canucks can make between now and the 2023 Trade Deadline, there is a limit on the number of times they can retain on a player’s contract, and that limit is three.
The Canucks used their first retention slot earlier this week in the blockbuster trade that sent Bo Horvat to the New York Islanders. In order to seal the deal, the Canucks retained 25% of Horvat’s contract. Now, they’ll get that retention slot right back when Horvat’s contract expires on July 1, 2023…but chances seem good that they’re not going to wait that long to retain again.
Below, we’ll examine all of the other realistic and practical retention options for the month to come and the offseason to follow, and try to determine which, if any, are worthy of the Canucks’ limited retention slots.
It’s an opportunity and a decision that should not be taken lightly. After all, what is retention but the selling of cap space? And what’s more valuable in today’s NHL than cap space?
Brock Boeser$6.65 million AAV, expires 2025
We’ve heard of late that there’s a larger potential trade market out there for Boeser than most would have assumed. Even then, however, it’s hard to believe that there are many suitors around who are willing to take Boeser at his full salary without sending some sort of hefty contract back themselves.
One way to get around this would be to retain on Boeser’s contract. Doing so is a big commitment, and results on a retention slot being burned and money against the cap until the year 2025, but it could turn a middling return into something far more significant.
If retaining on Boeser is the difference between getting back a mid-round pick for him and getting a more valuable pick or prospect — or between taking back a cap dump and not taking back a cap dump — is that worth the Canucks’ while?
With future assets already in short supply, the answer is probably yes. Boeser at a $5 million AAV and especially at a $4 million AAV looks to be a vastly more tradeable piece than his current iteration.
Tyler Myers$6 million AAV, expires 2024
There are some who believe that Myers has genuine trade value with his current contract and all, but those folks are much fewer and far between after the season Myers has had. Still, Myers is big, right-handed, and can skate, so if there’s not a market for him at $6 million AAV, surely there would be for him at $3 million.
Here, the principle is very similar to the one with Boeser: an attempt to elicit a genuinely valuable return out of a less-than-desirable contract by transforming it into a far-more-desirable contract. Sure, retaining half of Myers’ contract results in $3 million against the cap for the remainder of this season and all of next, but that’s less of an issue now with Horvat already moved on and little chance of competing in 2023/24.
A half-price Myers moves way up the asset charts for the 2023 Trade Deadline, and could even spark up a bidding war. Imagine that!
JT Miller$5.25 million AAV, expires 2023 (then extension kicks in)
To be perfectly clear here, we’re absolutely not suggesting that the Canucks retain salary on Miller’s upcoming seven-year, $8 million AAV extension. If that decision ever gets made, it gets made sometime down the road.
But if the Canucks are still considering trading Miller before that extension kicks in, and want to squeeze a little extra value out of the deal, they could do so by retaining salary on the last remaining year of Miller’s previous contract, still in progress.
It wouldn’t make much of a difference, even with 50% retention. A $5.25 million hit at the Trade Deadline isn’t all that more onerous than a $2.6125 million hit. But given that any Miller trade now is going to return a fair bit less than the sorts of offers being thrown around last year, maybe every little bit of extra value is worth the Canucks’ while, if only to help save face.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson$7.26 million AAV, expires 2027
You’ve already heard us debate the merits of an Ekman-Larsson buyout in the upcoming offseason. A solution that might be more expensive initially, but would get OEL’s contract off the books sooner, is a trade with retention.
At this point, we have to assume that Ekman-Larsson, with his current contract, is straight-up unmoveable. The Canucks could attach a first round pick to him and still not have any takers. They might not even find any takers if they attached two first round picks.
But what if OEL were brought down to a cool $5 million AAV via retention? Or all the way down to his maximum retention of $4.125 million?
Surely, there are teams out there who could convince themselves that Ekman-Larsson is worth their while at such a price. There might even be a team or two willing to pay for Ekman-Larsson at such a price.
Going this route would mean millions against the cap and a burned retention slot in every year from now until 2027. But a buyout means cap penalties until the year 2031, so retention is still more palatable.
Tanner Pearson$3.25 million AAV, expires 2024
With this season’s medical drama still not entirely over, it’s probably safe to say that Pearson would prefer if his days with the Vancouver Canucks organization were at an end…and that the Canucks would probably prefer to be free of another distracting storyline.
Buying out an injured Pearson is not possible, and his contract’s signing bonuses make it impractical to do so anyway.
But assuming that he makes a full recovery over the offseason, it should still be quite possible to trade Pearson with retention.
As of this summer, he could be made available as a Cup-winning, 30-year-old veteran with his cap hit whittled all the way down to a $1.625 cap hit. There should be at least a handful of teams willing to take a shot at him at that price, especially those teams who miss out on certain UFAs during the Free Agent Frenzy.
Anthony Beauvillier$4.15 million AAV, expires 2024
The Canucks just acquired Beauvillier as part of the Horvat trade, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s a permanent addition. Should Beauvillier experience any sort of a rebound in Vancouver, the Canucks will likely be looking to flip him between this year’s Trade Deadline and next, and if so, his value could definitely be maximized by retaining.
Beauvillier is a 20-ish goal scorer who has a history of increasing his production in the playoffs and has speed to burn. At his full $4.15 million AAV, there’s probably already a limited market for his services. Reduced to a $2.075 million cap hit, Beauvillier looks like an excellent deadline pickup for a playoff-bound team either this year or next, and perhaps even the kind of asset that leads to a minor bidding war.
As an intermediary in a three-way trade
The best use of the Canucks’ remaining retention slots, especially as they pertain to the 2023 Trade Deadline, might not even be on their own players.
With the playoffs well out of reach and plenty of LTIR space available, the Canucks could offer themselves up as intermediaries in other teams’ deadline dealings. These sorts of things happen every year, with Team A retaining on a contract, then flipping it to Team B, who retains a little bit more before sending it on to Team C.
Typically, Team B is compensated for playing such a role, to the tune of however much money they retained.
If the Canucks were to do this with an expiring rental or two, they’d basically be getting draft picks for free and would get those retention slots right back this summer, anyway.
Save for future use
Once a retention slot is used up, there’s no way to get it back until the player it was used on has their contract expire.
That means that if the Canucks have designs on using retention in future years, they have to employ a little conservation.
If the Canucks were to retain on, say, Boeser and Ekman-Larsson, they’d be down to just one retention slot from this offseason on to 2027. Maybe that hamstrings them in a couple of years, when they might want to retain on, say, the last year of Andrei Kuzmenko’s two-year extension.
Sometimes, saving something valuable for a rainy day is the wisest option.
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