9 NHL free agents the Vancouver Canucks could still sign
Photo credit:© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang2 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks have been relatively active across the first few days of NHL free agency, signing deals with three players that are expected to be NHL regulars next season. After clearing up some money with the Oliver Ekman-Larsson buyout, general manager Patrik Allvin spent cautiously, not spending more than $3.25 million in cap space on any one player.
The Canucks stayed away from signing some of the bigger name free agents and instead brought in Ian Cole, Carson Soucy, and Teddy Blueger, as well as a few other less notable signings. Those players fill roles that the Canucks desperately needed help in, the penalty kill being chief among all.
The Canucks have roughly $3 million in cap space left assuming that Tucker Poolman and Tanner Pearson start the season on LTIR. Even if Pearson does return for the start of the season, something that is certainly not out of the question, the rumblings of a Tyler Myers trade could help the team free up money.
All this means that while the Canucks aren’t going to be adding any big names, they do have the cap flexibility to sign another free agent or two. While they shouldn’t sign contracts just because they can, there are some intriguing players still available that the organization could have interest in. Here are the top nine candidates remaining on the market.
Matt Dumba, D, 28 years old
2022-23 NHL Stats: 79 GP, 4 G, 10 A, 14 PTS
Matt Dumba is a player that has been linked to the Canucks multiple times throughout the years. He was one of the pieces that was regularly rumoured to be involved in a potential Brock Boeser trade and he’s now an unrestricted free agent. The right-handed defenceman has seen his offensive production decline over the past few years. He finished last season with only 14 points in 79 games, a far cry from the 50 points in 82 games he had in 2017-18, or even the 27 points in 57 games he posted in 2021-22.
Dumba is coming off of a $6 million AAV contract but it’s unlikely that he gets that number again. While the Canucks would likely have to make some moves to make the money work, adding Dumba to the team’s quickly improving defence group would give them a much more well-rounded roster.
Ethan Bear, D, 26 years old
2022-23 NHL Stats: 61 GP, 3 G, 13 A, 16 PTS
After he suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery while playing for Team Canada earlier this summer, Bear was not qualified by the Canucks. However, that doesn’t mean that he can’t sign a contract with the team as he is an unrestricted free agent.
He was one of the team’s best right-handed defencemen last season and finished with 16 points in 63 games. Vancouver media member Rick Dhaliwal sent the following tweet which suggests that a reunion is unlikely, yet crazier things have happened and Bear’s strong retrievals and rush defence would help solidify the backend for the Canucks.
Pius Suter, C, 27 years old
2022-23 NHL Stats: 79 GP, 14 G, 10 A, 24 PTS
Pius Suter is someone that I have written about in the past as a potential target for the Canucks in free agency and the centre is still left without a team after the first few days of the open market. He’s scored at a 0.4 points-per-game rate across his career thus far and would give the Canucks another option down the middle.
The Canucks already signed centre Teddy Blueger who will help greatly with defensive play at 5-on-5 and on the penalty kill. However, Blueger does not provide much offensively and thus the Canucks might be interested in adding a bottom-six centre that can score to complement the new acquisition and keep some scoring punch in the bottom two lines.
Just because Suter has showed a scoring touch throughout his career, although his numbers did dip slightly last season, doesn’t mean that he’s poor defensively. He’s also taken on a role as a penalty killer in the past and can easily shift over to the wing when it’s asked of him. Overall, he represents an incredibly versatile bottom-six option that ticks a lot of boxes, especially since he’s unlikely to cost more than $2.5 million against the cap.
Maxime Comtois, W, 24 years old
2022-23 NHL Stats: 64 GP, 9 G, 10 A, 19 PTS
Comtois was once a highly valued prospect that captained Team Canada at the World Juniors. Unfortunately, his transition to the NHL has not gone smoothly and he was not qualified by the Anaheim Ducks, making him an unrestricted free agent. Comtois plays a heavy game and has showed real scoring touch in the NHL before, recording 16 goals in 55 games during the 2020-21 NHL season.
While his play did suffer this year, he’s still just 24 and was considered to be a valuable asset not too long ago. If the Canucks and Comtois could agree on a “prove-it” contract, he could be a valuable addition to the organization, even filling in long-term if he plays well.
Oskar Sundqvist, C, 29 years old
2022-23 NHL Stats: 67 GP, 10 G, 18 A, 28 PTS
Sundqvist is another intriguing option that would give the Canucks an additional bottom-six centre. If the team doesn’t feel comfortable advancing into next year with Teddy Blueger and Nils Aman having significant roles, adding a player like Sundqvist would provide an extra layer of insurance.
He can play the wing as well as down the middle and has experience on the penalty kill. These qualities make him a very reliable bottom-six option and at 29-years-old, he still has plenty of good hockey left ahead of him. He also scored nearly 0.5 points per game for the Wild last season, showing some nice offensive skills despite his limited role.
Danton Heinen, W, 27 years old
2022-23 NHL Stats: 65 GP, 8 G, 14 A, 22 PTS
Heinen is a winger in his late 20s that has played for the Pittsburgh Penguins for the last two seasons, recording at least 20 points in each. He’s a local kid as he was born in Langley and played for both the Merritt Centennials and Surrey Eagles in the BCHL during his junior hockey playing days.
Last season, Heinen’s shooting percentage fell to 8.3%, the worst mark of his career. This led to him scoring just eight goals as he struggled to put the puck in the back of the net. In the early part of 2023, he had a 20+ game streak where he failed to record a single goal. If Heinen’s shooting percentage rebounds to closer to his career average of 10.4%, he could outperform any small contract he signs this summer as a buy-low candidate.
Tyler Motte, W, 28 years old
2022-23 NHL Stats: 62 GP, 8 G, 11 A, 19 PTS
Tyler Motte is a former Vancouver Canuck that many fans will have fond memories of. Motte captured the heart of the Vancouver market with his relentless effort and hustle, constantly acting as a thorn in the side of any opponent he came up against, no matter their size. Motte has since bounced around the Rangers and Senators organizations and now finds himself in control of his own destiny as an unrestricted free agent.
Bringing Motte back would be well received by many fans and he would also be a great bottom-six winger that could help the penalty kill improve. After finishing dead last in the NHL last season, getting better while shorthanded has clearly been a massive priority for Patrik Allvin. Motte would continue to help in that department and give the Canucks a few really solid options on the roster.
Caleb Jones, D, 26 years old
2022-23 NHL Stats: 73 GP, 4 G, 12 A, 16 PTS
Caleb Jones, the younger brother of Seth Jones, did not receive a qualifying offer from the Chicago Blackhawks and is thus now an unrestricted free agent. While he didn’t have a great season last year, getting a quarter of his points on the power play and recording a -19, Jones can play both sides and has shown the ability to post some solid numbers while defending the rush.
Jones doesn’t jump off the page as a super exciting acquisition, the Canucks could do a lot worse than adding another versatile bottom-four defence option that played 73 games at the NHL level last year. It’s not like the Canucks have a bunch of defence prospects that Jones would be getting in the way off on the roster, especially if it was just a one-year deal.
Jesper Boqvist, C/W, 24 years old
2022-23 NHL Stats: 70 GP, 10 G, 11 A, 21 PTS
Another player that didn’t receive a qualifying offer is Jesper Boqvist. At just 24 years old, he’s someone that the Canucks could sign who still has plenty of potential to improve and build on his career. Boqvist is not only a skilled player with great hands as demonstrated by the video below, but he’s also someone that plays with a lot of energy and can make life miserable for opposing defencemen as a forechecker.
While Boqvist may be able to command slightly more than some of the other names on this list due to his age and scoring potential, he would give the Canucks another forward under the age of 25 to be excited about.
There are still plenty of interesting names left in the free agent market. Which stands out to you as a potential option for the Canucks?
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