9 tempting UFAs for the Vancouver Canucks to avoid at all costs

Photo credit:© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
10 months ago
The month of May 2023 went by faster than Ilya Mikheyev streaking down the wing.
And as it did, it brought us closer and closer to the event that brought Mikheyev to Vancouver in the first place: the annual Free Agent Frenzy.
Aside from Mikheyev, last year’s July 13 FAF saw the Canucks bring in Curtis Lazar, Dakota Joshua, Collin Delia, and a few others — along with, technically, Andrei Kuzmenko, who had already agreed to a contract some time prior.
Cap-related restraints prevented the Canucks from spending more, and those certainly haven’t gone away for FAF 2023, which moves back to its traditional July 1 slot. But most pundits do expect the Canucks to be willing and able to make room for at least one mid-sized UFA this summer…so the question becomes, who?
Over the course of the next few weeks, you can expect to see plenty of content here at CanucksArmy highlighting some of those could-be additions, and our personal recommendations therein. But we all know that it’s usually a lot easier to tell someone what not to do. And so, before we get to the potential highlights of free agency, let’s go over the lowlights — as in, those UFAs that might be tempting, but that GM Patrik Allvin and Co. should avoid at all costs for one reason or another.

Ryan O’Reilly

Why the Canucks might sign them: We know that a 3C is high on the Canucks’ summer shopping list. We know that O’Reilly is still one of the best two-way centers in the game, and someone who could carry a defensive load in Vancouver that hasn’t truly been borne by anyone since Manny Malhotra left a decade ago.
Make no mistake, ROR could still be a major 5v5 difference-maker for the Canucks, and for pretty much any team.
Why they shouldn’t: For one, because it will take a compromise in either salary or term — or both — for O’Reilly to come to a currently non-contending team. And because he’s already 32, and not getting any younger.
The Canucks need a long-term plan at center, and O’Reilly just can’t be it. Even if they sign him and he plays great for another year or two, does that really make a difference in the way the Canucks need it to?
O’Reilly might make sense if he were willing to sign a two-year deal for a non-cap-destructive salary. Since that’s not happening, he just won’t be worth it.

Radko Gudas

Why the Canucks might sign them: If the Canucks are not able to re-acquire Luke Schenn via free agency, they’ll probably at least be looking to replace his truculent contributions to the right side of their blueline. And they don’t get much more truculent than Gudas, who has long been one of the more intimidating figures in the league, on top of being a fairly steady defender in general.
Why they shouldn’t: A physical RHD having a good run with a team that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals? One that will be 33 by the time free agency rolls around?
Folks, say hello to your early candidate for “worst UFA contract handed out this summer.” Players with Gudas’ profile always seem to get drastically overpaid when they hit the free market. But, at the end of the day, he’s still a bottom-pairing defender. Even on this Finals run, Gudas is playing the fifth-most minutes on the Florida blueline, well behind the 36-year-old Marc Staal for fourth place.
The Canucks, meanwhile, need all the money they can muster up to fix the top-four of their blueline, primarily. That starts with not overpaying on the bottom pairing, which means not even considering Gudas.

Milan Lucic

Why the Canucks might sign them: Well, there’s been some pretty heavy rumours, for one, brought on by Lucic’s own comments to Vancouver media. He’s a hometown figure, and the Canucks do seem to want to get “tougher to play against.” The potential is certainly there.
Why they shouldn’t: Lucic isn’t “tough to play against” anymore. He’s just tough. If Lucic can ever catch up to someone in time to get his hands on them, he can still chuck knuckles with the best of them. But that only happens a few times a year, at best. Lucic spends the rest of the season several steps behind the play.
The Canucks already have some potential fourth liners in Dakota Joshua and Phil di Giuseppe who can really skate in addition to their more physical talents. Lucic would represent a philosophical step back.

John Klingberg

Why the Canucks might sign them: The market for RHD that could be construed as “top-four” is naturally quite thin. And Klingberg is one of those “could-be construeds.” He’s certainly played the bulk of his career in the top-four, and despite a dreadful season last year, he’s still only 30 years old, and there is potential for a rebound.
Why they shouldn’t: Klingberg was a questionable fit for the Canucks when he was a UFA last year, mostly due to his more free-wheeling and offensively-focused style. And that was when he was playing well! Klingberg then bet on himself, signed a one-year contract, and stunk it up.
That should lower the cost for him, and that does make him a possible bounce-back candidate. But that’s not something the Canucks can really afford to bet on — especially when what Klingberg would be bouncing back to is already less-than-ideal for the Canucks.

Jason Zucker

Why the Canucks might sign them: History. Jim Rutherford tried to trade for Zucker a couple of times as GM of the Penguins before landing him in 2020. This is clearly a player that Rutherford likes. Zucker’s well-known speed does fit the profile of what the Canucks seem to be looking for, and although he’s definitely a winger, he has played some center in the past, and could be seen as a possible 3C solution if one squints hard enough.
Why they shouldn’t: Let’s circle back to that “definitely a winger” bit. The Canucks don’t need any more pseudo-centers in the mix. They need a winger or two to turn into a center, not the other way around. Potentially adding to the traffic jam on the wing is undesirable, especially for a 31-year-old with a very inconsistent history of production.

Erik Johnson

Why the Canucks might sign them: Stop us if you’ve heard this before. Big, physical, veteran RHD with recent Stanley Cup experience.
Johnson makes plenty of sense as another replacement Schenn. As a long-time captain, his leadership could be valued at a time that the Canucks find themselves rudderless, and he does seem to be a much-loved personality on any team he’s a part of.
Why they shouldn’t: Johnson just turned 35, and injuries have definitely taken their toll on his ability to make an impact.
The great thing about Schenn was that he was not losing effectiveness by the day as he skated for Vancouver, despite his age. Schenn was, and still is, playing the best hockey of his career in his mid-30s.
Johnson has not been, and will not rebound much from here. Even if he comes dirt-cheap — which he won’t — he’s a one-year solution on the bottom pair at best, and the Canucks should not be thinking that short-term or small-scale.

Max Domi

Why the Canucks might sign them: After being acquired for fairly cheap at the deadline by Dallas, Domi had a very decent playoff run with 13 points in 19 games, with plenty of them coming at the center position.
As far as UFA centers go, he’s certainly among the most skilled.
Why they shouldn’t: Skill has never been the issue with Domi. It’s been more what he does with that skill, and how his piss-poor attitude and demeanor seem to constantly get in the way of it.
If Domi were just as inconsistent as he was, that would be reason enough for concern. But it’s the apparent reasons behind the inconsistency that should result in the Canucks having zero interest in adding him to their young locker room.

Alexander Kerfoot

Why the Canucks might sign them: Kerfoot is a local, he’s a center, and he’s spent a good chunk of the last couple years as the de facto 3C on a playoff contender. He’s also only one year removed from a 51-point season, and still only 28. What’s not to love?
Why they shouldn’t: For starters, that 51-point season was absolutely an anomaly, and one primarily brought on by minutes in the Maple Leafs’ vaunted top-six. Kerfoot is, ultimately, a complementary player, and he doesn’t seem like the kind that would complement the players in Vancouver very well.
Keep in mind that the Maple Leafs spent almost all of Kerfoot’s time with the team trying to find a different 3C to supplant him, and mostly because it’s not a role that Kerfoot has ever been suited for. Two-way dedication and matchup games are not exactly his bag. The Canucks need someone able to do the job of a 3C, not just fill the slot. Kerfoot would be more of them paying for something they don’t need.

Shayne Gostisbehere

Why the Canucks might sign them: Gostisbehere has had a couple of solid rebound campaigns in a row, despite clearing waivers back in 2020. He’s just turned 30, he’s loaded with experience, and he’s capable of playing both sides of the blueline.
If the Carolina Hurricanes sought out Gostisbehere at the 2023 Trade Deadline, who would the Canucks be to turn away his services?
Why they shouldn’t: The Hurricanes may have traded for Gostisbehere, but that doesn’t mean they don’t regret it. He was exposed defensively in the playoffs, and that was part of the reason Carolina was eliminated.
But even beyond that, it’s the inconsistency that is the killer here. At the risk of sounding too old-school in an article in which we’ve already dropped the word “truculence,” the Canucks already have plenty of soft skill in their lineup and on their blueline. Gostisbehere is the very definition of soft skill, and he’s of the variety that only shows up part of the time anyway, and rarely when it counts.
He can play either side of the blueline, sure — just not the Vancouver blueline.

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