After a quiet deadline, the Canucks still need to ship cap and roster space out during the upcoming offseason

Photo credit:© Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 year ago
The 2023 NHL Trade Deadline was meant to be a busy one for the Vancouver Canucks, but that did not come to pass. In fact, the entire day came and went with just Curtis Lazar and Wyatt Kalynuk sent away for a fourth round pick and future considerations.
Instead, the team did much of its business in the weeks leading up to the deadline, but even then, the actual amount of roster restructuring did not quite match expectations. Gone were the likes of Bo Horvat, Luke Schenn, Riley Stillman, Curtis Lazar, and Will Lockwood, along with several draft picks. Incoming were the likes of Filip Hronek, Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Räty, Vitali Kravtsov, and lesser draft picks.
On the one hand, it was a large number of trades.
On the other hand, it was perhaps a case of quantity over quality.
And on any hand, it leaves us with one certainty: the Canucks aren’t done.
In fact, they’ll still need to make significant changes to their depth chart during this upcoming offseason in order to just ice a full team under the constraints of cap and roster limitations.
Let’s start with the salary cap.
Post-deadline, the Canucks are far more concerned with the 2023/24 cap situation than that of the present day, but that’s not necessarily great news. As of now, the Canucks are already committed to approximately $75 million in cap hits for next season, representing 11 roster forwards, four roster defenders, and one roster goalie. For the record, that’s Miller, Pettersson, Boeser, Kuzmenko, Garland, Mikheyev, Beauvillier, Podkolzin, Aman, Joshua, Studnicka, Hughes, Ekman-Larsson, Myers, Hronek, and Demko.
If Tucker Poolman and Tanner Pearson return to health with their combined $5.75 million in AAV, that basically puts the Canucks at the expected cap ceiling already. And that’s without Ethan Bear or Kravtsov or a backup goaltender or multiple required depth players on the books.
In other words, in order to even ice the same basic roster that they’re currently icing — the same roster that is currently in 27th place in the NHL and 19 points back of a playoff spot — they’re going to have to sacrifice at least one notable salary from their depth chart, and quite probably more than one.
And that’s to say nothing of actually carving out enough cap space to improve the roster on top of its current quality.
It’s not exactly an enviable position to find oneself in, and it’s unfortunately also a position that every other team must realize the Canucks hold. As they have in all recent offseasons, the Canucks will continue to struggle to cut cap, and other teams will attempt to take advantage of them. History suggests that some of them will succeed.
Which is especially bad news, because that means it might cost the Canucks some genuine assets to move contracts like Brock Boeser and Tyler Myers. And the Canucks can’t really afford to spend assets right now, They’d really rather accrue them.
The list of young players ready to step onto the roster and contribute now or in the near future is a slim one, and even there, there are problems waiting to be encountered. Vasily Podkolzin, Vitali Kravtsov, Nils Höglander, and Aatu Räty do not collectively add up to much of a youth movement. But they’re what the Canucks got, and they should be on the roster as soon as possible, building up their NHL resumes.
Unfortunately, even that bare minimal requirement of a retool does not look like an outright certainty at this point. Take Podkolzin, Kravtsov, and Höglander specifically. Obviously, the Canucks would love for all three of them to play in the top-six next season. If not there, then definitely in the top-nine, at a minimum, right?
Well, right now they’ll be competing with wingers Boeser, Andrei Kuzmenko, Ilya Mikheyev, Anthony Beauvillier, and Conor Garland. That’s to say nothing of Tanner Pearson, status unknown. It’s also to say nothing of JT Miller, who very occasionally finds himself on the wing.
Trade just one of those wingers, and the top-nine is still overstuffed. Trade two of them, and it’s still entirely possible that the likes of Podkolzin and Kravtsov are left on the outside of the top-six looking in at a time when they will desperately need those developmental minutes.
That’s not even touching on the blueline, already one of the most expensive in hockey with Hronek shaping up to be the one and only improvement, and thus solely responsible for turning it around. And that’s not even touching on the need to find enough of a backup for Thatcher Demko to avoid running him into the ground yet again.
The harsh reality at play here is that the Canucks are going to be forced to make multiple moves this offseason just to even begin to put their team together. The more moves they have to make, the more opportunities there will be for them to be taken advantage of. And the fewer opportunities there will be to make the other sorts of roster-based improvements of which this team so badly needs.
Those fans hungry for change can certainly take solace in the fact that change is inevitably coming. This quiet Trade Deadline only ensures a busier offseason, and the team’s roster page is absolutely going to look a lot different in October 2023 than it does in the present day. Some level of change, and some roster subtractions, at the very least, are going to happen, because they now have to happen.
What we can’t guarantee is that said change is going to be in an excessively positive direction. We can’t promise any transactions of the needle-moving variety. In fact, we’d caution against expecting them.
But change in general?
That, you can count on.

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