Andrei Kuzmenko’s two-year extension is the Canucks’ latest example of a great player signed for the wrong reasons
Photo credit:© Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
10 months ago
As of now, the Kuzmenk-show’s engagement in Vancouver is far from over. It’s only in its first act.
Today the Canucks signed winger Andrei Kuzmenko to a two-year extension worth $11 million, officially taking the first-year NHLer off the trade market. In 47 games the 26-year-old Russian has potted 21 goals and 43 points, landing him third in Canucks scoring behind only Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat.
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Kuzmenko’s presence this season has routinely been one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise dark, dark season. His scoring has provided the Canucks with a much-needed secondary scoring option, while his relenting positivity on and off the ice has made him an immediate fan favourite in Vancouver.
His family even wrote a letter thanking people for taking care of their boy. The Wholesomeness Per 60 is simply off the charts here.
From a pure contract standpoint, there’s very little to complain about. Kuzmenko’s $5.5 million AAV is a little pricey for a 26-year-old with less than 50 NHL games under his belt. But considering his scoring pace and strong underlying metrics at even strength across that span, there’s a real chance that he lives up to that cap hit.
There’s still some room for him to grow on the man advantage, but the hope is that’s more indicative of the team’s power play as a whole rather than Kuzmenko’s play specifically.
The real issue with this move has nothing to do with Kuzmenko, his scoring ability, or even the contract itself. It’s Jim Rutherford, Patrik Allvin, and really, this organization as a whole’s thought process that’s critically flawed.
The team’s president has gone on record with his admittance that the Canucks’ salary cap issue has been harder to untangle than he anticipated, and yet their attempted solution has been to tangle even more cords around it. The Canucks have continued to lock in pieces of a core that clearly doesn’t have another level to get to, while simultaneously limiting the number of avenues they have to fix the real holes in the lineup.
The poor decision-making that led the Canucks to give J.T. Miller a seven-year extension is the same one at play here. Rather than cashing in at the trade deadline on a player who’s more than exceeded expectations, they’ve once again forced themselves into a “buy high, sell low” situation. With so little cap space already to work with next season, Kuzmenko’s extension all but guarantees the team will need to either buy out or sell Conor Garland and/or Brock Boeser at a fraction of their real value just to be partially rid of their contracts.
This extension is yet another example of the Canucks buying a fancy new sink before properly repairing an increasingly large number of leaks in the plumbing. To make things worse, no matter how awesome Kuzmenko ends up being throughout his new contract, the odds of him being part of a Stanley Cup solution are insanely low.
Let’s assume for a moment that Kuzmenko lives up to his entire deal by solidifying himself on Pettersson’s wing, playing a consistent role on the team’s first power play unit and continuing to contribute at even strength. If the Canucks don’t make the postseason in either of the next two years — arguably the likeliest possible scenario — was that extension still worth it when you could’ve traded him for a high draft pick and a mid-range prospect to end up with the exact same outcome?
Because that’s the question we’re likely going to be asking at the end of this. The Canucks still don’t have six NHL defencemen, real depth beyond their active roster, any semblance of a prospect pool, or the cap room to do anything about those problems. Trading Kuzmenko would’ve easily fetched a return that could jumpstart real solutions in a few of those places.
As they always seem to do, the Canucks saw a chance to buy themselves a new pair of concrete shoes and jumped at it.
But hey, at least these shoes come with an infectious smile.
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