The Canucks have 50 days (or fewer) to make decisions that will impact the franchise for years to come

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 year ago
50 days.
Depending on one’s circumstances and perspective, 50 days can either be a whole lot of time or not a whole lot of time.
If you’re a fruit fly, 50 days might represent the entire span of your life, start to finish. For a fruit fly, 50 days is a really long time.
For an NHL franchise with several major, long-term, franchise-fortune-determining decisions to make, on the other hand, 50 days is decidedly not a really long time. It’s not a whole lot of time at all. But that’s exactly what the Vancouver Canucks have on their hands, and it’s going to make for an anxious months-and-two-thirds.
Assuming that you’re reading this article on its publishing date of January 13, 50 days marks the exact span between now and the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline, which falls on March 3, 2023. Now, most NHL teams face a handful of important decisions every year that must be made by or before the Trade Deadline. But only rarely are those decisions of the variety that will continue to impact the franchise making the decisions for the next decade to come.
This year, such choices fall on the collective heads of the Vancouver Canucks.
While we’re not just talking about Bo Horvat when we say that, we are mostly talking about Bo Horvat. The 27-year-old center is a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, which means that the Canucks have exactly 50 days to either re-sign him or trade him to another team.
There is, of course, a third option, which is to do neither and watch Horvat walk away in July as a UFA. But that’s not really an option. Not if the Canucks ever want to escape their current extended period of mediocrity.
As stressful and disappointing as the Horvat situation may be, it also represents an enormous double-edged opportunity. The Canucks drafted Horvat with the ninth overall selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. That means that by the time he hits UFA, the organization will have invested a full decade into developing him, with that development taking Horvat from an OHL second fiddle to a team captain and one of the NHL’s leading goal scorers.
If the team is now able to trade Horvat for an appropriate haul of future-based assets (or extend him to a reasonable contract), it could set the tone of the roster-building for the next ten years. If they don’t, it will amount to ten years wasted and a golden opportunity to jump-start the retool squandered.
How many pending UFAs anywhere near the quality of Horvat have the Canucks had available for trade in their franchise history? Not many. They can’t expect such an opportunity to come again anytime soon. Act now, act decisively, or regret the blown chance until well into the 2030s. Whichever way they go, the 50 day deadline will not bend.
The Horvat decision may be the biggest and most consequential facing the Canucks in the next 50 days, but it is not the only one of monumental proportions. The team is also facing a major choice when it comes to Andrei Kuzmenko, and this case isn’t quite as easy to glean a correct path from as the Horvat situation.
Kuzmenko, like Horvat, is a pending UFA at the end of the season who must either be re-signed, traded, or walk for no compensation whatsoever. Unlike Horvat, however, Kuzmenko is in his first NHL season and — despite not even being a full year younger than Horvat — might be perceived has having more of a potential future with the Canucks.
There are benefits to trading Kuzmenko. Hovering near a point-per-game while still operating under an entry-level contract, Kuzmenko represents a rare Trade Deadline asset that any reasonable playoff-bound team might be interested in adding to their roster. The assets offered up in return for Kuzmenko could definitely be considerable, and could jump-start a retool nearly as much as those offered up in return for Horvat.
On the other hand, Kuzmenko seems interested in sticking around in Vancouver, and has showed terrific chemistry with the team’s franchise player in Elias Pettersson. There are also benefits to be had by re-signing Kuzmenko, if he’s willing to ink an extension.
Whichever way they go, however, the Canucks will need to decide soon. How soon? Within the next 50 days, of course.
Again, as with Horvat, this is the sort of opportunity that the Canucks simply cannot ignore or let pass them by. It’s also not one they can afford to not make very carefully, diligently, and expediently. Decisions like what to do with coach Bruce Boudreau are important, but they just don’t have the long-term staying power of the impact of a decision with major assets on the line.
How often can a team like the Canucks count on courting a UFA prospect from a European league and having that player start putting up strong offensive totals in their first NHL campaign? Well, how many times has it happened before? Exactly. The Kuzmenko situation is also a golden opportunity of the sort that just don’t come around very often. Bungle this decision, and the Canucks really can’t assume that they’ll ever get the chance to make a better one in the future. When someone like Kuzmenko falls into your laps, you definitely don’t assume that it’s going to happen twice. You make the most of it the first time.
50 days also marks the amount of time the Canucks have to decide on their third and final consequential pending UFA, Luke Schenn. To place Schenn’s future on the same “franchise-fortune-altering” scale as that of Horvat and Kuzmenko would be a tad extreme, but it doesn’t mean that even this decision won’t impact the Canucks for years to come.
Most assume by now that, as a deadline rental, Schenn could yield the Canucks at least a second round pick. Make that trade, nail that pick, and the Canucks could suddenly have a player on their hands that will positively affect the franchise into the 2030s.
Dilly dally on Schenn, and you don’t get that. It’s really that simple, and the same principle can be applied to all three of these situations, which are really one big situation. Do the things and make the difficult decisions now that will lead to benefits for the franchise from now into the next decade.
Or don’t.
Either way, for better or for worse, the Canucks are going to be feeling the effects for a significant period of time from here on out.
And it all comes down to the next 50 days. Or fewer.

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