The Canucks’ free agency moves should inspire fans’ confidence in Patrik Allvin
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang2 months ago
For the first time in a while, the opening day of NHL free agency came and went without the Vancouver Canucks making any head-scratching moves. The organization signed a handful of players that will be expected to play at the NHL level and all of the signings were generally well-received from people in the market as well as around the league.
After clearing out some cap space with the Oliver Ekman-Larsson buyout, general manager Patrik Allvin had some money to play with. There was plenty of speculation on how he would spend his newfound funds, with holes at third-line centre and right-handed defence standing out as obvious needs.
With this year’s free agency class being on the weaker side, there was plenty of fear that average players were going to get severely overpaid. While that did happen in some cases, Allvin showed enough restraint to avoid signing a deal like the $25.5 million / five year contract J.T. Compher got from the Detroit Red Wings.
Overall, the Canucks added Carson Soucy, Ian Cole, and Teddy Blueger as well as a couple of AHL signings. It was a relatively conservative approach but one that still managed to add quality players at positions of need. It’s hard not to give Allvin props for how he handled July 1st and it should inspire some more confidence in his roster building skills for Canucks fans going forward.
Low term commitments made to savvy veterans
The Canucks signed one-year contracts with centre/winger Teddy Blueger ($1.9 million) and defenceman Ian Cole ($3 million). Both will hopefully be valuable contributors to the Canucks next season as they will have clearly defined roles in areas that the team has struggled over the past few years.
Blueger will be competing for the third-line centre position. No matter if he slots in there or on the fourth-line, he instantly brings a level of defensive responsibility and face-off talent that is always welcome in a bottom-six centre. He will also be one of the team’s most-used penalty killers.
Cole is a strong defensive defenceman that has played both sides in the past. He will also be relied upon to boost the Canucks dreadful penalty kill as he put up great defensive metrics playing in Tampa Bay last season.
For Canucks fans, the most exciting aspect of these signings should be that they’re only for a single season. While both seem to be a good fit on paper, there have been plenty of past examples of players not being able to transition successfully to Vancouver. Jason Dickinson stands out as someone that was a defensive stalwart in a rigid Dallas system yet struggled without that structure in Vancouver.
Since both of these deals are just for one season, even in a worst case scenario the money will be off the books next summer. If these acquisitions don’t work out, the downside is still very limited, while in a best case scenario, the two players could be important pieces in toughening the team up, especially when it comes to the penalty kill.
Avoided handing out term to ageing forwards
Leading up to July 1st this year, there was lots of talk about how weak of a free agency class this was. While there is usually a need to overpay in the bidding war that is NHL free agency, ideally you’re getting back a strong asset, of which there were very few this year. Instead, there were plenty of large contracts given to players without long track records of success or those approaching the back-nine of their career.
Patrick Allvin managed to stay out of those bidding wars, not handing out any contract worth a total of $10 million or more across its lifetime. As mentioned above, J.T. Compher got a contract worth more than $5 million per season. While he’s a good player, it’s a rich contract. He’s easily someone that a certain previous Canucks management regime could have targeted as the team’s 3C and handed a long-term contract to.
Even players like Evan Rodrigues, Pierre Engvall, and Miles Wood all managed to get long-term deals despite not inspiring a ton as middle-six wingers. With the trade market for wingers depressed, these contracts locking in players that don’t really move the needle that much for multiple years are certainly not ideal. Allvin’s discipline to stay away from this type of contract should be commended.
Took a solid bet on a defensive defenceman
The most interesting and controversial signing of the day for the Canucks was that of Carson Soucy to a three-year deal with an AAV of $3.25 million. Soucy was someone that I wrote about a few weeks ago as a potential target for the organization in free agency.
He managed to put up really solid defensive metrics, including being the best at limiting the rate of goals and shots against per sixty 5-on-5 minutes on the Kraken last season. While he didn’t have the largest role when south of the border, the Canucks are hoping that Soucy can continue to put up those strong results against tougher competition.
Overall, this is a very solid wager for the team to make and getting the player at a cap hit of $3.25 million is a solid deal for free agency. However, the fact that Soucy also got no-trade clause on this deal does sour things slightly. While you hope that he turns into a strong second pairing option, the Canucks have been burned by no-trade clauses in the past and it makes the contract impossible to move off of.
Like Cole, Soucy can play both sides which gives the Canucks plenty of options in how they want to deploy their defencemen.
Once again, Soucy will also be expected to take on a significant role on the penalty kill. After finishing dead last in the NHL in that metric last season, the Canucks did a good job at addressing it on day one of free agency.
Overall, it’s hard to fault Allvin for the moves made by the Canucks to open free agency. He did not spend recklessly and did not hand out term to ageing players. While Canucks fans have been treated to some dreadful free agency decisions over the past decade, Allvin and the management team continue to show encouraging signs that they have a plan and are sticking to it.
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