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Though defeat tastes bitter for now, the Vancouver Canucks’ window of contention remains open

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
This article is brought to you by bet365!
There’s a popular Simpsons meme that makes the rounds pretty often these days, and from a source no less than 2007’s The Simpsons Movie.
The scene in question has Bart complaining that “This is the worst day of my life,” and his father, Homer, correcting him that this is only “The worst day of your life so far.
20th Century Fox
In the age of climate change, global pandemic, geopolitical nightmares, and countless other problems that just seem to get worse and worse, it’s not difficult to see why the meme gets so much play. But the line of thinking present in it doesn’t have to be exclusively pessimistic.
Try this one on for size:
20th Century Fox
It is true that defeat tastes especially bitter after a Game 7 loss to a hated rival in the Edmonton Oilers. There’s really no feeling like it in sports. Players and fans alike enter the day with dreams and expectations of advancing into the next round of the playoffs, and then instead the season is over, just like that.
No rebound game. No opportunity to build on little successes or to bounce back. No Game 8.
Just the end.
But, as Homer implies above, this is not really the end for this iteration of the Vancouver Canucks. It’s just the end of the beginning, and a beginning that, for most of us, kicked off earlier than expected via the 2023/24 campaign.
There was little doubt that the current Canucks’ core, as represented by Quinn Hughes (24), Elias Pettersson (25), JT Miller (30), Brock Boeser (26), and Thatcher Demko (28) were either already in or about to enter their prime ages as of this season. What wasn’t as certain heading into the year was whether that would matter. Previously seasons had left reasonable questions as to whether this core would ever be good enough to compete.
In a sense, those questions are now answered. The Canucks did compete in 2023/24. They led the league standings for much of the year. They won the Pacific Division crown. They pushed the Edmonton Oilers, possessors of perhaps the top two players in the world, to the absolute brink of elimination.
And the core that did all that remains locked in place.
Hughes is signed through 2027 to what has become a bargain rate. Pettersson’s new salary is not nearly so spartan, but he’s signed until 2032. Miller is signed until 2030, and if this season showed anything, it’s that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank. Demko is on the books for two more seasons, which seems the perfect length now that he has an heir-apparent in Arturs Silovs.
Boeser is the only core member of the team up for an immediate contract renewal, set to become a UFA in the summer of 2025 and eligible to sign an extension as of July 1 this year. But, to be entirely fair, Boeser probably wasn’t even considered a true member of the core before this season. And we’re plenty confident in that extension being worked out to reasonable terms.
It’s true that a frightening portion of the rest of the team are on expiring contracts. Many players that played integral parts in the Canucks’ regular and postseason success need new deals. That list includes Silovs and Filip Hronek as pending RFAs, and all of Nikita Zadorov, Elias Lindholm, Dakota Joshua, Tyler Myers, Ian Cole, Teddy Blueger, and more as pending UFAs.
But even in that, there’s ample room for optimism. We know now that this core is worth building around, and good enough to be supplemental with quality roster management.
And quality roster management is what the Canucks have received of late. Perhaps most important, but often discounted, in all this talk of contracts are the dual contract extensions handed out to GM Patrik Allvin and POHO Jim Rutherford this season.
The front office has proven quite capable of negotiating fair and balanced contract extensions. They’ve also shown, as in the case of Bo Horvat, the ability to walk away from negotiations when they get out of hand.
There’s lots of reason to trust that whatever contracts Allvin and Co. get out of their current crop of free agents will be, at the very least, decidedly un-anchor-like.
It’s also worth mentioning that, aside from Lindholm and, once upon a time, Myers, each of the players listed above were acquired for quite cheap in the first place.
If Allvin and Co. can’t retain everyone – and, realistically, they can’t – they have already shown that they’ve got what it takes to build up a new supplemental roster around the core. Which, again, is already in place for the foreseeable future.
Never mind that, thanks to a little more careful management of draft picks and the selections that can sometimes ensure thereof, the Canucks actually have some prospects ready and willing to step in in the near future. That missing scoring could soon be provided by a Jonathan Lekkerimäki. Defensive depth could come in the form of Elias Pettersson II, or Tom Willander soon enough. Silovs already seems locked in as backup for 2024/25 and beyond.
And the competition? As far as the Pacific goes, there’s no reason not to believe the Canucks can continue to compete for top billing for at least the next few seasons. Young talent in Los Angeles and Seattle hasn’t quite popped the way they thought it would. Vegas seems to be imploding under the weight of their own cap shenanigans. San Jose and Anaheim remain years away. Calgary is stuck in no man’s land.
And those Oilers, who just beat the Canucks and now move on to face the Dallas Stars in Round Three? They’ve got one more season of Leon Draisaitl left before he hits UFA, and then one more year after that before it’s Connor McDavid’s turn. The good times could be coming to an end in Alberta sooner rather than later…
…and, hey, it’s not like the Canucks didn’t just almost beat them already. Minus Demko, and minus Boeser for Game 7.
Were the Canucks just ending a window of contention, such excuses wouldn’t amount to much. But having just busted said window of contention open, and with the staff on hand to keep that window open for at least a few seasons to come, the excuses do matter.
“Maybe next year” only counts when you can count on some good years to come. And it’s looking like the Canucks can indeed count on that.
This was their first shot, not their best shot. So far, not so long.
 

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