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Could that extra $3-4 million in rumoured cap space fix everything for the Canucks this offseason?
9 months ago
They say that with more money comes more problems.
But they don’t say the same thing about cap space.
Earlier this week, DailyFaceoff’s own Frank Seravalli reported that the NHL and NHLPA were expected to enter into negotiations to trade about $100 million in assorted hockey-related revenue claims in exchange for a $3-4 million increase to the cap ceiling for the 2023/24 season.
Without those negotiations, the cap is only set to rise $1 million to a total of $83.5 million for next year. But with that additional few million, it could rise as high as $86.5 million, with that new ceiling taking effect in June or July.
That would mean an extra $96-128 million in spending money league-wide. Almost every NHL team would benefit, save for those teams that already have ample cap space and were hoping to exploit their peers this summer. But some teams will definitely benefit more than most, and the Vancouver Canucks have to be included on that list.
Last week, we wrote about the Canucks’ offseason (and next season) cap situation, and found it to be, in the words of Tuco Salamanca, “Tight, tight, tight!”
We’ll copy and paste the relevant sections here:
(Like ChatGPT, only lazier!)
“For each NHL team, then, the offseason cap is really set at $91.85 million. That gives the Canucks another $6 million in space (for the time being) above what they’ve already spent, and that should be plenty to get Ethan Bear and Vitali Kravtsov under contract and add a goalie to the roster, as well as whatever other minor roster shuffling is required. But it sure doesn’t leave much room for many improvements on top of the existing roster…”
“A player can be placed on LTIR during the offseason, so long as the team provides a doctor’s note that states said player will still be injured at the start of the next season and for at least 10 regular season games and 24 calendar days. And if that happens, the Canucks can gain a little bit of an offseason salary relief pool, just like they had in the 2022/23 regular season…”
“If both [Tanner Pearson and Tucker Poolman] hit the offseason LTIR, the Canucks gain effective cap space, but not as much as they might hope…”
“Of course, this is all only a temporary fix, and the Canucks will still need to get under the actual salary cap by opening day of 2023/24, and that cap is still $83.5 million. They should be able to exceed that ceiling by a certain amount through again placing Pearson and/or Poolman on LTIR, but that will still ultimately leave them with some serious cutting to do, especially if they make use of any extra relief space during the offseason.”
The gist of it, for this who prefer even briefer summaries, is that under the previously-assumed $83.5 million ceiling, the Canucks had a little room to operate in the offseason, but needed to use that little bit of room to cut salary before opening night.
And cutting salary looked like it might be expensive.
So what could an extra $2-3 million, on top of that already-locked-in $1 million cap increase, do for the Canucks?
It could pretty much fix everything.
What would the Canucks spend it on?
Why, the most precious resource of all: time.
Time was going to be a real killer for the Canucks this offseason. There’s that June deadline on which to decide on any buyouts. There’s the likelihood of having to wait until September to potentially unload Tyler Myers, thanks to a mid-September signing bonus. There’s the reality that, as soon as they just re-sign their own RFAs, the Canucks were pretty much already at or above $83.5 million for the 2023/24 season, and thus needed to cut cap before October rolled around.
Time was definitely going to be a factor working against the Canucks this upcoming summer, and transactions made under a time-crunch are typically more expensive and less efficient.
But even an extra few million in cap space afford the Canucks the possibility of slowing things down.
The cap rising to $86.5 million means that the offseason cap rises via 10% extender to $95.15 million. As of now, the Canucks have $85.09 million committed to 22 on-roster players for 2023/24. Re-sign Bear and Kravtsov, and add the necessary backup goaltender to the roster, and that on-the-books number shoots up to about $90 million for 25 on-roster players, leaving more than $5 million in offseason spending room without even touching LTIR.
Getting the lineup in shape for opening night would mean reducing the active roster by two players and the cap by $3.5 million (back down to $86.5 million or fewer).
That can be accomplished as easily as placing Pearson on LTIR and cutting any other player in training camp. If Poolman hits LTIR, too, the Canucks would be able to roll the current roster right into next season with a little bit of cap space to spare — though they’d be using LTIR relief space at that point and thus unable to accrue cap throughout the season.
And that, right there, is everything. The Canucks no longer needing to cut cap just to have a legal opening night roster takes an enormous amount of pressure off them this summer. Every other potential move can now wait until the right time, and that’s a much better situation to be than under a series of deadlines.
If it wants, the team can now just roll into 2023/24 with the exact same roster it has now, instead of having to pay potentially exorbitant costs to unload potentially unsavoury contracts. (Which gets easier with all that extra cap space around the league, anyway.)
It thus becomes no real problem to wait until September, or even later, to unload Myers. The Canucks don’t need the space right now (unless they’re dead-set on doing all their retooling this summer), and can afford to wait until the price is right. As soon as such a deal happens, the Canucks can probably get out of LTIR and back into accruing cap space.
It also means that the team can safely wait out another full year before buying out Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s contract, which lessens the amount and length of the buyout penalties applied.
It means that the Canucks can hang on to all three of Brock Boeser, Conor Garland, and Anthony Beauvillier until it makes sense to trade them. Word is that it was going to cost serious sweeteners to move either Boeser or Garland this summer, and the Canucks can’t really afford many sweeteners. Now they can wait, and ship them out later, when they’ve perhaps rehabilitated their value further and are further along their contracts. The Canucks can also consider hanging on to Beauvillier and then flipping him as a decently-valued Trade Deadline rental.
In fact, if they time their LTIR placements right, the Canucks could feasibly add a reasonably-priced free agent at center or defence during the summer and still wind up under the opening night cap without making any drastic cuts. And wouldn’t that be something?
With the extra $3-4 million in room in the here and now, the Canucks get options, and they get to play those options a lot more patiently. As such, they won’t really end up needing more space until the summer of 2024, at which point more will have naturally opened up — so long as they can also restrain themselves from spending more in the interim.
And here’s a fun kicker: the cap going up this much this summer would mean it probably goes up even higher, to $87.5 or 88.5 million for 2024/25. That makes getting Elias Pettersson under a contract all the more simpler, and also should allow the Canucks to start seeking out further roster improvements in earnest at that point.
So, we return to our headline question: Could that extra $3-4 million in rumoured cap fix everything for the Canucks this offseason?
And we answer it with a full-throated “Hell yeah.”
Now, keep in mind, negotiations are not complete, and new NHLPA head Marty Walsh has his work cut out for him to actually get this deal done. As of yet, the Canucks can’t quite count on that extra space.
But they’ll know one way or another soon enough. And if the cards fall in their favour, the summer heat instantly gets a lot cooler for GM Patrik Allvin and Co. — and everybody likes to have a cool summer.
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