So far, so good in first two years of Rutherford, but it’s year three that will really count for the Canucks

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
4 months ago
The changing of the guard in the Vancouver Canucks’ front office began a little over two years ago, on December 5, 2021.
That was followed by the hiring of Jim Rutherford as President of Hockey Operations and Interim General Manager on December 9, 2021, and then finally by the hiring of Patrik Allvin as the new, full-time General Manager on January 26, 2022.
It’s thus been, more-or-less, two years since the Allvin Regime took over.
And it’s been a good two years.
Within the span of the past 700 days or so, Allvin and Co. have transformed the Canucks from one of the league’s most hopeless franchises into something resembling a playoff contender. They’ve brought in head coach Rick Tocchet. They’ve added the likes of Filip Hronek, Andrei Kuzmenko, Nikita Zadorov, Ilya Mikheyev, Ian Cole, Carson Soucy, Sam Lafferty, Teddy Blueger, Pius Suter, Dakota Joshua, Casey DeSmith, and more to the roster, reconstructing everything but the very top of the depth chart.
They named Quinn Hughes captain. They made a long-term commitment to JT Miller. They’ve even managed to restock the team’s often-beleaguered prospect cupboard.
The Canucks were in last place in the Pacific Division when Allvin and Co. took office. As of this writing, they sit at second overall in the entire NHL.
Yes, it’s been quite a two years, and the successes have been numerous. And it’s not just us who’s saying that. The fans also tend to agree.
Every week here at CanucksArmy, we run a little column called ‘WDYTT,’ or ‘What Do You Think Thursday?,’ in which we pitch questions to our commenters and publish their answers. This past week, we asked for their performance reviews on the first two years of the Allvin Regime, and the responses were almost unanimously positive.
But amidst all that positivity, a clear secondary theme emerged. (Full credit goes to specific commenters Hockey Bunker, paul in the great white north, Cageyvet, and defenceman factory for directly inspiring this article.)
As good as the results of these first two years have been, many in the fanbase and mediasphere alike can’t shake the feeling that it’s the next year, Year Three, that will really count in the end. And it’s not hard to see why.
Several milestones will be achieved for Allvin, Rutherford, et al. over the next couple of months. Their first playoff berth is a strong probability. Several individual award nominations seem likely.
It’s the 2024 offseason, however, that will really be the big difference-maker.
Thus far, Allvin and Co. have only really had to deal with two major contract situations. One was Miller, and they responded with an extension that, thus far anyway, is aging extremely well. The other was Bo Horvat, and in that case the Allvin Regime decided against a heart contract extension, and instead transformed Horvat in Hronek via a series of trades. That, too, is looking like the correct decision in the early going.
But those contractual considerations pale in comparison to what is coming in the summer of ’24.
Of the 22 players on the Canucks’ active roster right now, a full ten have their contracts expire after the 2023/24 season is complete.
And almost all of the ensuing contractual negotiations could prove difficult to one extent or another.
Mark Friedman is a fairly easy “bring him back at the same price or don’t” situation. The challenge level moves uphill from there.
Dakota Joshua is signed to a $825K cap hit but has become a much more impactful player under Tocchet’s tutelage. He’ll be looking for a raise, no doubt.
So too might Teddy Blueger, who signed for just $1.6 million but has proven quite capable as the Canucks’ 3C after returning from an early-season injury.
Of the UFA forwards, however, it is really Sam Lafferty who has potentially put himself into a different earning bracket. After being acquired for nothing more than a fifth round pick, Lafferty is already up to 15 points in 30 games for the Canucks and has recently seen time on the top line. Whatever he makes on his next deal, it’s going to be more than his current $1.15 million compensation, whether that’s in Vancouver or elsewhere.
Flipping over to the blueline, Ian Cole is a little long in the tooth to be getting much in the way of raises, but he’ll either need to be re-signed or have his heavy contributions replaced elsewise. Nikita Zadorov, at the age of 28, is almost certainly looking for a raise from his current $3.75 million, and that negotiation could prove trickiest of all, what with Zadorov still being a somewhat undefined quantity as a top-four defender.
Casey DeSmith needs to be re-signed or replaced, too, and it’s going to be tough to find someone of his quality at that same $1.8 million pricetag.
The only expiring player that Allvin will be negotiating with who is truly in line for a pay decrease is Tyler Myers, and though there’s a real good chance Myers simply won’t be back, that will leave the Canucks with just one genuine RHD at the NHL level (and he’ll need a new contract, too, but more on that in a bit).
On UFA re-ups alone, Allvin and Co. have their work cut out for them.
And then there’s the RFAs.
Both Elias Pettersson and Filip Hronek also need new contracts in the 2024 offseason, and when those contracts are signed, they’ll probably overtake the Miller contract and the Horvat non-contract as the most important decisions made by the Allvin Regime.
The challenge now is in making the right ones.
Pettersson is neck-and-neck with Hughes for franchise importance, and though his 2023/24 season hasn’t been his outright best work, he’s still plainly carving out a place for himself in the uppermost echelons of NHL talent. Pettersson will have the ability to demand essentially whatever term and salary he wishes, and it will be up to Allvin to convince him to settle for something that is at least somewhat in line with the Canucks’ competitive needs.
A small difference in negotiations could lead to millions of dollars in cap savings (or excess expenditures) over this next section of years, during which the Canucks hope to compete, and during which time every dollar will count.
At the very least, however, Allvin and Co. have a pretty good idea that Pettersson will be worth whatever he signs for. Determining the exact worth of Hronek is a significantly greater challenge. Still hovering around point-per-game status on 2023/24, Hronek is putting together a resumé that could certainly be argued to put him in line for #1D pay, which would at least double his current $4.4 million compensation. But close observers of the Canucks have noticed ample warts in Hronek’s defensive game this season, and he has had the undeniable benefit of playing most of his minutes alongside Hughes.
Hronek’s contract extension is going to be big-ticket, there’s no doubt about that. But exactly how big-ticket is going to be key, especially when it comes to keeping enough cash on hand to continue building that blueline around Hughes and Hronek.
One offseason. Two RFA contract negotiations of enormous importance. And about six other UFA contract negotiations of at least medium-to-large importance.
Good thing, then, that the NHL’s salary cap is going up more than $4 million when the offseason hits.
Bad thing, then, that half of that added space is automatically going to be wiped out by a $2.2 million increase in Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s buyout penalty.
Allvin and Co. are going to have to skate through all this contractual decision-making and raise-distributing with just a $2 million or so cap bump and the space they can maintain after finally getting out of Myers’ contract. It’s not that much money, in the end, and that makes the minute details of each contract all the more vital to nail.
And we haven’t even touched on anything beyond contract negotiations. There will be more trades, both as the Canucks approach their first contentious Trade Deadline in a good long while and then over the course of a post-flat-cap offseason. There’s still the Kuzmenko situation to sort out, and a clear need for another RHD. There’s the 2024 NHL Entry Draft to navigate. Tocchet will also need a contract extension in the summer of ’24, lest he enter the 2024/25 season as a lame-duck coach.
It’s a lot, and it’s all going to matter as much, and more, as everything that has come before.
These first two years of the Rutherford-Allvin Regime have been an unbridled success. Really, it’s remarkable to look at the team they inherited and look at the team today. The difference is stark and in the most positive of ways.
But life as an NHL GM isn’t even “what have you done for me lately.” It’s always “what are you going to do next,” and if Allvin and Co. don’t continue this run through to a successful Year Three, it’s all going to be for naught.
The real story of the Rutherford-Allvin front office, in other words, has yet to be written. But it’s about to be.

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