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Why Jake Guentzel should be priority number one for the Canucks this offseason

Jake Guentzel rumours with the Vancouver Canucks
Photo credit:James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
1 month ago
Just when Vancouver Canucks fans had moved on from their dream of Jake Guentzel as a top-six option for Elias Pettersson’s wings, the Kool-Aid man jumped through the wall screaming, “Oh Yeahhh.”
After the Carolina Hurricanes were eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, they made re-signing Guentzel one of their main priorities. However, the negotiations didn’t go the Hurricanes’ way as Guentzel informed the team about his wishes to test free agency on July 1st.
And that’s respectable for Guentzel. He’s earned the opportunity to go out as one of the biggest fishes on the market and just test the waters. Now, he didn’t completely shut the door on a return to Carolina, but the team may have felt otherwise.
As of last week, the Hurricanes had made it known to other teams around the National Hockey League that Guentzel was available for trade. The asking price? A measly mid-round pick. So, it looks like the club wanted to mitigate their losses and at least get something for what they’re projecting is a lost asset.
The Canucks have been linked to Guentzel since before the trade deadline. And that should be a surprise for anybody. Guentzel has a history with Jim Rutherford, Patrik Allvin, and Rick Tocchet, which goes back to their days with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
However, the Canucks upper management decided to trade for the league’s top centre available at the deadline, Elias Lindholm. It was a rocky start for Lindholm and the Canucks, but a successful playoff run, both the club and players pitching him to re-sign.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on the Jeff Marek Show gave us an update on where the Canucks currently stand in the Lindholm negotiations.
“I think the Canucks are conceding that they won’t be able to do Lindholm. I never want to say never, but as it stands right now, I think they’re moving on and asking, ‘Okay, who’s our next target?'”
Well, Elliotte, let’s discuss who that next target should be.

The Jake Guentzel Discussion

It’s no surprise that this Vancouver Canucks team is going to look completely different than last season. And honestly, with everybody (outside of Tyler Myers) needing a raise, the team will probably look worse than it did last season. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still make improvements.
The biggest glaring need for the Canucks this postseason was a top-six winger for Elias Pettersson. While it was nice to have the depth of Elias Lindholm as your third-line centre, the third line was doing just fine with Teddy Blueger. This decision left Pettersson to play with primarily bottom-six forwards in Nils Höglander, Ilya Mikheyev and Sam Lafferty – no wonder he struggled.
Jake Guentzel and Ty Smith were traded to the Hurricanes for forward Michael Bunting, prospects Vasily Ponomarev, Ville Koivunen, Cruz Lucius, and a conditional first-round pick. Guentzel would play the final 17 regular season games for the Hurricanes, scoring eight goals and 25 points. In the postseason, he scored four goals, nine points in 11 games, and finished two shy of the team lead in shots on goal.
Doesn’t a high-volume sniper along the wing sound like exactly what the Canucks were missing this postseason?
Well, let’s examine the pending unrestricted free agents and players on the trade block to see who fits that bill.
Let’s pick this list apart.
It’s easy to pinpoint Jonathan Marchessault, Steven Stamkos, and Sam Reinhart as the top snipers available. But realistically, their respective teams are likely to bring them back, as it’s been reported that there is mutual interest in their return.
It’s been reported that the Martin Necas sweepstakes are more expensive than the Canucks might be willing to pay. The Hurricanes are looking for one, if not multiple, of the Canucks top prospects in a deal surrounding Necas. The Mitch Marner price tag projects to be higher than that, if he does become available, so it’s comfortable to count those two out of the Canucks reach.
So, this leaves Jake Guentzel, Nikolaj Ehlers, Tyler Toffoli, Jake DeBrusk and Matt Duchene as the only remaining options. Things can always change with one phone call, and some under-the-radar players could become available, but we’ll roll with these players for now.
Based on these stats, it’s easy to see that Guentzel has the highest production of the group — both this season and in terms of career totals.
Guentzel plays much bigger than his 5’11, 180-lb stature. He’s a tenacious, aggressive forward who isn’t afraid to go into the corner or battle in front of the net. Along with his wicked shot and ability to find the open areas, he’s also a creative playmaker.
Given his career, Guentzel would command the most money annually of the bunch. With the help of AFP Analytics, we can project what these players could command on their following deals.
AFP has Guentzel making $9.31M for seven years on his next contract. While that may look like a lot, we’ve got to remember the state of the current salary cap. It’s only going up and up from here. We saw this happen for next season; the cap was projected to be $87.7M but jumped to $88M.
What $9.31M is today won’t hold the same value as it will halfway through a long-term deal. So, any player who signs a lengthy contract will likely consider that. This is why Auston Matthews continues to sign five-year deals: so he’s not locked into a deal where he’s making less than he should, i.e., Jake Hughes making $8M for the next six seasons.
So if the Canucks were willing to give Elias Lindholm a 7×7 to play third-line centre, why not pay the extra two million extra to pay the sniping winger they’re so sought after? Chek TV’s Rick Dhaliwal and Don Taylor discuss this topic on their show, Donnie & Dhali.
Rutherford and Allvin need to go big fish hunting this offseason to give Elias Pettersson a running mate. And they shouldn’t be cheap about it. Is it going to hurt your depth? Probably. But in his exit interviews, Allvin said they believe their scouting team will be able to go out and find the next Dakota Joshua. He also highlighted there are players in Abbotsford nipping at the bit to make the jump to the NHL. So, those positions can be filled from within or with cheap free-agent additions.
Pettersson has proved his ability to drive his own line since he joined the Canucks organization. And outside of the lotto line, who’s the best winger he’s played with? Tyler Toffoli? Andrei Kuzmenko? Imagine the next level Pettersson could reach when given an elite scoring winger like Guentzel.
Friedman would later add this on the Jeff Marek show, “I think they’d love to get Guentzel. I don’t think it’s easy, I don’t think it’s impossible, but do I think they’re looking into it? Absolutely. Look, it’s Rutherford, man, he’s aggressive. Of course, he’s going to look into it.”
That ending statement couldn’t be any more accurate. Since joining the Canucks organization, Rutherford has been very aggressive in all of his moves. He sets his target and pounces on it. Guentzel is a familiar face to Rutherford as they’ve done two previous contract negotiations in Pittsburgh.
Does he think he can convince Guentzel to come to Vancouver in the limited time in free agency? Or should the Canucks, and Rutherford especially, be aggressive and part ways with one of their two mid-round picks (3rd or 4th round pick) to buy them some extra negotiating time?
If they do sign him to the AFP Analytics projected contract, that would leave the Canucks with around $14.8M to fill their remaining roster vacancies.
What do you think Canucks fans? Do you believe Guentzel should be priority number one for the Canucks? And would you feel comfortable giving him the projected $9.31M per season?

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