JPat: Canucks’ Rutherford makes right call when it comes to handling Brock Boeser’s next contract

Photo credit:© Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
20 days ago
In a wide-ranging Q & A with Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntryre this week, Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford made it clear the hockey club has no plans to rush into a contract extension for veteran winger Brock Boeser. Under the terms of the National Hockey League’s collective bargaining agreement, the Canucks could open discussions on a new deal with the veteran winger and his agent Ben Hankinson on July 1st. But Rutherford left no doubt the hockey club wants to take its time determining how best to proceed with the 27-year-old winger who could be an unrestricted free agent after next season. 
Despite the fact Boeser led the Canucks with 40-goals in the regular season and added seven more in the playoffs, playing the waiting game is the right call for a number of reasons.
First, Boeser needs to prove that the blood clotting issue that kept him out of Game 7 against Edmonton in the team’s second round Stanley Cup Playoff match-up was a temporary setback with no lasting implications.
Secondly, as much as the player’s camp might like to negotiate off this past campaign, the Canucks need to ensure they’re not locking in to a long-term deal based on an outlier season of over-heated production.
Thirdly, the hockey club has to retain some long-term cap flexibility while determining whether it can build off the 50 win, 109 point season it just had – fully recognizing the significant role Boeser played in the team’s success.
“We believe that Brock is back on track and he’ll continue to do what he was doing and once we get confirmation of that during the season, then we’ll make a decision on him going forward,” Rutherford said.
It wasn’t long ago Boeser’s current contract of $6.65M was untradeable and became a distraction that played a part in a disappointing 18-goal season in 2022-23. To his credit, he bounced back in a big way and levelled up with 40 goals last season.
There is certainly abundant risk in playing the long-game here with Boeser. If he does what the hockey club wants and backs up last season with another that comes anywhere close to 40-goals again, then he will surely be a big part of whatever success the team is enjoying next season. Not only will his price go up as a pending UFA, but at that point, Boeser would seem like an indispensable piece for a team making a push for the Stanley Cup. And if things play out like that, then the Canucks will likely be willing to pony up for that sort of player.
But there is also the chance that Boeser isn’t able to match the career-high 81 games or the career-best 19.6% shooting percentage (he’s been a 13.8% shooter in 494 career NHL games). And for a player that had never scored 30 goals in a season at this level, Boeser surprised many by making the jump to 40 goals. His season started with a 4-goal game on opening night, included two other hattricks and six two-goal outings. That’s 22 of his 40 goals in just nine games. The best goal scorers at this level score in bunches, so Boeser’s not alone in that regard and if it was easy to have big scoring nights in the NHL more guys would do it. But there’s also no guarantee he’ll catch lightning in a bottle as often as he did last season. And that’s where the Canucks want to – and are right to – exercise patience and keep their options open.
Boeser has shown he’s more than just a goal-scorer. He has rounded out his game with and without the puck, has become a trusted defensive option for Rick Tocchet, has formed an undeniable bond with JT Miller and is a mainstay on the Canucks power play as both a down low option and a net front presence. And the hope is that the Canucks will see more of all of that next season.
With his comments this week, Jim Rutherford left the door open to include Boeser as part of what this management group is trying to put together in its quest to bring a Stanley Cup to Vancouver. 
But he also sent a clear message that signing Boeser to a long-term, big money extension isn’t something the hockey club is prepared to do at this moment.
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