Maximizing the OEL buyout space: 8 UFAs who tick all of Canucks management’s boxes

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Cody Severtson
9 months ago
No longer the laughing stock of the league for being the only non-playoff team approaching the 2023-24 season well above the salary cap’s upper limit, the Vancouver Canucks gave themselves $6,444,583 in cap space, according to CapFriendly, following their buyout of Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s contract.
In his year-end media availability just two months ago, GM Patrik Allvin said, “I don’t want to use buyouts if we don’t have to. I don’t want to use buyouts if it’s going to affect us down the line when we could be a contending team. My intention is not to use buyouts.”
My how the turn tables.
The move was essential, though. Not just for the raw cap space to spend on UFAs come July 1st, but for how the cap space wrestles back considerable leverage in any potential trade negotiations this summer.
Naturally, Canucks fans reacted to the buyout like they were Zapp Brannigan or Philip J. Fry facing death by Snu-Snu on planet Amazonia.
“Yes! Other teams won’t be able to exploit the Canucks in trade negotiations because of their financial mismanagement!”
“Oh no! The Canucks have a decent chunk of change to work with ahead of a weak UFA class!”
The ability to spend come July 1st is fantastic news for the management group of a franchise that loves to get their guy on July 1st more than any other franchise in the NHL.
With uncertainty surrounding Kyle Burroughs, the Ekman-Larsson buyout, Ethan Bear out until December due to injury, and an organizational desire for another top-end centre, there are significant holes to fill and less than $6.5 million before LTIR considerations to make it happen.
Let’s look at eight upcoming UFAs that tick all of this management and ownership group’s boxes, help blow through this newly acquired cap space, and fill those positional needs!

Ivan Barbashev

This one’s a no-brainer.
Barbashev ticks the most important box of any of the selected UFAs: he’s Assistant General Manager Dan Milstein’s client! We jest, of course. Milstein is not an AGM for the Vancouver Canucks.
Barbashev is riding high off an unbelievable post-season run with the Golden Knights, in which he scored 7 goals and 11 assists in 22 games. At just 27 years old, Barbashev is a prime candidate for the “Milstein special”: a two-year extension that takes Barbashev into the dramatically increased salary cap upper limit as a 29-year-old unrestricted free agent. The same deal type of deal that fellow Milstein clients Andrey Kuzmenko and Vlad Gavrikov signed this season.
Given the Canucks’ positional needs at centre and on defence, a Barbashev signing would make zero sense.
Therefore, a two-year deal for Barbashev would align perfectly with this organization’s roster construction methodology.

Luke Schenn

Maybe we were joking when we said the Barbashev signing felt like a no-brainer. But “Schenn back to the Canucks for a third time?” Now, that feels like a sure thing!
Schenn tied Barbashev with the most ticked boxes at seven total. He’s a proven culture carrier who has outplayed his contract value time and time again.
So naturally, now that he’s looking for a contract value in the six-figure range, it would be appropriate for him to play in Vancouver on a deal that isn’t hurting the team’s cap situation but isn’t providing surplus value either.
Schenn brings size, stability, PK ability, and leadership. Evolving Hockey’s contract projection model sees Schenn at a $1.563 million cap hit next season. Given the familiarity, Schenn may be one of the only players in this year’s free-agent crop who might sign for a discount. It may require intense no-trade and no-movement protections, but Schenn has consistently been worth it.
Why change what works!?

Ian Cole

Prying players out of Champa Bay has proven quite difficult for the other 31 teams in the league. Players want to play for the Lightning, and it’s tough to blame them. The tax breaks, the championship pedigree, the weather, and the franchises’ sustained on and off-ice success throughout the organization.
At 34 years old, Cole is on the older side for defencemen. However, if Rutherford and Allvin can convince Cole to take a lower-term and lower-value deal using their back-to-back Stanley Cup member-berry powers, they may sign Cole and a host of other veterans to bargain-bin deals.
Replacing outgoing producers via the aggregate got Billy Beane a David Fincher movie. Maybe, replacing Ekman-Larsson’s second-leading points among Canucks’ defencemen via the aggregate can get the Canucks a David Fincher movie. Or, at the very least, a single defenseman that hits 10 goals.

Brian Dumoulin

Another ex-Penguin that could be a target for the Canucks is also the biggest boy on the list of pending free agents that tick the Canucks’ boxes.
Dumoulin will be 32 at the start of the 2023-24 season, plays the left side, kills penalties, and played top minutes for the Penguins this past season.
The organization coming into a marginal amount of cap space and immediately spending it on multiple 30+ year-olds on bloated UFA contracts wouldn’t be unheard of for this organization. The club didn’t buy out Ekman-Larsson to take a step back, either. The Canucks are back in “get our guys and push for playoffs” mode.

J.T. Compher

Remember when the Canucks had seventeen Tylers on their team?
That was great. Now, imagine they doubled down on the amount of JTs on their roster.
Sure, Evolving Hockey’s projected contract for Compher is a bitter pill to swallow, given how limited the Canucks are even with the OEL buyout. The club would almost certainly have to pay a premium to facilitate the trade of an Anthony Beauvillier, Conor Garland, Tyler Myers, or Brock Boeser-type contract from their books to improve their defence and sign a quality all-situations forward like Compher.

Alex Killorn

Were Jim Benning still the GM of the Vancouver Canucks, there would be daily tampering charges issued to the organization due to their transparently obvious intentions of signing Killorn to a bloated 4×4-million dollar deal.
Fortunately, the Canucks have a new Jim in town, and the man loves to sign wingers! Making Killorn the perfect target for New Jim in another all-in offseason!
With playoff experience, championship pedigree, proven all-situations capability, size, grit, toughness, and goalscoring, Killorn ticks an outrageous number of boxes. Evolving Hockey’s model projects Killorn to command a tidy sum this offseason, which likely puts the Canucks on the outs. He’ll likely be a points-producing machine alongside Conor Bedard in Chicago, commanding a $6 million dollar salary for several years while the Blackhawks slowly build a return path to contention.

Dmitry Orlov

A minute-munching ex-Bruin coming off a career year in points production who’s also about to be 32 years old? Might as well be a bullseye!
In a contract year, Orlov scored 7 goals and 29 assists in 66 games during the regular season before leading all Bruins’ defencemen with 8 points (all assists) in 7 games. At his age, Orlov will try and squeeze term out of his next team at a cap hit nearly equivalent to what the Canucks were paying Ekman-Larsson.
It would be funny if the organization bought out OEL only to sign an equally awful contract that took a left-shot defenceman to an older age for a marginally lesser cap hit.
Therefore, for comedy’s sake, we hope this is one of the team’s big off-season deals.

Radko Gudas

Radko Gudas is a quintessential Canucks’ UFA singing: an older, hard-nosed player known for a style of hockey that does not lend well to longevity who is coming off a very physically and emotionally exhausting playoff run.
I’d love it if the Canucks signed Gudas! The guy gives it his all, no matter what the stakes are!
Heck, he punched his own Philadelphia Flyers teammate at the World Cup once! The guy’s a gamer! Can you imagine a roster that features the spicy competitive tempers of Gudas, Miller, Burroughs and Schenn!? That would be awesome and hilarious.
More importantly, Gudas to a bloated deal that chews through the Canucks limited cap space would guarantee the only recurring theme of the Canucks over the past decade: an ex-Panther on the Canucks roster. Some traditions must be upheld, and Gudas would be the best option from this year’s UFA market to uphold the “whale-cat connection” tradition.
Let us know in the comments which UFAs you’d like to see the Canucks spend all of their cap space on!

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