Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
Monday Mailbag: HO HO HO-LY SMOKES THE CANUCKS ARE FIRST IN THE LEAGUE edition
1 month ago
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and just when you thought CanucksArmy was taking a hiatus over the holidays, we bring you a surprising gift: a special Christmas edition of the Monday Mailbag!
We figured, what better way to reward our loyal readers seeking a break from the hectic hustle and bustle of the Christmas day traditions than by providing a grab bag of Canucks-related questions answered by yours truly!
I know what you’re thinking of asking, and no, David Quadrelli did not threaten me with a termination letter if I did not provide our faithful readers with a Mailbag.
Worth mentioning that the next time there will be a Monday Mailbag on Christmas Day will be 11 years from now, in 2034!
So let’s wrap up a fantastic start to the Canucks 2023-24 campaign with some holiday spirit and some lighthearted Q&A!
If the Canucks traded Kuzmenko for a draft pick, what kind of return would they be looking at?
Brandon StPier’s question came a day before Kuzmenko’s two-goal night against the San Jose Sharks. So I had to do some research instead of settling for a snarky five-word answer.
Since the 2021-22 offseason, five players with a cap hit higher than $5.5-million have been traded. One of those required a three-team transaction with retention to make it work. The highest return in any of those trades was the 2023 1st and 2024 3rd, acquired by the Columbus Blue Jackets for taking on Jonathan Quick’s cap hit in exchange for Joonas Korpisalo and Vlad Garvikov. The next closet would be Edmonton trading Tyson Barrie a 2023 1st and a 2024 4th for Matthias Ekholm’s $6-million-dollar cap-hit and a 2024 6th-round pick.
Players making more than $4-million who were traded in non-cash-in-cash-out transactions fetched as high as a 3rd-round pick. The Columbus Blue Jackets paid a 3rd-rounder for the rights to sign Damon Severson. The Calgary Flames were paid Yegor Sharangovich and a 2023 3rd for Tyler Toffoli by the Devils. The Hurricanes paid a 2026 3rd-round pick for Shayne Gostisbehere. The Winnipeg Jets paid a 2024 2nd-round pick for Nino Niederreiter’s $4-million-dollar cap hit and extended him in-season last month. The Blue Jackets (a prominent feature in the high cap-hit dispersals) had to shed Oliver Bjorkstrand for 2023 3rd and 2023 4th-round picks.
The bottom line is, don’t expect much, even though Kuzmenko has near-40-goal prestige on his resume. The fact is, teams don’t want to give up high picks for expensive players.
If the Canucks were to flip Kuzmenko, the minimum would be a 3rd round pick, but it might not be a pick until the 2025 or 2026 Entry Drafts. Maybe a team like the Blue Jackets buys his upside and flips a B-tier prospect from their surplus of prospect capital for Kuzmenko’s services?
Since this will be a Christmas Edition: Canucks players associated with Christmas presents received?
The Canucks Reddit Discord always brings the heat for the Mailbag. This week, Dom’s #3 Colleague presented a festive play on last week’s theme-association game of “Canucks 2023-24 season lore if they were ways to die in Oregon Trail.” This week, it’s 2023-24 Canucks players’ if they were Christmas presents, both ones I’ve received in my lifetime or standard Holiday gift staples that most are familiar with!
- Elias Pettersson: A $1,000 cheque from a distant relative. You don’t know what you did to deserve it, and it might not be around next year. Thank you, Jim.
- J.T. Miller: The latest Xbox/PlayStation (pick your poison), but the year after it was first released. You’re jacked you got it, even more so after worrying you’d be stuck with your 360/PS3 forever.
- Brock Boeser: A puppy. Specifically, a golden retriever.
- Quinn Hughes: The LEGO 75192 Millennium Falcon set. First, because it’s awesome. Second, because there are a million ways the set can surprise you to be even awesome-r.
- Filip Hronek: The LEGO 75355 X-Wing Starfighter set because it’s awesome and even better if you pair it with the 75192.
- Conor Garland: Socks. A staple. Essential. Without receiving them, did you even celebrate Christmas?
- Ilya Mikheyev: The Nintendo Switch. You were hoping for a 3080 Ti graphics card, an XB Series One, or a PS5, but over time, you realize that the Switch brings as much to the table as some of the pricier options on the market.
- Nils Höglander: A $100 Mastercard gift card because it’s basically cash, but it comes in shiny new packaging and can be used for whatever you need!
- Carson Soucy: A new phone charger. Because you’re always surprised by how much you miss it when your usual one goes missing.
- Sam Lafferty: One of those $1 Christmas-themed scratch-off lottery ticket stocking-stuffers, where you win $20.
- Tyler Myers: Credit to Sportsnet 650’s Justin Morisette for coming up with these next two. A copy of Driver: You Are The Wheelman for PS1. There was a time when you would have been thrilled to get Driver: You Are The Wheelman for PS1, and the thought of the Christmas you got it can still bring a twinkle to your eye. But there are better options more worth your time now.
- Nikita Zadorov: Goldeneye 64. There was a time when you would go berserk if you got this under the tree and would still be pretty sick to get it now.
- Ian Cole: One of those Lifesaver book boxes you get every year but always never expect and appreciate.
- Thatcher Demko: A year-long subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
- Andrei Kuzmenko: Wool sweater from Grandma that is a little snug around the neck, and you have to pretend you’re thrilled to have it.
- Casey DeSmith: Wool sweater from Grandma that is a little snug around the neck, but there’s a gift receipt on top with a handwritten card that says, “Just get whatever you want.”
- Teddy Blueger, Pius Suter, Phil Di Giuseppe, Nils Åman, Dakota Joshua, and Noah Juulsen: The cool Grandma’s aluminum tin of shortbread cookies. They don’t cost much, but it’s a gift with a ton of heart. You’re always stoked when they turn up.
Are the 2023-24 Canucks the best team in league history?
But it’s nice to feel good about the team’s direction starting in the New Year. How many years has it been since the season felt over before November?
Damn, it’s been so nice just to enjoy the ride.
How is Aatu Räty doing?
Räty has had an auspicious start to his Abbotsford Canucks tenure. Through 26 games played, Räty sits fourth in team scoring with 7 goals and 13 assists.
A lot of noise was made earlier this season about his start on a third line with John Stevens and Chase Wouters. And fair enough, seeing the prospect acquired in the Horvat trade playing third-line minutes with some AHL bottom-six features was an eyebrow-raiser. While playing in a third-line “hard minutes” role, Räty has been one of the club’s most consistent producers at 5-on-5. His 14 5-on-5 points are better than everyone on the team. His 5v5 points-per-game pace is tied with Arshdeep Bains, below Linus Karlsson, Max Sasson, and Tristen Nielsen.
Most importantly, Räty has added consistent third-shift PK reps and power play duty to his workload in his sophomore season while alternating between playing centre and the wing. The increased responsibilities combined with the flip-flopping position changes have not impacted his play whatsoever. Over his last ten games, Räty has 9 points, with four coming at 5-on-5 and five on the power play.
There are reasonable concerns about his footspeed and how his lack of acceleration will translate to the NHL. But his ability to compensate for his lack of mobility with his defensive IQ and positional awareness has led to him being one of the best net-positives on the ice at even strength. With Räty on the ice at 5-on-5, the Canucks have outscored opponents 16 to 9. Räty’s plus-7 goal differential at 5v5 is second only to occasional linemates Karlsson, Sasson, and defenceman Cole McWard.
It’s still early, but early returns on Räty have been encouraging.
Will Arturs Silovs take the step toward the NHL next season, or do we re-sign DeSmith for one more year to let him develop?
I don’t think re-signing DeSmith is the solution, even if Silovs isn’t ready. DeSmith might have actually priced himself out of Vancouver with how well he’s played this season.
My barometer on Silovs’ readiness relates to Thatcher Demko, when he turned 23 during the 2018-19 season—sidenote, I can not believe he is already 28 years old. At that time, Demko’s team told Benning that he had nothing left to learn in the AHL and was ready for an NHL backup job. Anders Nilsson was traded not long after, and Demko was brought to Vancouver.
That final AHL season for Demko saw him post a .911 save percentage, zero shutouts, and a 2.58 goals-against-average for a very bad Utica Comets team.
At 22 years old, Silovs has posted a .910 save percentage, three shutouts, and a 2.62 goals-against-average for a pretty inexperienced but solid Abbotsford Canucks team. Silovs will turn 23 in March.
Interestingly, Silovs has more shutouts this season alone than Demko did throughout his three-year tenure in Utica. He’s been excellent playing behind a defensive group severely lacking in size and pro experience after a not-so-great-start playing behind that same rookie d-core.
I would bet that Silovs gets at least 3-5 games in the back half of this season to help the Canucks determine whether he’s ready for an NHL backup job next season. Demko was ushered into a backup role at 23, with Jacob Markstrom one year away from UFA status. If the club brought Silovs into a backup role for 2024-25, it would align with Demko entering UFA status the following season at the end of 2025-26. Maybe this is the Ian Clark modus operandi for ushering goalie talent to the NHL?
This is a long-winded way of saying that I believe Silovs is capable of an NHL backup job as soon as next season, barring a dramatic drop-off over the second half of the AHL season that changes my opinion.
Honest opinions on the flying skate jersey and if they should become the permanent home jersey
Doesn’t it feel like the skate jersey has already become the permanent home jersey?
In October, the club listed 15 home dates where the black skate would be worn. They then wore it twice more, not on the docket, against the New Jersey Devils on December 5th and the Minnesota Wild two days later on the 7th.
On top of that, Quinn Hughes launched his TEAM 43 initiative that brings first responders from the community to Canucks’ home games. The logo? Yep, the black skate colour scheme.
Players are superstitious creatures, so I could see them urging management to push for more black skate nights, especially after finishing 2023 as the top team in the NHL by points, second by points percentage, and then returning to playoffs for the first time since 2014-15.
The problem, as it always has, remains in the executive lounge.
Maybe some playoff game revenue in the black skate will sway their opinion into a full-time switch.
Do you think Tristen Nielsen will be an NHL player at some point?
I want to think so because the guy is very fun to watch at the AHL level. However, I have concerns that his two-way game and overall footspeed will prevent him from becoming an everyday NHLer.
His work rate along the boards, ability to get under opponents’ skin, and propensity for style points will only take him so far. Rick Tocchet values forwards who can give him minutes at 5-on-5, the PK, and power play. Since returning to the AHL, Linus Karlsson has been a feature on the Canucks’ PK, albeit in a limited capacity, while playing PP1 and big minutes at 5-on-5. Nielsen has not played any time shorthanded but features on the team’s power play units along the right wall. Nielsen has the best 5v5 points-per-game on the Farm, but Abbotsford has been outscored 13 to 11 with Nielsen on the ice at 5-on-5. Nielsen has points on ten of those 11 goals scored by the Canucks.
I want Nielsen to work out as a prospect because I would love to see a pest grind his way up the ranks into a bottom-six role in the NHL. But I have doubts due to that lack of utility.
Fingers crossed, though.
Dude would be a fan-favourite, without a doubt.
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