Playoffs are the goal, but the Canucks are now set to profit at the NHL Trade Deadline if they fall short

Photo credit:© Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 year ago
In years past, fans of the Vancouver Canucks have had a difficult time coming to terms with the team’s free agent signings.
And we mean that in both the figurative and the very literal senses, because it’s term that has largely been at issue for the organization and the contracts it has traditionally handed out.
Six years for Loui Eriksson. Five for Tyler Myers. Four for Antoine Roussel. Four for Jay Beagle.
We hate to rehash the errors of previous regimes (just kidding, we actually love it), but it’s necessary to arrive at the positive point we’d like to make about how things have recently changed.
Of course, these long-term contracts were problems in and of themselves. But they also led fairly directly to a series of frustrating seasons in which the Canucks found themselves well out of playoff contention by the time the Trade Deadline rolled around, and yet unable to cash in as “rental sellers” in the way that non-competitive teams usually do.
Which, in turn, led to the exacerbation of the already-depleted pick and prospect cupboards, which extended the period of mediocrity, which led to more long-term free agent signings in an attempt to fill the organizational gaps, which led to…
You get the picture. We all lived it.
But perhaps we’re not living it any longer.
For FREE AGENT FRENZY 2023, GM Patrik Allvin and Co. showed a trait only rarely glimpsed in the executive suite at Rogers Arena during the prior regime: restraint.
Sure, Carson Soucy landed a three-year commitment from the Canucks (still a short one by the old standard.) But fellow veterans Ian Cole, Teddy Blueger, and Matt Irwin each signed a one-year contract only, and that gives the Canucks some serious flexibility. It gives them options.
Look, like it or not, the playoffs are clearly the goal for the Canucks in 2023/24. That’s what the team is going to shoot for, and that’s a philosophy that seems to run from the top of the organization to the bottom.
Believe it or don’t, it doesn’t make much of a difference. The attempt will be made.
But here’s the thing. If it doesn’t happen, if the Canucks find themselves well short of the postseason come early March 2024, that’s when those flexible options are really going to pay off.
It’s not just about selling rentals, but it’s mostly about selling rentals. Obviously, Allvin didn’t sign players like Cole, Blueger, and Irwin with the intention of having them all on other teams by the end of the year. The primary plan is for these players to be Canucks, for them to contribute positively to the team, and for those positive contributions to help bring the playoff dream to fruition.
Backup plans are important, too, though, and Cole and Blueger in particular stand out as excellent potential rentals if things don’t work out.
Cole is a veteran defender who plays “playoff-style hockey;” blocking shots, throwing hits, doing things that get called penalties in the regular season but not so much in the post. He’s won a Stanley Cup before. He’s the exact sort of known quantity that contending teams are always looking to add at the Trade Deadline. And because he’s signed for just one year at a reasonable rate of $3 million, he’s also perfectly priced as a rental. Should that $3 million cap hit prove too unwieldy, retention is always a possibility. Put it all together, and Cole should return upward of a third round pick fairly easily.
The same can probably be said about Blueger. Well, no, not probably. Definitely. Not just because Blueger is the forward version of Cole — on an even cheaper one-year deal, doing all the right things, bringing valuable experience — but because he’s already been exactly that sort of rental in the recent past.
This year’s Stanley Cup champions, the Vegas Golden Knights, just traded a third round pick (and a middling prospect) to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2023 Trade Deadline in exchange for Blueger.
And, sure, maybe the Golden Knights didn’t need to have done so, in retrospect. Blueger only got into six playoff games for Vegas, and none in the Finals, on route to the championship. The night the Cup got handed out, Blueger was a healthy scratch.
But that doesn’t make much difference to the Penguins, who still have the third round pick on hand.
This could be the Canucks in a few months’ time.
Other potential rentals on expiring contracts include the aforementioned Irwin — a fine candidate to be added by a contender for that always-necessary defensive depth — as well as a bevy of players that were already part of the organization prior to the summer. Anthony Beauvillier is a veteran scorer with a middle-of-the-road cap hit that could be made more attractive via retention. Dakota Joshua is a bottom-six banger with offensive upside and jam. And then there’s Tyler Myers who, if the Canucks hang on to him long enough, might just transform from a cap dump to a second round pick with retention applied.
Again, again, again: this is not “the plan.” This is not why these players were signed or acquired, and if it does go down like this, it will still count as an organizational disappointment.
What it really is, is just a natural result of more reasonable contracts having been signed.
It’s an option that the Canucks simply haven’t enjoyed in years past, much to the detriment of the franchise as a whole.
Now, at least, if Vancouver falls short of the playoffs, the team can still use it as an opportunity to move closer to their overall goals, as opposed to just wasting away the final months of the season running another “training camp” for next year.
It’s the pointlessness of past Canucks seasons that have been so difficult for fans to come to terms with, and it’s nice to feel that — like Cole, Blueger, and Irwin’s contracts — the pointlessness is coming to an end this year.

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