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Post-Free Agency Cap Update: For the first time in a long time, the Canucks are set to start the season under the cap

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Photo credit:© Simon Fearn-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
11 days ago
This article is brought to you by bet365!
It was a frenzied few hours, indeed.
The annual Free Agent Frenzy doesn’t always live up to its hype. But the July 1, 2024 edition certainly did, with more than 64 signings in the first hour alone and more than $1 billion spent total.
GM Patrik Allvin and the Vancouver Canucks were as active as anyone, inking seven contracts of their own, including some big ones.
When we last met to talk cap, we told you that the Canucks were entering into the free agency period with approximately $12,990,833 in spending space (without Tucker Poolman on LTIR) or up to $15,490,833 (with Poolman on LTIR.)
Now, the bulk of that space has been spent. A full $5.5 million in AAV committed to Jake DeBrusk. Another $2.25 million for Danton Heinen. Then $2 million for Vincent Desharnais, and $1.5 million each for Kiefer Sherwood and Derek Forbort.
That’s a combined cap hit of $12.75 million right there. But in order to find out what that really means, and what it leaves the Canucks with heading into the 2024/25 season, we need to break the active roster down into a little more detail.
 
The Forwards
Post-Frenzy, the Canucks have 14 NHL forwards under contract. Those forwards are Elias Pettersson ($11.6 million cap hit), JT Miller ($8 mil), Brock Boeser ($6.65 mil), DeBrusk ($5.5 mil), Conor Garland ($4.95 mil), Dakota Joshua ($3.25 mil), Heinen ($2.25 mil), Teddy Blueger ($1.8 mil), Pius Suter ($1.6 mil), Sherwood ($1.5 mil), Nils Höglander ($1.1 mil), Vasily Podkolzin ($1 mil), Nils Åman ($825K), and Phil Di Giuseppe ($775K).
Those 14 forwards add up to a total combined cap hit of $50,800,000.
But the Canucks typically run an active roster of just 13 healthy forwards, so barring injury, one of these players is likely cut following training camp. It’s worth mentioning that none of the players listed are exempt from waivers, which drastically reduces the chances of Podkolzin or Åman being cut again. That likely leaves Di Giuseppe as the odd man out. For now, we can take his $775K out of the equation, reducing the total forward cap hit to $50,025,000.
If someone other than Di Giuseppe gets sent down, it only opens up more space, as his contract is the lowest salary and right at the league minimum.
 
The Defence
After July 1, the Canucks have a full eight NHL defenders under contract. Those defenders are Quinn Hughes ($7.85 million cap hit), Filip Hronek ($7.25 mil), Carson Soucy ($3.25 mil), Tyler Myers ($3 mil), Desharnais ($2 mil), Forbort ($1.5 mil), Noah Juulsen ($775K), and Mark Friedman ($775K).
Those eight defenders add up to a total combined cap hit of $26,400,000.
It seems very likely, too, that barring any injury, these are the exact eight that the Canucks will start the year with on their active roster. Some younger defenders, like Jett Woo and Cole McWard, may be given an honest chance to steal spots from the likes of Juulsen and Friedman. But if they do, they’ll also do so while carrying minimal cap hits, so it won’t change the financial picture much at all.
 
The Goaltending
Here, we need to work with a few possibilities.
Thatcher Demko remains under contract ($5 million cap hit) and locked into place as starter. On Monday, the Canucks signed 25-year-old UFA Jiri Patera to a one-year contract with a $775K NHL salary, and he’s currently slotted in to serve as Demko’s backup with Arturs Silovs still unsigned.
In reality, Silovs will sign, and the two of them will duke it out for the job in training camp.
For now, we’ll pencil Patera and his $775K cap hit in, which gives the Canucks a total goaltending cap hit of $5,775,000.
We will circle back on Silovs at the end. As you will see, the Canucks can afford to give Silovs a higher annual salary than Patera and still make it work, but not by much.
 
The Dead Cap
We hate to keep bringing it up, but Oliver Ekman-Larsson got two raises on July 1. One, the Toronto Maple Leafs handed him via free agency. The other he received from the Canucks, as his buyout penalty went up to $2,346,667 for the 2024/25 season.
There’s also a new dead cap kid on the block in the form of Ilya Mikheyev and his $712,500 in retained salary, on the books for the next two years.
This gives the Canucks a dead cap total of $3,059,167.
 
The Totals, and the Tucker Poolman LTIR Question
Add together the $50,025,000 for the forwards, the $26,400,000 for the defence, the $5,775,000 for the goaltending, and the $3,059,167 in dead cap, and you get a total cap expenditure of $85,259,167 for 23 active players.
Which comes in well below the NHL’s 2024/25 cap ceiling of $88 million.
How far below?
Far enough below to accommodate the full salary of the one player under contract we haven’t discussed yet: Tucker Poolman.
Still suffering from concussion-related aftereffects, Poolman has spent the bulk of the last two seasons on long-term injured reserve. This has allowed the Canucks to effectively spend over the cap, using the relief space provided from Poolman’s LTIR placement to add a roughly equivalent amount of replacement salary to the roster.
But now, they may not have to.
If the Canucks are satisfied with this 23-player roster heading into the season – and it looks pretty full from where we’re sitting – then there is no need or benefit in placing Poolman on LTIR at this point. The Canucks can instead start the season with Poolman on regular IR, and thus have his entire cap hit count against their books.
Poolman’s final year of a $2.5 million AAV would get added to that $85,259,167, bringing the total up to $87,759.167. For those keeping score at home, that’s $240,833 below the cap.
Which means that the Canucks could finally be in accrual territory.
We don’t have time to get into the messy, still-not-entirely public details of accrual. But to make a long story short, for each day from the start of the season onward that a team comes in under the cap, they accrue a portion of that cap space. The accrued space builds over time, which is how and why some teams wind up hitting the trade deadline with dozens of millions in functional spending space. The rough formula is (Total Days in the Season/Remaining Days in the Season X Real Cap Space=Daily Accrual), but it’s important to emphasize that this number is tallied, and could change, each day.
Just a hair or two under the cap, the Canucks won’t be building up that much accrual. A full season of $240,833 in uninterrupted real cap space should add up to about $1 million in deadline space. But it would still be more than they could say in any previous season in recent memory.
Here, we can circle back on Silovs. That $240,833 becomes an important number here, and perhaps explains why a Silovs extension has not been signed yet. Functionally, it’s the exact amount more that the Canucks can afford to pay Silovs than Patera, and still have room for Silovs on the roster instead of Patera without going over the cap. For those keeping score at home, that’s a maximum cap hit of $1,015,833 for Silovs, which seems pretty reasonable. Sign him to exactly that, and enter the season with a perfect cap hit of $88,000,000. Sign him to any less, and the accrual continues.
Here’s what needs to be reiterated: until the Canucks have a need to spend more than $88,000,000, there is no benefit gleaned from putting Poolman on LTIR. Unlike real cap space, LTIR relief space doesn’t accrue. You get what you’re able to use of it, and not a penny more.
The nice thing about LTIR placement, however, is that it can happen at any time. And this is where even the minimal accrual that the Canucks should be able to accomplish might really add up to something meaningful.
There’s little doubt that Allvin and Co. will want to do some mid-season tinkering at some point. Whenever they’re ready for that, the Canucks should be able to take their accrued cap space, whatever it is at that point, then place Poolman on LTIR and add up to his maximum $2.5 million in relief space to their available spending. That could leave them with the ability to add a player mid-season with a cap hit over and above Poolman’s own $2.5 million.
Again, exactly how much extra spending space the Canucks might have is complicated and dependent on too many unknown factors to get into here. But just the fact that the Canucks are poised to enter an NHL season with both a complete roster and the potential for any extra spending space is a moment worthy of celebration.
It hasn’t been the case anytime in recent memory. But the days of the cap crunch are over. The days of accrual have finally arrived.
 

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