Projecting what the Vancouver Canucks could look like by 2024-25
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
7 months ago
Few are under the illusion that the Vancouver Canucks are a true contender, or even especially competitive, in the current moment.
POHO Jim Rutherford and GM Patrik Allvin have both preached patience, and advised that the path forward will be one of both steps backward and forward. Even former GM Jim Benning infamously opined that the team was “two years away” from competitiveness.
The 2022/23 season might see the Canucks chase a playoff spot, but the primary focus will be on rebuilding the roster and restocking the prospect cupboards. The same can probably be said for the 2023/24 season to follow.
Even the most optimistic fans will have a hard time projecting the Canucks making any real noise in the playoffs until the 2024/25 season at the earliest.
That’s three years away, and a lot can change over time. So what will the Canucks look like in 2024/25?
Let’s dive in.
Definitely Still Here
These players aren’t going anywhere, and certainly not before 2024/25.
Already signed for two additional seasons past 2024/25 at what is increasingly looking like a bargain rate, Hughes is the franchise cornerstone and the only truly long-term blueline piece already in place.
Demko’s most excellent five-year contract will still have two full seasons left in it by October of 2024. He’s the Canucks’ goalie of the present and future, and there’s no real doubt that he’ll remain the starter at least through the length of his deal.
Pettersson’s current contract will end during the summer of 2024, but he’ll still be an RFA at that point and the Canucks will retain his rights. Expect him to make the team pay a little for not locking him in to a longer term before, but expect him to stay.
At the age of 21, Podkolzin is already a borderline core player in Vancouver, and his profile is only going to rise from here on out. Podkolzin will be onto his second contract by 2024/25, and hopefully firmly ensconced in the Canucks’ top-six.
Mikheyev is the most tentative member of our “definitely still here” category, but we stand by it. He’ll have completed two of the four seasons on his freshly-minted UFA contract as of then, and there’s little chance that Allvin and Co. will bail on their first big signing early. Where Mikheyev fits in the roster is a mystery, but his versatility ensures there’ll be a spot for him somewhere.
Probably Still Here
The odds are on these players still being around come 2024/25.
Horvat becomes a UFA in the summer of 2023, and would be theoretically free to sign wherever he wished if he made it that far without a contract. But all indications are that Horvat will be re-signed to a long-term deal and remain in place as team captain. In fact, we’d be a little surprised if the extension wasn’t announced before opening night on the 2022/23 season.
With his recent three-year extension in hand, Boeser would be skating into the 2024/25 season as a pending UFA, unless he were able to pick up another extension in the interim. Whether that happens, or whether the Canucks have already moved on, is highly dependent on Boeser’s quality of play over the next two seasons. If he’s able to rebound to his old standard of top-six play, he’ll likely stick around.
Looking around at the exorbitant prices paid to move big salaries this past offseason, OEL’s contract appears more-and-more anchor-like by the day. Chances are that the Canucks are stuck with him until at least the summer of 2025, at which point a buyout becomes significantly more manageable. Ideally, Ekman-Larsson stays effective in a top-four role about that long, but either way he’ll be on the books.
Lazar will be entering the final year of his brand-new contract as of 2024/25, and if reports out of Boston are accurate, he’ll be a fan favourite by then. Expect Lazar to at least finish out this deal, and quite possibly sign on for another one when it’s over.
If these folks are still around in three years, it’ll be a surprise.
Pearson will hit the 2024 offseason as a 31-year-old UFA. If he’s still with the Canucks by then, don’t expect him to earn an extension. If all goes well, Pearson will have been pushed out of the lineup by incoming young talent long before that date.
Dickinson might not stick around past this current offseason, never mind an offseason two years from now. He’s been a flop in Vancouver thus far, and is thus not in the long-term picture. A big turnaround season in 2022/23 could change that, but we’re not holding out much hope.
It’s sad, but it’s true. Schenn’s contract runs out after this year, and while we could definitely envision him getting an extension, it probably won’t be any longer than another two years. That brings Schenn to the summer of 2024 and the age of 35. If he’s still around then, it’s as an extra defender. Retirement is likelier after a career filled with crunching hits and bloody knuckles.
Chances are good that these players have come and gone by then, but it’s not guaranteed.
Let’s not get too into this, because we’ve been into it all year. But suffice it to say that, as of this writing, the most likely outcome of the Miller situation is that he is traded at some point between now and the 2023 Trade Deadline. An extension seems out of reach, and inadvisable, unless his ask drastically lowers over the months to come. Trading Miller is also the singular best way to restock the franchise cupboards.
Myers hits the UFA market again in 2024, and he does so as a 34-year-old. If he hasn’t already been traded for cap space by that point — which seems unlikely — we could imagine a world in which he signs on for another couple of years as a bottom-pairing defender. Chances are better, however, that Myers is long gone.
Surely, the Canucks have found a way out of Poolman’s contract by 2024/25, and are not about to have him on the roster for a fourth season of $2.5 million AAV. A cap dump, a buyout, whatever; don’t expect Poolman to still be around in two years.
Burroughs has been a warrior for the Canucks, but depth defenders aren’t built for longevity. Honestly, if he’s still in the mix for NHL ice-time in two years, something has gone awry with the rebuilding of the blueline.
Martin can go one of two ways from here on out. Either he succeeds as the Canucks’ backup, and eventually goes elsewhere to get a shot at a starting role. Or, he flounders, and the Canucks go looking for someone else. There’s not much space in between with Demko still locked in place.
These ones could go either way.
Garland was recently IDed by The Athletic as having the most efficient contract on the Canucks roster, and he was the team’s most productive player at 5v5 last season. Signed until 2025/26, there’s every reason to believe that Garland is part of the long-term plan in Vancouver. And yet, trade rumours persist. This one’s currently sitting at 50/50.
Kuzmenko’s future is hard to pin down. The Canucks are only guaranteed to get him for a single year, and then he hits UFA status already in summer 2023. One hopes that, if he does find NHL success, he signs on for further years in Vancouver, but there’s just no way of knowing right now.
Höglander is in an awkward spot. After a sophomore slump, he’s slid down the Canucks’ depth chart, and he doesn’t seem to be Bruce Boudreau’s favourite kind of player. As prospects like Jonathan Lekkerimaki and Aidan McDonough hit the roster, it will be increasingly difficult for Höglander to keep his job. Either he breaks out again and puts all doubts to rest, or he’s sent somewhere else for a new start.
Who really knows what the Canucks have in Dermott? The 25-year-old only suited up 17 times for the Canucks in 2021/22. He’s still got upward potential, but until the Canucks can see more of what he can do on the ice, it’s hard to project his future.
Joshua has yet to hit the ice for the Canucks, but he’s already shaping up to be an exciting fourth liner. He’ll need a new contract for 2024/25, and how he performs in the interim will determine whether he gets one or not.
Of course, some new players will hit the roster and stick before 2024/25 rolls around.
The hard-hitting winger almost certainly hits the roster in 2022/23, and probably sticks around for at least a few years in a fourth line role.
As the Canucks’ most NHL-ready prospect, Rathbone should be a part of the immediate future, and if his immense talent translates up to the big leagues, he should also be a part of the long-term future.
The Canucks’ first first round pick in three years looks to be a good one, and has already been ranked by some pundits as a top-20 NHL prospect. A year in Sweden, a year in Abbotsford, and Lekkerimaki could definitely be ready for a role with the Sr. Canucks in 2024/25.
McDonough will either sign with the Canucks at the conclusion of his current NCAA season, or they will lose his rights. Assuming he does sign, expect McDonough to get some NHL minutes at the tail-end of the 2022/23 season and then to continue on from there, perhaps with a stint or two in Abbotsford mixed in.
The prospect pool is shallow, and there aren’t many players floating around in it who are expected to make an NHL impact over the next few years. Danila Klimovich could surprise and work his way into a bottom-six role, Linus Karlsson could be an option down the middle, and maybe one of Filip Johansson or Jett Woo breaks through on the back-end.
Otherwise, the most likely prospects to hit the roster in 2024/25 might be the ones the Canucks haven’t selected yet — specifically, their highest picks in the 2023 Entry Draft.
Of course, the Canucks are going to make trades between now and 2024/25, and those trades should impact the long-term shape of the roster. A Miller trade, for example, should yield at least one young player capable of making a difference by 2024/25, and, ideally, two or three. Specifically, the Canucks will be on the lookout for young RHDs and centers.
It’s also quite possible that the Canucks open up the UFA chequebook a few times between now and then.
Prospective 2024/25 Roster
Here’s just one imagining of what the roster could look like during the 2024/25 season.
The Gaps Left To Fill
No real surprises here.
The good news is that the Canucks are only really lacking long-term depth at two positions.
The bad news it that those two positions happen to be the most valuable and most-difficult-to-acquire: RHD and center.
Simply put, the Canucks do not have anyone in the organization who looks to be a long-term fit on the right side of their blueline. Not on the roster, not in the system, not on the reserve list. Not one. Moving forward, this has to be the franchise’s primary area of focus.
Assuming an eventual Miller move, there are also some concerns down the middle. Pettersson and Horvat are a great start, but there are no center prospects of note in the system waiting to take on some minutes. In a perfect world, Horvat starts to slide down into a more dedicated checking role as he ages, but that would require someone new to come in and handle his top-six responsibilities. Right now, there’s nobody ready or willing.
Beyond that, the Canucks have excellent depth on the wings, a strong foundation at LHD, and Thatcher Demko.
Is that enough of a core in place to build a contender by 2024/25?
Only time will tell.
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