Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
A step-by-step breakdown of the Canucks’ current cap structure, space, and situation
7 months ago
Folks, the sky is falling.
It’s not, actually. It’s just that, this is going to be a numbers-heavy article, and one always wants to try to grab their audience’s attention at the start of such a piece before delving into the financial doldrums.
Plus, it’s not like fans of the Vancouver Canucks aren’t used to hearing such messaging when it comes to the salary cap. In fact, this might be the first offseason in at least half a decade when cap constraints aren’t an active problem in need of rectification.
So, maybe that’s the headline. Let’s try that again.
Folks, the sky is not falling.
Following a few key free agent additions and departures, the Canucks’ roster might not be set, but it has taken a shape that could probably be seen as fairly close to what it will be come the opening night of the 2023/24 season.
Their cap structure? Manageable. Their cap space? Adequate. Their cap situation? Barely qualifies as a ‘situation.’
Below, you’ll find a full breakdown of where everything sits on the Canucks’ books in this present moment, how all the various pieces new and old should fit together, and whether or not there’s anything worth worrying about.
Making necessary adjustments to the forwards
This job isn’t quite so simple as logging on to PuckPedia and running a copy-and-paste. There are some necessary and inevitable adjustments that need to be made to the Canucks’ roster before it can truly be called “2023/24-ready,” and we’ll walk you through them step-by-step.
On forward, the Canucks have 15 players on their active roster, with a total salary of $51.771 million. Currently, that includes Tanner Pearson, who all indications are is healthy and planning to return as of Training Camp, and Nils Höglander, who finished the season in the AHL but now needs to either stick with the team or go through waivers. It also includes Ilya Mikheyev, whose return from IR is even more of a sure thing. It doesn’t include Sheldon Dries, and that’s fine, because we’d just have to send him down anyway.
Typically, the Canucks run with 13 forwards (12 in the lineup, and one extra.) That means that we can safely assume that two of the listed forwards will be removed, as will their salaries.
It’s difficult to see a scenario in which Jack Studnicka ($762.5K) is not one of those forwards. The choice of who else to ditch is trickier, but for now we’ll go ahead and suggest that Phil di Giuseppe ($775K) is the most likely of the candidates.
Send Studnicka and Di Giuseppe down, and the Canucks are left with 13 roster forwards (Miller, Pettersson, Boeser, Kuzmenko, Garland, Mikheyev, Beauvillier, Pearson, Blueger, Höglander, Podkolzin, Åman, Joshua) for a total cap hit of $50,233,750, representing about 60.2% of the $83.5 million cap ceiling.
Making necessary adjustments to the defence
The backend is a little less settled, and a lot more complicated to figure out. As it stands, there are seven defenders that are fairly certain to crack the opening night cap books: Quinn Hughes, Tyler Myers, Filip Hronek, Carson Soucy, Ian Cole, Matt Irwin, and the injured Tucker Poolman.
Together, those seven D add up to a cap hit of $27.775 million.
Now, we know what you’re already shouting at your computer screen, and it’s that Poolman is almost certainly going to start the season on LTIR. It’s true, but before he gets there, there is some serious cap manoeuvring that needs to go on. Remember how much shuffling around the Canucks needed to perform last year, resulting in their famous “perfect opening day roster?”
There’ll be more of the same this year. For now, Poolman and his cap hit remains “on the books.”
Of course, if Poolman isn’t actually going to play, the Canucks are going to need to add at least one, and probably two, defenders to the active roster. Until Poolman hits LTIR, however, we’ll keep it to just the one, and suggest that Noah Juulsen gets the first call-up due to a general lack of other RHD kicking around. Juulsen’s cap hit is $775K, which is conveniently in the ballpark of what any other call-up might incur.
With Juulsen on board, the Canucks’ blueline cap hit is $28,550,000 for eight defenders, representing about 34.2% of the cap ceiling.
And we will leave it at that for right now.
Making necessary adjustments to the goaltending
We can thankfully take a bit of a math breather on this one.
Thatcher Demko is the only truly locked in piece in the crease, and his cap hit of $5 million is nice and rounded.
He will need a backup, and it probably won’t be Arturs Silovs, who is still just 22 years old and should be playing as much as possible in Abbotsford. So, instead, we’ll call Spencer Martin and his $762,500 salary up.
We hope you’ve already calculated it in your head, but just in case, this gives the Canucks a total goalie cap hit of $5,762,500 for two goaltenders, representing 6.9% of the cap ceiling.
Making it all fit
Now, if you’ve been keeping track of the roster numbers here, you’ll know that 13 forwards plus eight defenders plus two goalies equals a roster of 23 players, otherwise known as the maximum.
If you’ve been keeping track of the percentages, however, you’ll know that 60.2% plus 34.2% plus 6.9% equals 101.3%.
And then there’s the $850,000 in carryover bonuses from last year, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s brand-new $146,667 buyout penalty to consider. Put ‘em all together, and you wind up with a cap hit of $85,542,917, a little more than $2 million over.
Which means that, even after all the necessary trimming and adjusting, the Canucks are over the cap. Usually, there would be plenty of ways to fix that AND to replace Poolman on that roster with a healthier defender, so long as the Canucks follow the right sequence. Unfortunately, this year things will prove a little more complicated.
As we learned last year, the real game here is to get as close to the $83.5 million ceiling as possible before putting Poolman on LTIR, so as to maximize the amount of LTIR relief space gained from his contract. In short, the gap between the Canucks and the cap limit at the point of LTIR placement gets shaved off the $2.5 million in maximum relief.
They could send down both Nils Åman and Vasily Podkolzin, each of whom is waivers-exempt, before the opening day roster is set. But their combined cap hits aren’t enough to get the Canucks under the cap, so one more player would also have to be cut, bringing the opening day roster down to 20 individuals, and it would have to be a player likely to clear waivers. That’s probably Juulsen in our scenario. But send Juulsen down, and now the Canucks have dropped too low, about $500K below the cap ceiling.
That means when Poolman hits LTIR, the Canucks are only going to gain about $2 million in spendable relief space, and that’s then not enough to call all three of Åman, Podkolzin, and Juulsen up, to say nothing of the eighth additional defender they probably need.
So what’s a team to do?
They could run a reduced roster, but that’s impractical.
They could hope that someone else ends up with an LTIR-worthy injury before opening night, but that’s uncertain.
They could try to bury someone in Abbotsford, gaining that little bit of extra wiggle room necessary to LTIR Poolman and then call-up replacements, but that might prove controversial.
A far more likely outcome is a for them to make a singular trade that reduces their overall cap hit by at least $1 million. Do that, and this whole thing cleans itself up.
The most likely player to be traded is still Tyler Myers. Deal him away after his signing bonus is paid, even at half-retention, and there’s plenty of room for Poolman’s LTIR placement and any subsequent call-ups required. Of course, Myers and his minutes then has to be replaced on the roster, but that’s doable.
A two-birds-one-stone approach could be to deal away a winger, relieving both cap pressure and roster squeeze at the same time. Here, any of Conor Garland, Anthony Beauvillier, or Pearson could work, so long as the team can find someone willing to take them without sending equivalent salary back.
Close out that singular trade, gain a little cap space, and then suddenly adjusting the roster to maximize Poolman’s LTIR placement becomes much less complicated. Heck, trade Myers and his full $6 million hit, and maybe the team can avoid LTIR altogether and actually accrue cap space for once.
But it doesn’t have to be anywhere near that dramatic. Something as simple as Pearson at half-retention for a late draft pick would probably be enough to gain the breathing room necessary to LTIR Poolman and still run a full active roster.
Without a trade, things become significantly more difficult, though nowhere near the realm of impossible.
So, know that the sky is not falling, and expect a trade in the near-ish future.
Hey, that’s two things to get excited about, right there, and all made possible through the power of math!
Recent articles from Stephan Roget