The Vancouver Canucks may need to be more patient than usual in free agency this offseason

Photo credit:© Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
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They call it the Free Agent Frenzy for a reason, and that reason is urgency.
Each year on July 1 (now that the schedule has returned to normal), hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts are handed out to dozens of NHL UFAs. More signings are made in those first 24 hours than in the rest of the offseason combined, and there’s always some element of “you snooze, you lose” at play.
In the summer of 2023, the Vancouver Canucks were no exception. GM Patrik Allvin and Co. got busy on Day One, signing the trio of Carson Soucy, Ian Cole, and Teddy Blueger to deals by the time it had hit the afternoon.
But for the Free Agent Frenzy of 2024, the Canucks might need to employ a little more patience.
To be sure, there are certain things for which they’ll need to jump into the fray right away. We wrote last week about the possibility of replacing a traded Filip Hronek via free agency. If you’re going shopping for a top-pair or even a good top-four defender via free agency, you’d better believe you’ll need to get your shopping done early. Such a player would almost certainly be purchased on July 1.
The same goes for any hopes the Canucks might have of finally landing a star winger to flank Elias Pettersson. We’ll have a piece or two coming on that topic in the week to come, but the same basic principle holds here: if you’re looking for name-brand free agents, those sorts of contracts are almost all signed by the time the clock rolls over to July 2.
But those few big-ticket items aside, the rest of the Canucks’ offseason could look pretty atypical, and could involve a little more waiting around than is usual. There are a few different reasons why this might be, and it could result in a few different outcomes.
One factor at play here is the (long-awaited) raising of the salary cap. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL’s cap has gone from $81.5 million in 2019/20 to just $83.5 million for 2023/24. That’s an increase of just $2 million over five seasons.
As of July 1, 2024, the cap will rise to an even $88 million. That’s a $4.5 million increase in a single offseason, more than double the cap movement experienced over the past half-decade.
All of a sudden, there’s a lot more money to be thrown around.
Which is why any pending UFA with any financial sense is going to test the market. Why wouldn’t they? The combination of so much extra cash being on hand and the usual pressures of free agency should result in some truly silly contracts being handed out, and it’s the players lucky enough to be hitting free agency now that will benefit.
If you’re someone like Dakota Joshua, and you’re currently receiving some reasonably-priced extension offers from the Canucks, why wouldn’t you at least wait a few weeks to see what the open market will offer? Joshua must be aware that, in doing so, he could see his yearly compensation swell to something truly ridiculous. A $5 million AAV is not entirely off the table for Joshua. And even if that doesn’t come to fruition, he loses virtually nothing for having waited to take a look.
Now, Joshua is an example of a player that we suspect might go to market and definitely find themselves a lucrative contract. Others might find the exploratory process goes a little bit differently.
A good example of this is perhaps Ian Cole.
We got word last week that Cole would “test” free agency, and we think that “test” is going to be a key word here for a lot of UFAs this year.
Cole is 35 years old. He is rapidly coming to the end of his NHL career. This might be the last contract he signs. He’s coming off a fairly good season in which he played a borderline top-four role for a division-winning team. And it’s the summer of big money thrown around haphazardly.
Cole would be a fool to not see what’s out there for him in terms of offers.
But if nothing jumps out right away, there’s no reason at all why Cole’s testing of free agency can’t involve circling around back to Vancouver when all is said and done.
There’s no immediate replacement waiting in the wings for Cole at LHD, nor is there for a lot of the Canucks’ depth free agents, like a Teddy Blueger.
All such players might reasonably want to check out the open market, but then also reasonably decide that the situation they found themselves in in Vancouver for 2023/24 is one worth continuing if the offers don’t pan out.
This could have the Canucks in the odd situation of waiting until the tail-end of July 1, or even later into the summer, to re-sign some of their own players. It’s a bit strange, but it happens.
The same could also be true for players added from outside of the organization.
Allvin has spoken about finding ‘the next Dakota Joshua’ through free agency, and that implies doing some bargain hunting. But it’s worth noting that Joshua himself was signed on Day One of the Free Agent Frenzy back in 2022.
Allvin could also rightly be talking about finding the next Pius Suter. The Canucks signed Suter late last summer on August 11, more than a month after they’d signed Soucy, Cole, and Blueger, and Suter proved to be every bit the apt signing. In fact, at two years at a $1.6 million AAV, Suter might just have been the biggest bargain of the bunch.
And the Canucks got him signed to that contract by being patient.
So, whether it takes the form of waiting for their own players to circle back, or whether it is waiting until the frenzy dies down so that the bargain-hunting can begin, the summer of 2024 seems likely to require some patience from Allvin and Co. The good news is that they and fans of the team alike can feel a sense of confidence in their recent success with free agents, and with pro scouting in general.
Whether they sign players right away, or later in the summer, the chances seem high that those players will be the right players. And that matters a lot more than the timing.
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