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What the Canucks’ opening night roster means for their cap now and moving forward

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Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
6 months ago
On Thanksgiving Monday, October 9, 2023, GM Patrik Allvin of the Vancouver Canucks announced their opening day roster for the 2023/24 season.
It’s important to keep in mind that the “opening day roster” is not necessarily the same thing as the “opening night roster,” and, indeed, in the case of this year’s Canucks there will be some key changes. Regardless, the opening day roster can determine a lot of things when it comes to a team’s cap, both now and for the remainder of the season.
Below is everything you need to know about the Canucks’ 2023/24 opening day roster and all its implications henceforth.

What happened first

To set their opening day roster, the Canucks completed the following transactions.
  • Cole McWard was assigned to Abbotsford (waivers-exempt).
  • Akito Hirose was assigned to Abbotsford (waivers-exempt).
  • Vasily Podkolzin was recalled from Abbotsford (waivers-exempt).
  • Ilya Mikheyev was placed on/remained on injured reserve.
  • Tucker Poolman was placed on long-term injured reserve.
One thing of note that the Canucks did not do was place either Guillaume Brisebois or Carson Soucy on any sort of injured reserve. What that means moving forward, especially for “week-to-week” Soucy, remains to be seen. Brisebois would have been eligible for season-opening injured reserve (SOIR) were he to be out long-term, so his remaining on the active roster would seem to suggest he’s good to go for the season opener.

The official opening day roster, broken down by position and cap hit

What that left the Canucks with, was this:
13 active forwards
Andrei Kuzmenko ($5.5 mil)Elias Pettersson ($7.35 mil)Anthony Beauvillier ($4.15 mil)
Phil di Giuseppe ($775K)JT Miller ($8 mil)Brock Boeser ($6.65 mil)
Nils Höglander ($1.1 mil)Pius Suter ($1.6 mil)Conor Garland ($4.95 mil)
Dakota Joshua ($825K)Teddy Blueger ($1.9 mil)Sam Lafferty ($1.15 mil)
Vasily Podkolzin ($925K)  
Total Cap Hit: $44.875 million
 
7 active defenders
Quinn Hughes ($7.85 mil)Noah Juulsen ($775K)
Ian Cole ($3 mil)Filip Hronek ($4.4 mil)
Guillaume Brisebois ($775K)Tyler Myers ($6 mil)
Carson Soucy ($3.25 mil) 
Total Cap Hit: $26.050 million
 
2 active goaltenders
Thatcher Demko ($5 mil)
Casey DeSmith ($1.8 mil)
Total Cap Hit: $6.8 million
 
Non-active roster cap hits
Ilya Mikheyev ($4.75 mil)Injured Reserve
Tucker Poolman ($2.5 mil)Long-Term Injured Reserve
Oliver Ekman-Larsson ($146, 667)Buyout
2022/23 Andrei Kuzmenko ($850K) 
Total Cap Hit: $5,746,667
 
This leaves the Canucks with a total team cap hit of $85,971,667.

Cap implications now and moving forward

We went to great lengths to explain the intricacies of opening day rosters and the claiming of LTIR relief space last year, when the Canucks famously put together the “perfect” day one roster.
This year, we’ll stick to the simplified version.
When a team places a player on long-term injured reserve at the beginning of a season, simultaneous to the setting of their opening day roster, they’re essentially playing a game to see how close they can get to the magic number of (NHL salary cap ceiling + LTIR player’s cap hit). However close they get, without going over, becomes their new functional cap ceiling, and any space not claimed is gone to waste.
For the Canucks this year, that magic number is ($83.5 million + $2.5 million), or $86 million for those of you keeping score at home.
As you can see above, the Canucks may not have laid down another “perfect” roster this year, but they did get respectably close. They’re just $28,333 away. This means that $85,971,667 is their new effective salary cap for as long as Tucker Poolman remains on LTIR (keep in mind, Poolman’s cap hit still counts against that total by this counting), which means for the remainder of the 2023/24 campaign. That amount can rise, of course, if/when the Canucks place more players on LTIR (more on that later).

The Performance Bonus Cushion factor

As we predicted, the Canucks “papered up” Vasily Podkolzin for the sole purpose of applying his $850,000 in potential performances to the season-opening Performance Bonus Cushion. That $850K is locked in and tied to Poolman’s LTIR placement, even when Podkolzin is inevitably sent back to Abbotsford (presumably, tomorrow).
This means that the Canucks can add players to their roster with up to $850,000 in cumulative potential performance bonuses at any one time without it cutting into Poolman’s relief space.
For the time being, that means ample room for recalling the likes of Cole McWard ($55K) and Aatu Räty ($82.5K) and their meager bonuses.
Later in the season, it means the possibility of calling up Podkolzin and his $850K. Had the Canucks not made this transaction, their Performance Bonus Cushion would have been nonexistent, and there would have been no room to recall Podkolzin at any foreseeable point.
It’s worth noting that, whenever he comes up, Podkolzin will take up the full scope of the Performance Bonus Cushion. This will either require the demotion of all other players with potential performance bonuses, or some more LTIR relief space having been created in the meantime.

What comes next

The Canucks will definitely make a few more transactions between now and Wednesday’s home opener.
As it stands with this opening day roster, the Canucks sit at exactly $0 in functional cap space. That means, before they can recall anyone, they’ll need to send someone down.
The first such someone is Podkolzin, who was very intentionally cut from the team in Training Camp. With his performance bonus locked in, he goes back down to Abbotsford tomorrow and someone else comes up.
With Soucy week-to-week and Brisebois still presumably a little banged up, that someone is almost certainly a left-handed defender. We’re thinking it’s Akito Hirose, based on his recall from a few days ago. This would have the Canucks icing this set of blueliners for the home opener:
Hughes-Juulsen
Cole-Hronek
Hirose-Myers
(Brisebois)
 
The re-assignment of Podkolzin would leave the Canucks with just 12 forwards on the roster for as long as Mikheyev remains on IR, which could be a problem with at least Teddy Blueger and Anthony Beauvillier, and probably others, nursing minor ailments.
At this point, however, there’s nothing that the Canucks can do. A Hirose-for-Podkolzin swap creates almost $200K in extra cap space, but that’s nowhere near enough for an additional recall. (It, is, however, enough to make up the difference between Brisebois and McWard’s cap hits, making a subsequent swap of the two possible, which is another possibility to keep an eye on.)
Anything further comes down to which injured reserve Soucy gets placed on. If he’s placed on regular ol’ IR, his cap hit still counts, the Canucks receive no relief space, and they’ve still got to replace him on the roster. That has them rolling the seven defenders listed above until Soucy returns, as well as preventing them from recalling an extra forward.
If Soucy is placed on LTIR, however, the Canucks can spend up to his $3.5 million cap hit on recalls for as long as he’s out. If that’s the case, they can safely recall both a 13th forward (probably Nils Åman at $884K or Jack Studnicka at $763K) and an 8th D (either Christian Wolanin at $775K or Cole McWard at $923K).
This seems a far more comfortable scenario than the Canucks running with a 21-player roster for weeks, especially with that upcoming road-trip, but it really all comes down to just how injured Soucy is. Week-to-week is pretty vague, and an LTIR placement would require him to miss both ten games and 24 calendar days. That would have him out of the lineup until November 4’s matchup against the Dallas Stars at the very earliest.
If the Canucks plan on Soucy being back sooner, and still want room for recalls, they could place Mikheyev on (retroactive?) LTIR instead, though any relief space gleaned from that would disappear as soon as he returned to the lineup, which seems imminent.
Expect to officially hear about the Podkolzin re-assignment, Soucy’s IR/LTIR placement, and at least one (and possibly three) recalls all within the space of the time between this article being published and the Canucks hitting the ice on Wednesday night against the Oilers.
And remember where you heard it first!

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