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Which of the Canucks’ Pacific Division rivals are set up to improve this offseason?

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
11 months ago
It’s fair to say that the Pacific Division wasn’t the friendliest place for the Vancouver Canucks in 2022/23. Not that anywhere would have been particularly friendly.
The Canucks finished with 83 points, good enough (or bad enough) for sixth place in the Pacific, behind the Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers, Seattle Kraken, Los Angeles Kings, and Calgary Flames, in that order. The Canucks came in ahead of just the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks, and wound up 13 points back of a playoff spot.
For what it’s worth, the Canucks and their 83 points would have finished sixth in the Central and Metropolitan Divisions, too, and as low as seventh in the Atlantic. But the Canucks aren’t moving divisions anytime soon, so it’s still the Pacific that they need to worry primarily about – and, specifically, the Pacific Division circa the 2023/24 season.
With that in mind, and us on the precipice of the true opening of the 2023 offseason, we thought it was a good time to take stock of the division. Obviously, the Canucks would like to rise higher than a sixth place finish in the season to come, but that’s going to both require them to improve and the teams above them to…not so much.
Below, we’ll go team-by-team to figure out which of the Canucks’ Pacific rivals are poised to make genuine improvements to their roster for 2023/24, based on cap and roster space, and which will be treading water…or worse.
Anaheim Ducks
2022/23 Record: 23-47-12 (58 points)
Current Cap Space: $39.048 million
Current Roster Size: 15/23
Notable Contracts Yet To Be Signed: Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Maxime Comtois, Jamie Drysdale
Room For Improvement?: Uh, yeah. The Ducks don’t just have cap space, they have the most cap space in the entire NHL, and almost $8 million more than the second-place Blackhawks. Even after they hand out new contracts to three of their core players this offseason, the Ducks are going to have spending money for days.
But a desire for improvement? That’s another thing. Anaheim is just now exiting the most intensive stage of their rebuild, and they’re not quite ready for a playoff push anytime soon.
The Ducks will improve some on the merits of their young players continuing to progress and the arrival of a phenom in Adam Fantilli. They’ll probably also look to use some of that cap space to overpay some UFAs in the short-term, with an eye to flipping them. But they should stay safely below the Canucks in the standings for the time being, all the same.
Calgary Flames
2022/23 Record: 38-27-17 (93 points)
Current Cap Space: $1.250 million
Current Roster Size: 18/23
Notable Contracts Yet To Be Signed: None
Room For Improvement?: This one’s a little tricky. In terms of cap space, the Flames have less than $1.5 million on hand to add five players to their roster, so they’ll have to cut consider salary just to ice a legal roster.
Doing so and improving seems like it will be a bridge too far.
That said, the Flames led the entire league in loser points last season with 17 overtime losses, meaning they were only a few well-timed goals away from having a much better record and probably making the playoffs. Combine that with the departure of Darryl Sutter and the Flames could easily wind up with a worse roster…and better results.
For now, they appear catchable.
Edmonton Oilers
2022/23 Record: 50-23-9 (109 points)
Current Cap Space: $6.070 million
Current Roster Size: 18/23
Notable Contracts Yet To Be Signed: Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod, Klim Kostin,
Room For Improvement?: The Oilers are set to spend almost all their available cap space just to re-sign their RFAs and fill out the rest of the roster with league-minimum players. They will look to cut salary elsewhere, perhaps in the form of Kailer Yamamoto and/or Cody Ceci, in order to afford some upgrades, but it’s going to have to be a talent-in, talent-out sort of situation.
Small improvements might be achievable, but Edmonton looks at though they will once again be leaning excessively on their top players to achieve success.
If the Oilers were able to dump Jack Campbell in some way, that would certainly open up the kind of cap space they need to make genuine improvements. But that looks like it will be prohibitively expensive, so the Oilers are treading water for now. That water, it’s worth mentioning, is still approximately 26 points ahead of the Canucks.
Los Angeles Kings
2022/23 Record: 47-25-10 (104 points)
Current Cap Space: $9.037 million
Current Roster Size: 16/23
Notable Contracts Yet To Be Signed: Gabriel Vilardi, Rasmus Kupari
Room For Improvement?: Not just room, but intention. It sounds as though the Kings have been big game hunting already, and have their eyes set on a major acquisition like Pierre-Luc Dubois and the like.
Los Angeles not only has the cap space on hand to make it happen, but they’re also loaded up to the gills with quality prospects to include as trade chips in any transactions. They should probably keep track of their spending in future seasons, as all those youngsters are going to need raises eventually, but for now the Kings can spend relatively carefree, and will be looking to climb the standings in the immediate future.
San Jose Sharks
2022/23 Record: 22-44-16 (60 points)
Current Cap Space: $14.079 million
Current Roster Size: 17/23
Notable Contracts Yet To Be Signed: Fabian Zetterlund, Noah Gregor
Room For Improvement?: The good news is that the Sharks have an abundance of cap space, some quality incoming prospects, and no major re-signings of note to complete. The bad news is that they could use all that cap space to sign some premium free agents and they’d probably still wind up finishing in the basement of the Pacific Division.
The San Jose roster is still very much one in transition, definitely a few steps behind the rebuilding processes of their Californian neighbours. They’re more likely to sink a little in the standings for 2023/24 than climb them.
Seattle Kraken
2022/23 Record: 46-28-8 (100 points)
Current Cap Space: $20.343 million
Current Roster Size: 14/23
Notable Contracts Yet To Be Signed: Vince Dunn, William Borgen, Daniel Sprong, Morgan Geekie, Cale Fleury
Room For Improvement?: Look at all that cap space! The Kraken join the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes as the only teams to have made the playoffs in 2022/23 and still enter the offseason with more than $20 million in spending room. For a team with plenty of holes on the roster, that’s excellent news.
The Kraken will be committing a good chunk of that money to Vince Dunn, but that will still leave them with an average of approximately $2 million a head to fill out the rest of the roster, which should allow for some quality additions, which should combine nicely with the natural progression of Seattle’s youth.
If one believes that the Kraken played above their heads last year and overperformed in the standings, a slight slip-back could be expected. If not, there’s little reason to think that they’ll regress, meaning the Canucks will really have to work to catch their long-awaited regional rivals.
Vegas Golden Knights
2022/23 Record: 51-22-9 (111 points)
Current Cap Space: $3.463 million ($8.463 million with Robin Lehner on LTIR)
Current Roster Size: 20/23
Notable Contracts Yet To Be Signed: Brett Howden, Brayden Pachal
Room For Improvement?: Oddly enough, kinda? As it stands, the Golden Knights only have about as much money as they need to complete their roster, but the defending Stanley Cup champs can extend that amount easily just by keeping Robin Lehner on LTIR (or dealing him somewhere else).
With whispers of Mark Stone’s ongoing injury issues, too, there’s a real good chance that the Golden Knights start the year with an abundance of LTIR relief space (as per usual) and are thus able to add a considerable amount to a roster that just won the division, the conference, and the league championship.
That’s a bit of a scary notion, and enough to tell the Vancouver Canucks that they won’t be catching up to Vegas anytime soon.
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