It’s that time of the year where teams are gearing up to put the final touches on their rosters as free agency opens up on Wednesday.
The Canucks have been involved in a handful of rumours over the past few days and here’s what’s circulating around the web along with what I’m hearing from the prospects.
Luke Schenn to make his return to Vancouver?
As reported by Andy Strickland out of St. Louis, the Canucks are connected to Luke Schenn on a two-year deal.
He followed it up by saying that nothing is certain until Wednesday but that didn’t stop social media from going into a frenzy about the possible return of Schenn to the Canucks.
Players obviously can’t officially sign until Wednesday. Never done until it’s signed.
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) July 27, 2021
Many will remember Schenn’s 18-game stint with the Canucks back in 2018-19. Since then, all he has done is go out and win two Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Schenn played in 18 playoff games over the past two years with the Lightning, and averaged just over 10 minutes of ice time through those playoff games and was able to be dependable as a depth defenceman on two Stanley Cup runs.
Schenn makes a ton of sense for the Canucks as they will need depth on defence as well as a right-shot defenceman who can play right now. Schenn played with Quinn Hughes when the young defenceman broke into the league in 2019 and may be able to help usher Jack Rathbone into the league in a similar fashion.
Rathbone needs to be the primary puck-mover to reach his NHL potential and when Rathbone played with Tyler Myers, we simply did not get to see Rathbone at his best. Schenn knows his role after recreating his game with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL. He needs to default to the offensive, puck-moving defenceman and be able to defend with strength around the net.
Though some would surely like to see Schenn play with Hughes again, Schenn on a bottom-pairing with Rathbone as they play 10-13 minutes of five-on-five is what I’d like to see. He may even be the seventh defenceman who can come into the lineup if there is an injury to a right-shot defenceman. All three of the Canucks’ projected left-side defencemen are puck-movers who lean towards being offensive defencemen. Schenn fits with all three in a pinch and could be a very valuable piece to the club’s depth.
The big question will be at what cost?
Schenn is coming off of three consecutive one-year deals where he made under one million dollars. Before that, he signed a two-year deal in 2016 that netted him an average annual salary of $1,250,000.
If the Canucks can get Schenn under $1,250,000 on a two-year deal, this feels like a slam dunk. Remember that even if things don’t work out for him in Vancouver, he can be sent down to Abbotsford and $1,125,000 of cap space can be made available with a buried contract. This is a $50,000 increase from last season’s $1,075,000 of maximum buried contract coverage.
If the Canucks can get Schenn for $1,125,000 on a two-year deal, there is basically no risk on his contract.
Nate Schmidt blocking a trade to Winnipeg
The Winnipeg Jets made a trade for a defenceman on Monday but apparently they were in on Nate Schmidt before he used his no-trade clause to block the deal.
And on another defensive front, the #NHLJets have/had been trying to make a deal for Nate Schmidt but the latter will not waive his modified no-trade clause despite, what I have been told, is several attempts by the Jets.
— Scott Billeck (@ScottBilleck) July 27, 2021
Schmidt has a 10-team no-trade clause in his contract and apparently he used that to block a deal to the Jets.
The Jets then gave up two second-round picks to acquire defenceman Brenden Dillon. This trade hopefully sets the market a little bit higher for Schmidt but the fact that he blocked a trade may drop his value.
3 unqualified RFA’s that fit with the Canucks
There are a ton of names that weren’t qualified by their respective teams that make sense for the Canucks to pursue. Let’s dive into a few.
Jujhar Khaira, C/W
The local kid is a nice match for what the Canucks want to do with their fourth line. Khaira is coming off of a two-year contract that saw him make $1,200,000 per year.
Khaira can play both centre and wing and was second on the Edmonton Oilers for shorthanded ice time per game out of the forwards. He averaged 1:57 of shorthanded ice time per game and was extremely effective for the Oilers in that role.
He finished the year with three goals and eight assists in 40 games while averaging 12:03 of all-strengths ice time.
Khaira is from the Vancouver area and Canucks fans are already clamouring for him to “come home”.
Ryan Donato, W
After scoring 14 goals in 62 games with the Minnesota Wild in 2019-20, Donato took a step back with six goals in 50 games, this pas season with the San Jose Sharks.
Donato has bounced around the league over the past three seasons and is likely looking to find a home for the foreseeable future. If the Canucks can get him on a cheap rate for a two-year deal, he may end up being a top-scoring contributor for their bottom-six. His defensive game is average but he does not kill penalties, which is a knock on the likeliness of the Canucks approaching him in free agency.
Evgeny Svechnikov, W
Jim Benning himself has said that the team may look to add a Russian in free agency when he spoke with Iain McIntyre of Sportsnet two weeks ago.
Svechnikov was not offered a qualifying offer from the Red Wings and will hit free agency on Wednesday. He is a skilled winger who can play both wings and has had touches of success at both the NHL and AHL levels.
If the Canucks want to add a Russian to the roster, taking a shot on this young, skilled winger makes a lot of sense.
Prospects reporting to their camps
The newly drafted Hugo Gabrielson will report to his Allsvenskan team on August 6th.
Danila Klimovich has signed a trial contract in the KHL and is currently practicing with Dinamo Minsk.
Seventh-round steal Lucas Forsell is set to begin camp in the middle of August as he reports to Färjestad BK and will attempt to make the SHL team out of camp.
Aidan McDonough will be back at Northeastern in late August as he wrapped up a camp with the Huskies a few weeks ago.
Linus Karlsson and Arvid Costmar are looking like locks to play meaningful minutes for their SHL teams, and they are set for camp in the middle of August.
As reported by David Quadrelli, goaltender Aku Koskenvuo will spend another year in Finland while he finishes high school before coming over to Harvard for the 2022-23 season.
This wraps up the rumours and rumblings, and we will have plenty more coming in the next few days as news breaks. Speaking of breaking news, Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff will be joining David and I on Tuesday’s episode of Canucks Conversation. The episode will be posted before 2 pm so, check that out on your favourite podcast app or check it out on the right side of this website for the Spotify link.
Frank will definitely have some important tidbits for us.
Who would you like the Canucks to target in free agency? My pick is Riley Nash.