It’s not often that a former Canucks front office member stays in touch with the media. Laurence Gilman is an exception. After being relieved of his duties in 2015, the Winnipeg native and his family stayed put in Vancouver. Aside from the temporary consultancy for the NHL’s expansion draft, Gilman has stayed out of the spotlight for the most part. Despite being let go in 2015, he remained under contract with the organization until June 30th of this year. Now that his contract has expired, he’s free to do media availability to his discretion. Earlier this week, he made a two-hour appearance on TSN 1040 to give fans an inside look at the Canucks hockey operations during his seven-year tenure.
A lot goes on in the offices of Rogers Arena that fans don’t often get to see. From preparing marketing strategies to discussions in scouting meetings, some of the most fascinating aspects of the business are basically kept lock tight. Although it is obviously an extensive process, Gilman gave a brief summary on what goes down when a player’s contract is up for renewal.
Gilman on the contract negotiation process:“There’s a lot of dialogue that takes place well before any sort of formal negotiations. In most instances, the team will put forth the formal offer. In my experience, that number shouldn’t come as a shock to the other side. There’s a lot of theorizing, there’s a lot of pointing out other contracts, discussing the market, discussing the player’s role, discussing the evolution of the player.”
Bo Horvat’s three-year entry-level contract expired at the end of the season, and because he hadn’t yet signed a new contract, he became a restricted free agent. The 22 year-old has a significant amount of leverage in these negotiations. One may certainly deem him the next face of the franchise, he’s a front-runner to be the next Team Captain, he’s exceeded the expectations placed upon him when he was first drafted, and lastly, he represents the next wave of future Canucks. Towards the end of the season, Benning warned that negotiations may take a significant amount of time, so it should come to no surprise that the off-season is half over and no announcement has been made. Gilman says Benning’s comment was likely an indicator that the two parties were far apart in their ask.
Newport Sports Management represents some of the league’s top players such as Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Henrik Lundqvist, and PK Subban. Don Meehan, Horvat’s agent, has represented the likes of Steven Stamkos, Brad Richards, Zach Parise, and Phil Kessel. There’s been much speculation as to how Horvat’s contract will turn out. Long term? Bridge? Above or under $5 million? It’s been reported that the Canucks didn’t want to go as long as 7 or 8 years, but that could be the ballpark Horvat’s camp is running. Gilman, a lawyer like many agents, said, “If I’m representing him, it doesn’t start with anything less than a 5.”
Gilman on Newport Sports:“I’ve known Don Meehan for more than 23 years. Newport Sports – I know their operations intimately. The last contract I negotiated was Chris Tanev, which involved numerous face-to-face meetings. At the end of the day, Don Meehan and Newport Sports are deal makers. When push comes to shove, they’re trying to get a deal done. There are agents that use the thread of hold-out and follow through with it, but that’s not the experience I’ve had with Newport Sports. Having said that, they understand the value of their clients and where the market is.”
After the Cody Hodgson saga, there have been worries that Horvat’s parents would potentially meddle in the negotiation process. There’s no question that his entire family has been supportive. They go to games in the east, they fly out for games in Vancouver, and they allowed CanucksTV into their home for a behind-the-scenes look at their life in Rodney, Ontario. But could the humble family be an active meddler in their son’s hockey career? Gilman doesn’t think so.
Gilman on Horvat’s parents: “I do have experience with Tim Horvat. My dealings with him were as good as they were with any parent. He’s a parent who’s involved in his son’s career. When we sent Bo down on a conditioning stint to Utica, Bo’s father was there and I talked to him a couple times. His parents were in Vancouver often. They’re superb people and I would venture to speculate that they’re not hindering the situation at all. They’re incredibly supportive of their son and the organization. It’s all good.”
When the Canucks drafted Horvat in 2013, it seemed almost certain that he would pan out as a third-line, two-way centreman. Going into his fourth NHL season, it’s safe to say he’s silenced the critics. Horvat is averaging exactly .50 PPG in his career, and he’s only going up.
Gilman on the 2013 NHL Draft:“We knew we were taking Horvat. We were negotiating with teams that were higher than New Jersey, and we were taking Bo irrespectively. We didn’t have him at the top, there was Barkov and a couple high-end players ahead of him. We had him very high.”
Gilman on drafting Horvat:“Our position on Bo was that we felt he was going to be a player cut in the same mold as a Patrice Bergeron or Jonathan Toews without the prolific offensive upside. We saw him as second-line centre who was going to be an exceptional two-way centre – a matchup player who would shut down the opposing team’s top offensive players, a guy on your powerplay, a guy who could kill penalties, and a guy who’d be a leader on your team.”
With regards to the moves made amongst the scouting staff, one may certainly be justified in saying it’s been a long time coming. Of the 37 players drafted, only two have played over 200 games – Bo Horvat and Cody Hodgson. Ben Hutton will get there, as will Brendan Gaunce and probably Kevin Cannauton and Jordan Schroeder, but those two have yet to staple themselves as NHL regulars.
Gilman on the Canucks scouting staff during his tenure:“I oversaw the staff and changes were made immediately when Mike Gillis came on. The guys that were there – members of the Ring of Honour or long-standing Canucks – were given the opportunity to prove themselves. At the same time, there were a multitude of changes made – young scouts were brought in, including Judd (Brackett). We were constantly evaluating the staff and eventually we determined that we needed to make changes that were systemic, and we identified Eric Crawford as the person we wanted to put in charge of the process and put a layer in between me and Ron Delorme. I think the Horvat draft was his first draft, so there were five years before he took charge.”
Gilman on what he would re-do with Canucks scouting:“We weren’t happy with the results, and that’s why we made the changes we made. I wouldn’t point out an individual, but if I were to go back in time, I think we might have waited too long to put Eric Crawford in charge. I would have put him in at least a year earlier.”
Although a number of scouts were released, at least they can say they went out with the bang. When the news first broke that there were changed to be made, it appeared as if there were a sense of relief. Just when it seemed fans had had enough, the scouting staff pull off what could potentially be their best draft in a decade. Nothing is set in stone, but the 2017 selections look to be good ones. If future draft classes look anything like this past year’s, I think the Canucks’ future looks a lot brighter than it did back in 2011.