Another week, another mailbag.
Right off the hop, I want to explain the recent absence of Chris Faber to our readers (he has asked me to).
For those of you who haven’t heard already, Faber lost his stepmother Nikki Faber out of nowhere last week to a stroke.
The sudden shock and pain this has brought onto Chris and his entire family is unthinkable and he’s currently in Nanaimo spending time with them as they mourn the loss of a truly incredible woman.
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Chris likely won’t be back for another week or so.
Like the rest of you, we can’t wait until he’s back behind the microphone on Canucks Conversation or behind the keyboard telling us what’s happening with Lucas Forsell and every other Canucks prospect.
Faber, we love you buddy and our thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time.
Now, let’s get into this mailbag.
Oh how I wish I could use a phone-a-friend and tag Faber in to answer this question.
In all seriousness, most of my prospect knowledge comes from talking to amateur scouts/ industry sources and like the rest of you, reading Faber’s work.
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It’s writing about and evaluating prospect goaltenders that I really clean up, personally.
So with all that in mind, I give you some names to ponder:
This draft will have plenty of talented skaters at the top of it, but Cutter Gauthier may be the best skater that’s projected in the middle of the first round. Craig Button of TSN is a huge fan and has him ranked at #6 on his most recent rankings.
Most scouts have him going in the middle rounds, and if there’s one thing Jim Rutherford has made clear, it’s that he’d like his team to be faster. Gauthier certainly checks that box, and at 6’3″, Gauthier has both the size and speed that NHL scouts love.
We all know better than to suggest drafting for positional need as opposed to best player available, but if right-shot defenceman Sam Rinzel is the best player available when it’s the Canucks’ turn to take the stage and make their first-round pick, they’d be very wise to draft him.
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According to Faber, Rinzel does a great job of knowing where open ice is coming and can move the puck up ice by carrying or making passes. He’s 6’4″ and ranked outside the first round on many of the top scouting sites’ rankings, so he’s a player the Canucks may even be able to trade down to acquire.
Those are two names I could certainly see the Canucks being high on.
This is a loaded question for sure, and it comes with a multitude of answers.
Many expect the Canucks to approach this offseason with the continued goal of creating cap space, which they then hope to use more efficiently than the last regime to make their team better, and have made it clear they want young players and draft capital in return on any trade.
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The biggest thing people around the league are expecting is for the Canucks to move one of Conor Garland, J.T. Miller, or Brock Boeser.
Each situation has its own variables and is complicated in its own right.
From my knowledge, the Canucks plan to sit down with J.T. Miller this offseason to talk about an extension — they’re not allowed to until he’s in the final year of his contract — and will exercise a similar process to the one we saw them use when they dealt Tyler Motte at the deadline.
Basically, the Canucks will talk about an extension with Miller and his camp, but if the two sides can’t come to an agreement, the team will shift their focus to trading the versatile forward.
So that’s one way the Canucks can free up some salary cap next season and for the years that follow — avoiding Miller’s long-term contract that he’s in line for.
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I may argue they’ll have plenty of trouble replacing what Miller brings on the ice in any trade return and cap savings, but I digress.
The next option is moving Garland, which is a lot simpler.
The Canucks may feel that Garland isn’t the best fit for their team and look to move him in the offseason for defence help.
The L.A. Kings have been linked to Garland in the past and have a plethora of young and talented RHD to choose from, but the worry is that Garland’s value may be low after a down season when it comes to his raw point totals.
The same worry about low value is certainly present when it comes to trading Brock Boeser, who is in line for a $7.5 million qualifying offer that most would agree he’s not exactly worthy of.
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Finally, the Canucks will almost certainly be looking to offload the money on their books that they view as inefficient, similar to what they did with the Travis Hamonic trade.
But more on Boeser later…
At the end of the day, the main way to free up cap space for this team is biting the bullet on some moves that may not be super popular the moment they happen, such as trading one of their top-six forwards for futures, and continuing to try to move out inefficient money.
Genuinely, can somebody explain why Vasily Podkolzin couldn’t develop into a centre for this team?
He’d fill a glaring need, and shows so many signs of being able to do it.
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He’s defensively responsible, hard on pucks, and drives play the right way. Plus, he’s broken even on 14 faceoffs this season, with seven wins and seven losses in the dot in his first year in the NHL.
He’s showing more confidence lately, and head coach Bruce Boudreau is gaining more confidence in Podkolzin as a result.
“He played really good,” said Boudreau after Saturday night’s victory over the Sharks. “He was stickhandling, making moves, passes, and I think had a little bit of bad luck. I mean, this stuff next year will be going in the net for him, but he’s certainly gaining a lot of confidence and I’m getting a lot of confidence in him.”
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Reverse arbitration is interesting, and requires some perusal of the CBA to fully understand.
In most cases, arbitration results after players file the necessary papers in a bid for a raise, but reverse arbitration is a much more rare occurrence and happens when a team files for arbitration in an attempt to lower their player’s salary.
The Canucks did this in the summer of 2012 when they got winger Mason Raymond to agree to a pay cut after filing for arbitration.
“We would not have undertaken the measure to invoke salary arbitration unless we felt that [Raymond] was a significant proponent of our team,” said then Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman. “The fact is, we invoked salary arbitration in this instance to maximize the efficiency of our salary cap. To that end, we were able to get a contract for Mason that worked in our cap plan, but avoided the steps of having to go through the hearing.”
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The Canucks applied for arbitration and were able to settle on a contract with Raymond that came with a pay cut prior to the arbitration hearing date, because Raymond’s camp knew that in all likelihood, they’d lose that arbitration case based on Raymond’s production the season prior.
In the case of Boeser, any arbitrator is almost certainly going to agree that Boeser isn’t in line for a pay raise based on his production this season.
“If a Player who is otherwise eligible to receive a Qualifying Offer and become a Group 2 Restricted Free Agent had a Paragraph 1 NHL Salary plus Signing, Roster and Reporting Bonuses in excess of $1,750,000 in the aggregate in the final League Year of his most recent SPC, a Club may elect to file for salary arbitration to determine the Player’s Paragraph 1 Salary for the upcoming League Year in lieu of making a Qualifying Offer to such Player.”
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This means that the Canucks will keep control of Boeser if they elect to take him to arbitration. Typically, if a player isn’t extended a qualifying offer, they become an unrestricted free agent.
Essentially, the Canucks can ask for a reduction to 85% of Boeser’s salary on June 15 or 48 hours after the Stanley Cup is awarded, which is before the QO deadline.
$6.375 million next to Boeser’s name on the Canucks’ salary cap looks a whole lot better than $7.5 million.
But it doesn’t necessarily have to get to the point where the Canucks elect to take Boeser to arbitration for them to get that number down.
Right now, the Canucks should be negotiating a deal with some term with Boeser’s agent using the threat of reverse arbitration as leverage to get the number down.
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If it gets to the point where they absolutely have to, then they can elect to take the winger to arbitration — a process that is notorious for leaving players bitter towards clubs after management makes extremely negative comments about their performance and production.
That does it for another mailbag! We hope you enjoyed it!
To ask a question in a future mailbag, be sure to follow me on Twitter @Quadrelli and of course @ChrisFaber39 and keep an eye out for the weekly call for questions!