It’s time for another Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy!
We skipped last week because of the chaos, hustle — and certainly the bustle — that comes with NHL Trade Deadline day.
But let’s not waste any more time, it’s time for our first post-deadline Monday Mailbag!
Let’s see what the great people of Canucks Twitter asked this week.
I have heard the rumours that J.T. Miller wants to sign with a U.S.-based team, but as of now, those are just rumours, and anything can change.
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As for the second part of this question, teams can only negotiate a contract extension with players who are in the final year of their contract.
That means that this summer, on the first day of free agency (usually July 1st in normal years) the Canucks can start to negotiate a new contract with Miller.
Now for the final part of that question… can they afford to keep him going forward?
It’s no secret that Miller, who is currently on perhaps the best-value contract of anyone in the league, is going to get a significant pay bump when he hits unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2023.
The Canucks kept their asking price on the trade market sky-high when teams called about Miller, and made it clear they were in no rush to move their leading scorer unless they received a king’s ransom in return.
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Similar to the Tyler Motte situation, the Canucks will talk with Miller’s camp about a contract extension, but if the two sides are far apart and are unable to come to a number that makes sense for both parties, look for the club to turn their focus to extracting value from their expiring asset either at the draft or next year’s trade deadline.
The Canucks can certainly afford to keep Miller. The bigger question is if they want to make Miller their highest-paid player well into his 30s.
Anything around five or six years at $8 million is likely the maximum the Canucks should be willing to commit to Miller.
That would take him to either 35 or 36 years of age, and there’s a good chance that you’re getting exceptional production from him for the first three or four years of that contract, at the very least.
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Those final years are a lot more of a crapshoot, and it’s why teams are urged to exercise caution when locking up any unrestricted free agent into their 30s.
I’ll say Linus Karlsson is the only one you can truly be sure about.
The 22-year-old broke Elias Pettersson’s SHL rookie scoring record last week and there’s mutual interest from both the player and the club to get a deal done.
Next, it’s pretty safe to say that whoever the Canucks use their first-round pick on at the draft this summer will be the next player they sign to an entry-level contract.
Of course, that depends on if it’s an NCAA or OHL player that they sign. If that’s the case, they may wait to sign them until the end of their 2022-23 season.
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From there, it’s a toss-up for the third spot. Could it be one of their second or third-round picks from the upcoming draft? Dmitry Zlodeyev? Perhaps Tonu Utunen?
Utunen needs an ELC by June 1st, but he hasn’t done much to make the club be in a rush to sign him.
Lucas Forsell isn’t due for an ELC for another two years — as he signed an extension with Farjestads of the SHL just recently.
One name to certainly keep an eye on: Viktor Persson.
The 20-year-old right-shot defenceman was taken in the seventh round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the Canucks and just played his first year of North American hockey with the Kamloops Blazers this season.
He was able to participate in Canucks training camp in Abbotsford prior to the start of this season, and while he didn’t blow anyone away with his performance — he got a chance to be around club personnel and explore his potential new home arena: The Abbotsford Centre.
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So to recap, we’re saying:
  1. Linus Karlsson
  2. Viktor Persson
  3. 2022 first-round pick
Don’t forget — the Canucks can still sign an NCAA or European free agent this season, too.
I think as of now, the Canucks are still in that same peculiar and unfortunate middle ground of not knowing what they really have in a goaltender.
Last year, it was Michael DiPietro who they didn’t have a good grasp on — as the young goaltender spent almost the entire season on the taxi squad and out of game action.
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As a result, the team signed Jaroslav Halak to serve as a safety net.
The year before that, they didn’t know for certain what they had in Thatcher Demko, and signed Braden Holtby as a safety net on the off chance Demko wasn’t ready for the full workload of a starting netminder.
And now, with Halak’s deal set to expire, they find themselves in that same middle ground with Spencer Martin.
Martin played in three NHL games this season and performed well, and has taken significant strides in improving his game down in Abbotsford with goaltending coach Curtis Sanford.
There’s legitimate reason to believe he can be a full-time NHL backup next season, but he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Will he get that coveted one-way contract from a team willing to bet on him? Are the Canucks going to be that team willing to bet on him?
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It’s simply too tough to say because the sample size for Martin at the NHL level has just been too insignificant to come to any concrete conclusions.
You likely could have guessed it, but my answer is Spencer Martin.
Building off of the last answer, it’s imperative that the Canucks get Martin into some NHL game action to help them determine what the best course of action is for them next season.
At the same time, the Canucks have to keep Jaroslav Halak with the big club because of his full no-movement clause. They could technically call up Martin and get him into games by scratching Halak or Thatcher Demko for a game or two, but even though this is what I’d like to see them do, the chances of that happening are pretty low.
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This is a good question!
Let’s set the stage.
Vasily Podkolzin was drafted 10th overall by the Canucks at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, which was in Vancouver.
Most outlets had Podkolzin in their top five or just outside of it based on pure abilities alone, but the fact he was signed for two more seasons with SKA of the KHL turned some teams away.
Plus, there’s always the possibility that Podkolzin — or any KHL player for that matter — will choose to stay longer overseas. After all, Podkolzin was reportedly offered a five-year contract extension from SKA shortly after he was drafted.
Thankfully for the Canucks, he turned it down, and here we are.
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Matt Boldy, on the other hand, fell to the Minnesota Wild at 12th, and Cole Caufield to the Montreal Canadiens at 15th overall.
Boldy has spent time in the AHL over his first two seasons in pro hockey, but has 12 goals and 12 assists through 33 games with Minnesota this season.
Caufield, on the other hand, found some postseason success after signing after his NCAA season was over last year, but has struggled a bit this year, tallying 14 goals and 19 assists through 51 games.
All three play the wing, and Podkolzin brings more defensively than the two players mentioned.
Truly, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these three players — but that’s boring.
So in a redraft, I’m saying:
Boldy is the pick the Canucks may end up wishing they would have made.
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It’s also far too early in all of these players’ careers to make a statement like that, and Podkolzin is undoubtedly going to benefit from joining the Abbotsford Canucks for the AHL playoffs.
There are no new updates on defenceman Brady Keeper other than he’s back skating as of March 2nd. He’s still not back practicing with the team but don’t be surprised to see him on the ice at Rogers Arena doing 1-on-1 on-ice workouts in the near future.
Keeper broke his leg in a gruesome injury after blocking a shot in the wrong spot.
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That’s all for this week, folks! We’ll see you next week!
Be sure to follow both me and Chris Faber on Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly call for questions!