The Vancouver Canucks’ payroll is starting to get a bit crowded.
The Canucks inked Michael Chaput to a one-year deal on Thursday, guaranteeing him NHL money, which adds the 25-year-old to a long list of players on the roster with one-way deals.
With a limited number of roster spots and a lengthy list of players guaranteed NHL money, it could be an expensive Utica Comets roster this season.
Vancouver currently has 12 forwards on one-way deals, with Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce, and Reid Boucher still in need of contract extensions. Horvat will get a one-way contract, while Gaunce and Boucher could as well.
The situation on defence is much less dire, with seven d-men owning one-way deals.
It’s important to note that a one-way contract does not guarantee a spot on the roster, nor does it factor into waiver eligibility. Players on cheap contracts won’t affect the salary cap either if they’re in the AHL. On top of that, the Canucks have said – and have demonstrated – a willingness to give spots to young players if they earn it with their play in training camp.
If that happens, things could get very interesting in October.
The Canucks have a number of players who are guaranteed spots for opening night, barring injury.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Bo Horvat, Loui Eriksson, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Brandon Sutter, and Sam Gagner are eight forwards who could make the team without trying. Six defencemen are virtual locks for the team as well, including Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton, Michael Del Zotto, and Erik Gudbranson.
After that? There’s a lot of bodies fighting for not many spots.
Assuming the Canucks elect to carry 13 forwards and eight defencemen, as they did for much of last season, expect the following 10 forwards to battle for five open spots:
If some of the Canucks youngsters impress in camp, there’s a chance that NHL veteran Derek Dorsett could be placed on waivers. Coming off a season where he missed all but 14 games with a neck injury, he could be rusty. He also turned 30 years old last December.
If new head coach Travis Green doesn’t value the enforcer role, then the pressure could be on despite Dorsett’s $2.65 million one-way contract.
Dorsett "My first shift, I'm going to try to run someone over" #Canucks
— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) April 11, 2017
Brock Boeser is expected to start with the Canucks, but what if he doesn’t? A mediocre camp could land him in Utica, particularly because he doesn’t require waivers to get there.
Anton Rodin and Alexander Burmistrov have talent, one-way contracts, and require waivers, but they could be sent packing if the likes of Boeser, Jake Virtanen, and Nikolay Goldobin outplay them in preseason.
Some Canucks fans worried about losing Brendan Gaunce and Reid Boucher in the expansion draft last month, but neither player is guaranteed a roster spot. Boucher, who filed for salary arbitration, isn’t even guaranteed a contract.
Chaput and Jayson Megna are both armed with one-way contracts, but it’s difficult to see a fit in Travis Green’s lineup for the pair.
The Canucks’ top-six defencemen appear set, although they’ve got a couple of wild cards in the mix. How good will 2016 first-round pick Olli Juolevi be? Same goes for 25-year-old blueliner Philip Holm.
If one or both of those d-men make the team, then two blueliners with one-way contracts – Patrick Wiercioch and Alex Biega – could be Utica-bound, after a pass through waivers.
Time will tell who Green picks for opening night, but this promises to be one of the most competitive training camps in years.