It’s been a quiet offseason so far for the Vancouver Canucks, but that’s about to change.
The NHL Draft, which is being held at Rogers Arena this year, is just 17 days away. That’s typically when GMs kick off trade season.
Not long after that, on June 23, a one-week period begins where teams are permitted to speak with free agents from around the league. Then on July 1, free agent frenzy kicks into high gear.
There are a number of things on GM Jim Benning’s plate. Heading into the last year of his contract, there’s pressure to make the playoffs. That doesn’t seem possible without improving the team’s defence, which would prove to be difficult if they can’t re-sign Alex Edler.
Benning also has six restricted free agents to make decisions on. Brock Boeser will be re-signed, but at what cost? Other RFAs include Ben Hutton, Josh Leivo, Nikolay Goldobin, Markus Granlund, and Tyler Motte.
Here’s a look at the latest rumours surrounding the club.
The Canucks could be facing a real conundrum with Edler.
A pending UFA, he’s coming off one of his best seasons in years. But he’s also 33.
The Canucks could fit him under their salary cap easily for the next two years, but after that it could become tricky, as Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes will no longer be on entry-level deals (not to mention the fact that Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel will combine to eat up $6 million in cap space).
Perhaps an even bigger issue is the expansion draft. If Benning signs Edler to a contract longer than two years and gives him a no-movement clause for its duration, it would force the Canucks to protect him in the 2021 Seattle expansion draft.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman described the situation as “more difficult than anybody expected it would be” on the 31 Thoughts podcast this week.
“There is definitely a feeling this has gone off the rails,” Friedman said, before speculating that San Jose may be interested in signing Edler.
“There are people convinced he will not be going back to Vancouver, but again, look, if he really wants to go back and they really want him there’s a path there.”
“The issue is 1) Term, and 2) Expansion draft availability. They want him eligible for the expansion draft, he doesn’t want to be.”
There are two UFA defencemen reportedly drawing interest from the Canucks, according to Sportsnet 650’s Rick Dhaliwal: Jake Gardiner and Tyler Myers.
Sources from Buffalo at the NHL combine tell me they hear the #Canucks will go after UFA defenseman Jake Gardiner or Tyler Myers. Which one do you prefer?
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) June 3, 2019
Given the age of both players, that should come as no surprise.
Gardiner turns 29 next month, and has been an analytics darling for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s a left shot, which isn’t ideal for the Canucks, though he’s a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenceman, which every team needs.
Myers, 29, is a player that analytics warns against, though he scored 31 points (9-22-31) in 80 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season. He’s huge (6-foot-8, 229 pounds), but doesn’t play mean.
His wife is from BC, which could make Vancouver more appealing.
Myers played down the lineup at times on a deep Jets blue line, but could slide into a top-four spot on the Canucks as a right-shot.
Another nugget of information from Dhaliwal, who says the Canucks are “busy working phones” and may have trade interest in Maple Leafs defenceman Nikita Zaitsev.
Source : #Canucks are busy working phones on the trade market. They checked in on the price for Toronto defenseman Nikita Zaitsev who is getting lots of interest.
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) June 4, 2019
Zaitsev, 27, signed a monstrous seven-year contract after an impressive first season with the Leafs in 2016-17, following a seven-year run in the KHL. It hasn’t gone well since.
The Moscow native’s contract carries a $4.5 million cap hit, which should make him a liability, not an asset. The Leafs want to unload him.
If the Canucks think he can resurrect his career, he would serve a need as a right-shot blueliner.
That’s a big if though.
Benning has seemingly been searching for a top-six winger forever.
Marcus Johansson, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer could be a nice fit. The Canucks were interested in trading for him at the deadline, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, so expect Benning to come calling should he remain unsigned.
LISTEN: @PierreVLeBrun – Canucks were hot on Marcus Johansson at the trade deadline
Presented by Universal Supplyhttps://t.co/r0C20Jz2lV
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) June 3, 2019
The 28-year-old Swede was dealt to the Bruins from New Jersey for a second-round pick in 2019, and a 2020 fourth-rounder. Johansson has been excellent on Boston’s third line during these playoffs, scoring 11 points in 19 games.
The skilled left winger scored a career-high 24 goals and 58 points for Washington in 2016-17, his last full season.
Finally, it looks like Jonathan Dahlen might not be long for North America.
“Dahlen has had difficulty acclimatizing to both the game and the leadership style of AHL,” the report said (translated from Swedish).
The 21-year-old is reportedly considering a move to his old club, Timra.
Dahlen played just seven games with the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, notching four assists, before suffering an upper-body injury.