Welcome Matt: What will it cost Canucks to keep Kuzmenko away from free agency?

Jan 11 2023, 10:52 pm

sekeres and price

A listener told me the other day that Andrei Kuzmenko has gotten them more excited than anything else Canuck this year.

And that’s fair. He’s a shiny new toy. A terrific offensive player. And a fun personality off the ice.

More of him, please.

But therein lies the problem: getting more of him beyond this year.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun is reporting that the Canucks’ phone is ringing on Kuzmenko, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Russian winger makes just $950,000 USD this season, his salary capped by the NHL’s collective agreement in his first year after coming over from the KHL.

That makes him an attractive trade target and an easy salary-cap fit with more than half the league up against or over the $82.5 million limit.

LeBrun said that getting Kuzmenko to eschew free agency this summer will take a contract extension of at least $6 million per year. Agent Dan Milstein has already said that his client will be on the market this summer, because they want the entire league in on the sweepstakes with no limit to where the price could climb.

Our friend Rick Dhaliwal notes that Milstein did Artemi Panarin’s second NHL contract, a two-year deal worth $6 million per season. That launched the Russian into superstardom, and he cashed in with the New York Rangers on a seven-year deal worth $11.64 million per season. Nice bit tradecraft from Milstein.

I’d sure like the Canucks to keep Kuzmenko. Think him a terrific compliment to their offensive player and power-play personnel.

If Kuzmenko would do a four-year deal at $6 million per, I’d consider it because it ends when the player is 31 (when he should still be effective) and the Canucks might be able to contend by then.

But a two-year deal simply doesn’t work for the Canucks because a) they won’t be contenders in that window, and b) Kuzmenko is unlikely to be worth more in a trade making $6 million, than he is now.

Prudence points to a trade here, and one can still be excited about Kuzmenko because here’s the thing: he should return a haul.

Matthew SekeresMatthew Sekeres

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