The Braden Holtby experiment lasted one season; the goalie who became an expensive back-up goes bye-bye with one season left on his deal, a buyout that frees up $3.8 million in cap space for a team that needs it this week. Today. Right now. And the club still has work to do; finding a dance partner in a deal for defenceman Nate Schmidt, also brought into the Vancouver Canucks fold just last season.
On the heels of the Holtby buy-out Tuesday morning, the club announced it had signed recently acquired forward Conor Garland to a five-year deal worth $4.95 million per season. One RFA off their board.
Meanwhile, there’s always a certain level of irony when a team has to unload a defenceman who can play the right side so they can add a defenceman who can play the right side. But the irony is lost when the existing D-man, Schmidt, who’s actually a versatile lefty when playing well, costs just under $6-million a year and your team has two superstar restricted free agents to sign, among others.
Based on performance alone, Schmidt was apparently happier in Vegas than in Vancouver and he definitely wouldn’t be happy reporting to Winnipeg. That city’s Sun newspaper first reported Monday that Schmidt had rejected a trade from the Canucks to the Jets, on top of the fact that he rejected a trade there from the Golden Knights last year before the Canucks landed him. He has a ten-team no-trade list and it’s become rather clear that “the Peg” is on there.
A deal will very likely get done much sooner than later, given the demand for Schmidt’s talents, and depending on what provisions the Canucks can add to the deal to make it sweeter. They didn’t want to hold on to very much if any Holtby salary in prospective deals for him in recent days, and the whole idea of moving Schmidt is to free up as much money as possible.
Regardless, once a deal is completed, the Canucks have more breathing room in signing their handful of important RFA’s, potentially opening up options in value and maybe even in term.
After those contracts are in place, the shopping begins to fill in the remaining gaps at somewhat of a discount. We’ll get to that next – as in, who’s next as a Vancouver Canuck. Player agent Kevin Epp, who represents Oliver Ekman-Larson, bought out forward Jake Virtanen, and defenceman Travis Hamonic, pointed it out on Sportsnet-650 radio on Monday. He alluded to the fact that he’s been chatting with the team about a potential new deal for Hamonic, but understands that Canucks GM Jim Benning has the other aforementioned priorities to deal with first.
Do Canucks fans care where Holtby ends up next? Probably not, although it will be interesting to watch. A slew of concepts have been thrown out; Colorado, a return to Washington, the fact that Buffalo and Carolina, comical to many outside the markets, presently don’t have a single goalie under contract.
Meanwhile, more importantly for the fan base here, who comes in next as the next back-up for Thatcher Demko. Boosting 22-year-old Michael DiPietro isn’t ideal, so the team will look for a discount option during the annual free agent game show known as goalie-musical-chairs. Veteran Jaro’ Halak might fit the bill given his experience level and a reasonable price tag.