Building the Vancouver Canucks and AHL Abbotsford
The recent systematic approach to Jim Benning‘s reconstruction of the Vancouver Canucks roster, beginning with the trade that brought Jason Dickinson to town from Dallas 12 days ago, included a flurry of activity Wednesday to add depth to the depth. The Vancouver Canucks will now focus on signing Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Dickinson, while the Abbotsford Canucks will hammer their marketing effort now that their roster is taking shape with a number of local highlights.
First of all, the one-way deals … (a reminder, a one-way deal simply means a player is paid the same amount, the higher NHL amount, for the length of the contract, whether he is playing in the NHL or AHL. Players on two-way deals see their salaries decrease dramatically when they’re sent down, from let’s say, $875,000 to $70,000. Various waiver rules based on age and experience apply when players are moved regardless of salary if they’re beyond entry-level deals.)
Justin Dowling coincidentally, previously played 30 games for Abbotsford when they were the Heat. He comes to Vancouver on a two-year deal worth $750K per season having spent his entire NHL career bouncing up and down with the Dallas Stars. The centre/forward tallied five points last season over 27 games. He was a point-a-game guy in the 2014 playoffs in helping the Texas Stars win a Calder Cup championship.
Brad Hunt brings some local flavour. The Maple Ridge native provides for more defensive depth for the big club, while being a strong captain candidate for the new AHL team. The 32-year-old agreed to a deal worth $800,000 after playing 12 games for the Minnesota Wild last season.
Brady Keeper isn’t a local, but he is a great story. The Panthers signed him as an undrafted free agent back in March of 2019, and the 6’2″, 197-pound defenceman from Cross Lake, MB, a 7-hour drive north of Winnipeg, was the first person from the Pimicikamak Cree Nation to play an NHL game. The 25-year-old has played two NHL regular season games and one postseason match during the eastern bubble qualifier series between the Panthers and Islanders two playoffs ago.
Two-way deals …
A shoulder injury suffered on February 11th vs Calgary ended right wing Justin Bailey‘s season, but he’s back with the Canucks on a one-year contract. The big fellah, 6-4, 215 lbs, has 68 games of NHL experience.
Kyle Burroughs is a local Vancouver boy the fans can cheer for, and he’s agreed to terms on a two-year contract. Burroughs, 26, split 16 games between the Colorado Avalanche and the AHL Colorado Eagles last season. Five in the “national league” as ‘oldtimers’ call it, and eleven in the ‘A’. Yet another right-shot defenceman – apparently Benning is testing the question, when is enough enough – the 6’0″, 194-pounder was originally selected by the New York Islanders 196th overall in the 2013 Draft.
Phillip Di Giuseppe, who’s been around a bit, has agreed to terms on a one-year deal. The 27-year-old left wing has recorded 53 points in 201 career games between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers. The Toronto native has played 227 AHL games split between the Hartford Wolf Pack, Milwaukee Admirals, and Charlotte Checkers. He was Carolina’s second-round pick in 2012.
Sheldon Dries, pronounced the way it’s spelled, has agreed to terms on a one-year deal. Dries, 27, appeared in three regular season games and one playoff game with the Avalanche last season, a total of 48 games over the last three. The Michigan native has been a stalwart at centre at the AHL level after coming out of Western Michigan University in 2017.
Nic Petan‘s name sticks with most in this neighbourhood for two reasons. He’s a Delta native, and he earned acclaim as a scorer in Portland of the WHL between 2011 and ’15. The undersized forward was nabbed by Winnipeg in the 2nd round of the NHL Draft in 2013, the same year the Vancouver Canucks took Hunter Shinkaruk out of Medicine Hat in the first round. Petan, 26, agreed to terms on a one-year deal after splitting last season between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the AHL Marlies. He appeared in seven games with the Leafs last season and has played 136 in the NHL. Should get a crack at the Vancouver Canucks.
Sheldon Rempal has played just 10 NHL games. The undrafted 25-year-old right wing was first signed by the LA Kings and then the Hurricanes. He’s agreed to a one-year deal and brings decent two-way play and a-half-a-point-a-game scoring to Abbotsford.
John Stevens sounds like a coach but he’s actually a left-shot centre who’s never played an NHL game. Stevens, 27, recorded 10 points (6-4-10) in 24 games with the Utica Comets last season. An undrafted “college man”, he signed with the Islanders out of Northeastern University (Boston) in 2017. By the way, coach John Stevens, presently an assistant in Dallas, did play in the NHL; 53 games as a defenceman for the Flyers and the Hartford Whalers.
White Rock native Devante Stephens rounds out this list. He’s agreed to terms on a one-year deal. The 24-year-old defenceman split the 2020-21 season playing 26 games with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch and 16 games with the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL. That’s right, you heard me, the Solar Bears. Stephens stayed relatively close to home in the WHL playing 203 games for the Kelowna Rockets.