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Canucks Housekeeping: Free Agency, Signings, Arbitration

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With Olli Juolevi‘s contract out of the way Monday at a minimum $750,000, the Vancouver Canucks are now focused on completing a deal with 3rd-line centre Jason Dickinson ahead of his arbitration appointment scheduled for August 20th. The talks will likely teeter-totter off a fulcrum set in the mid-$2-million per season range. Once that agreement is set, Canucks GM Jim Benning can turn his full attention to bigger deals with defenceman Quinn Hughes and top centre Elias Pettersson.

Today is the opening of the arbitration window for the NHL. More often than not the arbiter and his briefcase stay at home as players and their respective clubs reach agreements in advance. The three scheduled for today, Adam Pelech of the Islanders, Michael McNiven of the Canadiens organization, and Jakub Vrana of Detroit all fall into that category. Defenceman Pelech signed an 8-year deal worth $46-million dollars back on August 6th, a contract that takes him out to age-34. AHL goalie McNiven signed a two-year deal for the NHL minimum, and winger Vrana just inked a three-year contract with Steve Yzerman‘s club for $5.25-million per season.

Expect a similar conclusion for Dickinson as it relates to getting a deal done.

Juolevi’s one-way deal for the league minimum gives the club a smidge more cap room over his competitors at a left defensive position, Jack Rathbone at $925,000 and Brad Hunt at $800,000. But the amount seems negligible when you consider both the latter two offer greater offensive capabilities and versatility at this point. Hunt is like an old-fashioned rover; he can play either side and as a forward if needed. Rathbone’s skating ability exceeds Juolevi’s, ultimately that’s the most important factor, particularly when the creativity quotient has the potential to even out.

One wonders how much time Juolevi will be given to make his mark and how much of the team’s patience has to do with his draft position. GM’s hate to give up on 5th overall picks (2016) for a lot of reasons including having to say “that number-5 pick didn’t work out.” Not a good look for anyone. If Juolevi is sent down he’s subject to a waiver claim, and why wouldn’t another team pluck him? Despite injury issues in the past, including knee surgery, his dangle and shooting abilities could be very attractive to a club looking to take an inexpensive chance on grabbing a “late bloomer.”

Juolevi played one bubble playoff game two seasons ago and has 23 games of regular season experience with two goals and an assist.

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