Barring injuries, and one mystery, Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning has picked up where he left off. In early August the discussion here was just how good of a summer he was having and how close his transaction and acquisition performance was to being tops in the league. The delayed signings of Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes and the continued absence of defenceman Travis Hamonic have cast a shadow over the proceedings, and the latter still is to some degree, but with the return of the two young stars to British Columbia this weekend, the roster begins to take shape. No one is more thrilled than Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Travis Green who has repeatedly indicated his desire to see all of his players in camp.
Pettersson and Hughes reportedly returned to Vancouver on Saturday after signing for three years at $7.35-million per season and six years at $7.85-million per season respectively. They obviously won’t be ready for this afternoon’s preseason match against Winnipeg, and maybe not for practice Monday, ultimately depending on any Covid protocol hoops that exist or any other off-ice logistics. The optimistic target for them to see preseason game action would be Thursday and/or Saturday in a home and home against the Edmonton Oilers.
Meanwhile, defenceman Travis Hamonic remains absent and both he and his Vancouver-based agent Kevin Epp have remained silent. It’s believed Hamonic remains in his home province of Manitoba and is dealing with private family matters, the details of which are pure speculation. Many theories have arisen regarding his Covid vaccination status, yet none have been proven as fact. The only fact surrounding his story is the one reported by VHN last week, that the Canucks chatted with other NHL teams about a possible deal for the player. The widely held belief that Hamonic would opt-out for the coming season for personal reasons was quashed when the Vancouver Canucks issued the following statement via twitter on Friday.
On behalf of Jim Benning: “We’ve received confirmation that Travis Hamonic will not be opting out this season. He remains at home, dealing with some personal matters. We continue to support him, and out of respect for the situation, we will have no further comment at this time.”
There is no sense in further speculation since a number of options exist moving forward. Depending on details of his status, Hamonic could be placed on long term injured reserve, suspended for failing to report which is unlikely, or he could utilize other provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement to sit out without penalty. The other possibility, as previously discussed, is a change of heart. Should he choose to return to the Canucks, and if vaccination is a factor, there would be certain waiting periods with which to deal. Others have brought up retirement. At this point, we wait.
As for the current roster, a portion of it will attempt to bounce back from the loss Friday night in Calgary.
“I thought the game was a bit of a lunch bucket game, there wasn’t a lot of clean play by either team,” Green said Saturday after practice. “I don’t think we played great, it was a bit of sloppy game on both sides of the puck. I think exactly what I said last night, I think we deserved to lose that game and I stand by that today.”
A bright spot was the penalty kill, which for all intents and purposes, held the Flames to oh-for-5 on their power play. They were officially 1-for-6 but Calgary’s PP goal came on an empty netter. Trade acquisition Jason Dickinson and free agent pick-up Phil Di Giuseppe, profiled here Friday, were key factors on the successful PK. Projected penalty killers Brandon Sutter (unknown) and Tyler Motte (surgery recovery) have not yet returned to the club. The power play units have been a mixed bag and will change again with the return of Pettersson and Hughes.
Game time Sunday is 4 pm Pacific.