If you include long-term injured forward Brandon Sutter, the Vancouver Canucks have eight free agents following the conclusion of the 2021-’22 season.
Sutter’s future will obviously depend on his health as he continues to recover from long-haul Covid that cost him the entire 2021-’22 season. If he’s 100%, the Canucks could consider bringing him back at a very affordable number to play in the bottom six and on the penalty kill and to create one of the great feel good stories for the NHL season. Talk about a potential favourite for the Masterton Trophy.
One name you can immediately eliminate from the ‘might-return’ list is UFA (unrestricted) goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Talk about the season that went awry. Brought in to be a reliable veteran back-up to Thatcher Demko, Halak went from suffering through an early stretch with absolutely no goal support when he couldn’t get a win, to a couple of bad games mid-season at an untimely moment, to simply not really being the factor he was intended to be. Halak is gone with Spencer Martin as his projected replacement.
The Big Boeser Bid
Brock Boeser is the biggee on the list as an RFA (restricted) who requires a qualifying offer of more than $7-million. Don’t qualify and he walks as a UFA, so that’s not really an option. With more than four seasons of NHL experience, Boeser meets the requirements for salary arbitration.
But here’s a couple of key points. 1) Should the Vancouver Canucks trade him, the new team is required to meet that qualifying offer, which makes things a little less appealing. 2) The upside caveat pointed out to me by an NHL GM, the Canucks or another team can negotiate off that number with what would likely be a longer-term deal.
There are a number of scenarios. Bottom line, do the Canucks want him and if so for how long? If not, what would the return be in a trade? These are the questions Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford and General Manager Patrik Allvin will be weighing.
The Happy D-man
In a perfect world, as in the Vancouver Canucks as a Stanley Cup contender, Brad Hunt (UFA), the happiest man in hockey, is a replacement D-man at the NHL level or the captain in Abbotsford in the AHL. He did show some surprising creativity and poise at times this season, but he only plays well when he’s getting consistent ice time and in that perfect world he wouldn’t be getting it.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau likes having Hunt around, but contracts are not ‘Gabby’s’ department, so we’ll see if management decides to keep Happy Hunt on board.
Other Expendables and Upgradables
Not sure why I gave Hunt his own mini-section because all of these guys fall in the same category: replaceable and upgradable. Of course, they won’t all be, it depends on management’s preferences. And I reckon you could say that about a majority of players in the NHL, it just depends on one’s roster depth, needs, and a hockey op’s department’s favourite flavours.
– Alex Chiasson – (UFA) He wasn’t exactly crushing it until he made a late-season impression, always good when looking for a new contract, with a five game, nine point stretch in April. Early on in the season he’d been a healthy scratch and twice he went through pointless streaks of eleven games. He actually had very good basic analytics related to team possession, shots, and goal differential.
Saw time in the top-six and on both power play units. Had 13 goals. 50/50 on him, but leaning away from the 31-year-old.
– Juho Lammikko – (RFA with arbitration rights) Definitely got better as the season went on, but doesn’t bring much of an offensive threat. He tallied 15 points in 75 games and had awful analytics. Looked lost at times early on. Canucks can find a grinder/forechecker, with more upside. Replace.
– Matthew Highmore – (RFA with arbitration rights) I’m keeping him over his fellow left-shot forward Lammikko. Better mobility, physicality and scoring. Not afraid. 12 points in 46 games.
– Brad Richardson – (UFA) What’s not to like about the guy other than the fact he’s 37-years-old. There’s the main reason you go younger with a bottom-six center who’s preferably right-handed.
Cost is always a factor and the Canucks wouldn’t be breaking the bank on these guys. The most they spent on any of these last five listed was $800,000.
The Canucks have an absolute slew of free agent players who spent most or all of the year at the American Hockey League level. Not unusual.