Based on what President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford said as far back as early May, the Vancouver Canucks approach to the ‘free agent frenzy’ that starts this Wednesday, will be to wait for the madness and prices to settle a little bit, and then take a run at a player or two that fits their budget and age bracket. He’s even suggested adding an older player for leadership and veteran savvy.
If the price is right, it may only take the Vancouver Canucks a day or two to get involved. Here’s five forwards that make sense:
Ilya Mikheyev – Cap issues will likely force the Toronto Maple Leafs to watch this 27-year-old winger hit the highway. The Maple Leafs signed him in the spring of 2019 and watched him improve all three seasons, ending up with a career year in 2021-’22 with 21 goals and 11 assists in 53 games. Most of the improvement was simply living up to expectations after he missed serious amounts of time his rookie year with a severed wrist injury and more time later during Covid bubble hockey.
The unrestricted free agent (UFA) will definitely be making more than the $1.65-million he made on average the last two seasons, but maybe not too much more.
Mikheyev, a left-shot, plays both wings and would fit nicely with the Vancouver Canucks burgeoning mini-contingent of Russians, Vasily Podkolzin and Andrey Kuzmenko.
Valeri Nichushkin – Word was Colorado Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic was still trying to sign this player this week, which he might. But if he doesn’t, Nichushkin should make a tidy sum off the $2.5-million per season he was making, especially after a sterling performance in the Stanley Cup playoffs that seriously helped the club win the Cup.
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill, who made Nichushkin his very first draft choice at 10th-overall after taking over the club in 2013, always loved the player’s skill. But he didn’t pan out, he fell flat in Big-D in fact, and signed with Colorado in the summer of 2019. Was this a career year in the playoffs while staring at a free agency summer cash in?? It wouldn’t be the first time.
Or maybe he’s grown up and he’s eager to share what he knows with two fellow Russians. It might be worth it for the Vancouver Canucks to find out.
André Burakovsky – His name sounds Russian but he’s not, unless going back to his forefathers. Born in Austria, he’s a dual citizen of that country and Sweden, the home country of his hockey playing father Robert. Here’s another guy who took a little while to figure things out, even though he did show flashes early in his career with the team that drafted him in the 1st-round in 2013, the Washington Capitals. After winning a Stanley Cup with Alexander Ovechkin and the boys in 2018, he was moved for picks to Colorado, joining Nichushkin in the summer of 2019.
He’s also 27-years-old but coming off a pricier previous contract that paid $4.9-million per season for two. He didn’t have the playoffs Nichushkin did simply because Burakovsky suffered a broken thumb and a broken ankle. He did manage eight points in 12 playoff games and is coming off a career-best regular season.
This smells like a free agent sweepstakes overpay, but would potentially be a handy pick-up for the Vancouver Canucks if he’s still around.
The Strome Brothers – No, you can’t have both, but I’m grouping 29-year-old Ryan (his birthday was Sunday) and 25-year-old Dylan together for fun. Righty Ryan will be departing the New York Rangers coming off a contract that paid him $4.5-million per season for the last two. Lefty Dylan is just a restricted free agent (RFA), but will become a UFA since it appears the Chicago Blackhawks are not making him a qualifying offer. He had a 22-goal, 48-point season in 69 games and was set to make at least $3.6-million per season.
Centre not a priority for the Canucks? That’s OK, both bro’s can also play their respective wings.
Rikard Rakell – Swedish, so Vancouver Canucks GM Patrik Allvin will have all the goods on him, especially since Rakell has been an effective performer for the country’s various national teams. Had a 20-goal, 41-point season in which he made less than $4-million. Age-29, plays both wings and has 11 career playoff goals. Was traded from Anaheim to Pittsburgh at the last trade deadline.
— Another name to watch, Dominik Kubalik leaving the Chicago Blackhawks. Just 26, plays both sides, inexpensive at the moment with upside.
— Doesn’t sound like the Canucks will be jumping in on the Nino Niederreiter, Reilly Smith, or Vince Trochecks of the world, although Loui Eriksson is available … hee hee.