Although it’s been quiet around the Rogers Arena offices the last couple weeks, other than the ongoing renovations at ground level, the impact of some of the Vancouver Canucks earlier moves could be felt for many seasons. Here’s the highlights of the 2022 off-season thus far.
Signing goaltender Collin Delia. The club wanted a veteran presence at the American Hockey League level and an added insurance policy and competition for Spencer Martin and his presumed back-up position in the NHL. They also add competition and motivation to the netminders slated for the minor leagues, as in Michael DiPietro and Arturs Silovs. He’s obviously not the end-all answer, but it does give the organization options should they want to include a goaltender in a trade or send one to the ECHL for an extended period. One can never have enough goaltending, just ask the New Jersey Devils who went through seven of them at the NHL level last season.
I was tempted to put the signing of 27-year-old Curtis Lazar in this spot because the Vancouver Canucks definitely needed some grit and a right-handed centre. But big picture, the long view, I’m slipping the signing of Linus Karlsson into this position. If he plays up to his potential in the coming seasons, the Canucks could have an inexpensive dandy on their hands. He’s competitive and skilled and he’s also a right handed centre, age-22. While BC boy (Salmon Arm) Lazar should be a terrific ‘now’ add, and we like him, we’ll look a bit ‘big picture’ and slot the Swede here for his potential.
Drafting Jonathan Lekkerimaki at 15th-overall. The more we chat with scouts and NHL managers, the more we like what many consider ‘a steal’ for the Vancouver Canucks in the 1st-round of the 2022 NHL Draft. He’ll ply his trade back home in Sweden this next season in the 2nd-tier pro league, unless he and the club surprise us by jumping on the fact the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League selected Lekkerimaki in this summer’s WHL import draft. Since he just turned 18-years-of-age on July 24th, wouldn’t it be fun to watch him develop right in the Canucks back yard. Either way, he’s a right-handed sniper who’ll play in traffic and the Canucks are excited to see his potential upside become reality.
Winning the Andrey Kuzmenko ‘sweepstakes’. Most of the NHL was interested in the free agent, a handful of teams were finalists, and the Canucks swooped up the Russian KHL’s 2nd leading scorer. There’s a bit of an unknown to his game, given the adjustments he’ll be making culturally, with the smaller ice, and with the increased level of competition, but he’ll have a pair of Russians around the dressing room with whom to acclimate, and as long as his compete level is where it should be, he apparently has the skills to impress. Plus it’s a no-risk, one-year deal for a million bucks for a 26-year-old right-handed forward who should be in his prime.
Re-signing Brock Boeser to a three-year deal. The Vancouver Canucks didn’t kill themselves on contract term and they didn’t overpay considering the talent Boeser possesses and the apparent urgent desire he has to step up with a big season. Between Covid, the crazy hole the club dug and tried to climb out of all season, and the distraction and heavy heart from the ailments of and then the loss of his father, we have every reason to join in his confidence and enthusiasm moving forward. The right wing who sets up in the ‘Ovie’ position on the left side on the power play is only 25-years of age. Also never bad just to have an excellent dude as part of your dressing room make-up.
Ilya Mikheyev has the potential to be a force, and it could happen quickly with his change of scenery from the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. What stunted this Russian’s performance the first three years of his NHL career were injuries, mostly the freak one his rookie season when he had his wrist sliced open by a skate and required season-ending surgery. The 27-year-old had 21 goals in 53 games for the Maple Leafs last season in a crowded forward depth chart and signed with Vancouver for four years and $19-million. The club made that type of commitment for a reason. With his skill, speed, desire, and the fact he could be a dynamic factor in all situations, he earns the top slot for the Vancouver Canucks best 2022 summer move.
It’s interesting to see how last year’s August list worked out, or not. See what you think.