The Vancouver Canucks began their offseason by firing Head Coach Willie Desjardins, and promoting Utica Comets Head Coach Travis Green to the same position. Green will steward Vancouver’s promising young core.
General Manager Jim Benning surrounded that young core with a series of small, sensible signings this summer. A year after splurging and signing Swedish winger Loui Eriksson and trading assets for defenseman Erik Gudbranson, the Canucks were decidedly more precise.
Vancouver managed to find excellent value in signing power play stud Sam Gagner, former first round pick Alexander Burmistrov, depth defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Patrick Wiercioch, and backup goaltender Anders Nilsson for a combined $10,200,000 annually. Gagner, Del Zotto, and Nilsson each were signed for at least two years, but none of their deals exceeds $3,150,000 in annual value.
These players aren’t enough to turn the Canucks from a lottery team into a bubble team, let alone a playoff contender, but they each represent good value in filling out the roster. By keeping the cap hits low, and not giving anyone a no-move or no-trade clause, Benning could even move these players for more assets as their contracts wind down, which would alleviate concerns that the signings are blocking some of the team’s prospects.
With 14 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goaltenders under contract, the Canucks still have a hair over $8,000,000 in salary cap space to re-sign restricted free agent Bo Horvat. They’ll have plenty of space next season, too. With Henrik and Daniel Sedin off of the books, and assuming the salary cap remains flat, Vancouver will have just over $36,000,000 in salary cap space, when Sven Baertschi, Troy Stecher, and Markus Granlund will need new deals.
After four years of short-sighted decision-making, it feels like the Canucks are headed in the right direction in their rebuild. They have a new coach that’s already been crucial in developing some of their young players, and supplemented those players with low-risk signings. Vancouver’s moves this offseason probably won’t ensure their second playoff appearance since 2013, but they’ve maintained enough future flexibility to set themselves up for success in a post-Sedin twins era.
C Sam Gagner (three years, $3,150,000 AAV)
D Michael Del Zotto (two years, $3,000,000 AAV)
G Anders Nilsson (two years, $2,500,000 AAV)
LW Alex Burmistrov (one year, $900,000 AAV)
D Patrick Wiercioch (one year, $650,000 AAV)
D Philip Holm (one year, $925,000 AAV)*
G Ryan Miller (Anaheim Ducks; two years, $2,000,000 AAV)
RW Alexandre Grenier (Florida Panthers; one year, $725,000 AAV)*
C Drew Shore (ZSC Lions, NLA)
D Philip Larsen (Salavat Yulaev, KHL)
D Nikita Tryamkin (Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, KHL)
LW Michael Zalewski (Straubing, DEL)
D Chad Billins (Linköping HC, SHL)
D Tom Nilsson (Djurgårdens IF, SHL)
D Erik Gudbranson (one year, $3,500,000 AAV)
LW Reid Boucher (one year, $687,500 AAV)
C Michael Chaput (one year, $687,500 AAV)
RW Anton Rodin (one year, $700,000 AAV)
G Richard Bachman (one year, $650,000 AAV)*
D Evan McEneny (two years, $657,000 AAV)*
D Andrey Pedan (one year, $750,000 AAV)*
C Joseph Labate (one year, $650,000 AAV)*
C Bo Horvat (RFA)
C Brendan Gaunce (RFA)
RW Borna Rendulic (UFA)
RW Jack Skille (UFA)
G Michael Garteig (non-tendered UFA)
C Joseph Cramarossa (non-tendered UFA)
*Denotes two-way contract.
Next up: We look at the newest team in the division (and the league), the Vegas Golden Knights.