It was, especially by recent standards a fairly wild and wooly Free Agency Day. John Tavares signing with the Leafs, the blowback over Jack Johnson leaving Columbus for Pittsburgh (it might be the ultimate Torts rant ever), and a fairly large number of signings across the league. In Vancouver, the needs were fairly clear. IF they sign someone, they would need to address one of two glaring problems: a) help on the defence (which is not particularly mobile, and challenged to say the least, at producing points) and b) more scoring depth. Given these parameters, anyone who has followed this team knew that it wasn’t going to end well. And it didn’t.
Welcome Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle and Tim Schaller. The Roussel and Beagle picks are troubling because of the term, especially Beagle. 4 years for a guy that is literally Brandon Sutter. We already have one of those, and apart from Jim Benning and Trevor Linden, we aren’t happy with him. And Roussel’s 10 goal output last season isn’t going to triple, let alone double somehow. When asked about where the goalscoring would come from, Benning mentioned Adam Gaudette. You know, the guy who now sits fifth on the Canucks’ depth chart at C, because you signed Jay Freakin’ Beagle.
On the left side, there’s a mess almost as bad as the one at center. The Canucks just announced they re-signed Sven Baertschi (3 years, AAV of $3.367M) and the guy who scored 32 goals over the last 2 seasons is your #1 LW. Brendan Leipsic, Nikolay Goldobin and Roussel round out your top 4. That means zero chance we see Jonathan Dahlen, Jonah Gadjovich or even Reid Boucher in Vancouver next season, barring a bad camp from Leipsic and Goldy. Even then, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
On the right side, there is our Lord and Saviour Brock Boeser, and from there it gets pretty sad. Loui Eriksson is here for 4 more years. He’s not going to get any better, and they’ll never be able to move that contract. Sam Gagner was better than Eriksson, but not so much that he was full value for his deal, and with Jake Virtanen still unsigned, that has Tyler Motte or Markus Granlund on the 4th spot. It’s highly unlikely we see Kole Lind or Petrus Palmu start the year anywhere but Utica.
On D, the big question is will they bring Quinn Hughes in this season or let him return to the NCAA for another season. There’s no doubt that he’s NHL ready, and while it will be a season that is full of some painful lessons, there’s a lot to be gained by exposing him now, especially after his showing for Team USA at the World Championships this spring. The Canucks also need to make some kind of a decision on Troy Stecher soon, and it would be good to see him and Hughes paired up, as Stecher is currently the best puck mover the Canucks have on the back end. The possibility of Chris Tanev being moved, and Alex Edler being in his last season of his current contract lead to the potential for new blood down the road, because Michael Del Zotto, Eric Gudbranson, Ben Hutton and Alex Biega shouldn’t fill anyone with confidence. The re-signing of Derrick Pouliot to a short-term deal could push him to maybe start playing at his expected potential, but it’s still a gamble. It’s hard to see how, with all the players currently signed how there’s even going to be room for Hughes, let alone Olli Juolevi should the Canucks want a look at him. Add in the possibility that Nikita Tryamkin hasn’t closed the door on a return to the Canucks, and there’s a log jam that needs addressing, and it doesn’t look good for a GM whose trade history is abysmal.
The big question in net for the Canucks is whether or not they bring Thatcher Demko in to be the backup and either demote Anders Nilsson or try to move him. Demko’s already a star in the AHL, and one has to believe that he’s ready to start the learning process for the NHL game. I think the best scenario is moving Nilsson, having Demko as backup and give him around 20-25 starts this season. With Richard Bachman re-signed in Utica, they could then bring Michael DiPietro in as backup and start grooming him to be Demko’s #2 for the future.
All in all, the fact that the Canucks went all in on grit, didn’t address their embarrassing scoring issues and did nothing to improve their defence is not a good look for the team in general or Benning in particular. That contract extension is going to look pretty bad, but maybe there’s redemption if they’re so bad they can land the #1 pick in next year’s Entry Draft and bring Quinn’s brother Jack Hughes into the fold. That’s a huge maybe, and history has not been kind to this franchise, so why would we believe that would change?
AROUND THE LEAGUE
After the Tavares in Toronto signing, there were some fairly interesting moves made in the last 36 hours. Arizona grabbing former Canuck Michael Grabner was a good get for the desert dogs. Buffalo has done some great work, getting a ton back from St Louis for Ryan O’Reilly as well as adding Carter Hutton in goal, a huge upgrade from Robin Lehner. Calgary has a lot of RFA’s and UFA’s to deal with, and added James Neal to a 5 year deal. Not sure that one’s gonna be looked at favorably down the road. Chicago bringing Cam Ward in to backup Corey Crawford is a good move, and Chris Kunitz isn’t a terrible pickup either.
Detroit made 3 big signings: a re-up for Mike Green while adding Thomas Vanek and Jonathan Bernier. The Oilers won the Tobias Reider sweepstakes, but have a couple significant pieces still needing to be locked up in Darnell Nurse and Ryan Strome.
Los Angeles giving 38 year old Ilya Kovalchuk a 3 year deal is almost as funny as what they;ll be paying Drew Doughty 4 years from now. When regression hits, that will likely be the worst deal in the NHL (next to Jonathan Quick’s deal, of course). Minnesota signed a ton of guys, including JT Brown, Andrew Hammond and uh... Matt Bartkowski? I’m sure Beth went Wild at the news...
Former Canuck Michael Chaput is now a Montreal Canadien, and the Habs also signed Tomas Plekanec to a 1 year deal... Nashville signed Zac Rinaldo and Rocco Grimaldi because they didn’t have enough trash on the team now that Mike Fisher and Mike Ribeiro are gone... The Islanders now begin the Tavares-less years, and have brought in Leo Komorov to help ease the pain. I uh, think they’re doing it wrong. While we wait for them to re-sign Brock Nelson, we can enjoy videos of Islanders fans burning their Tavares jerseys
I like Philly’s move to bring James Van Riemsdyk back to the Flyers. JVR’s been a solid producer and will help them try and keep pace in the Metro division. St Louis added Tyler Bozak and David Perron returns from his Vegas experience... The Leafs also signed a couple former Canucks in Jordan Subban and Adam Cracknell... Vegas made a great pickup with Paul Stastny, but still have a lot of work to do, most notably a new deal for William Karlsson... speaking of Karlssons, Ottawa has offered Erik an extension deal, but no word yet on if he’s going to accept it and continue to be one of the few good things about the shit show that is the Ottawa Senators. I genuinely feel bad for their fans and thank the hockey gods daily for the fact that as messed up as our team is, it could be so much worse...
The Champs added Nic Dowd to replace Jay Beagle for $665k. Sigh.