clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

7 Questions About the Canucks Ahead of the NHL Draft & Free Agency

This truncated offseason leaves us with many unknowns.

Arizona Coyotes v Vancouver Canucks
Wes Rypien and Luke Rypien drop the puck for Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Arizona Coyotes and Bo Horvat #53 of the Vancouver Canucks before their NHL game at Rogers Arena January 16, 2020 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome to what could be one of the craziest off the ice weeks in Canucks history.

Or, perhaps not.

After surprising the league by being the sixth-last team standing in the playoffs, the Canucks have an intense offseason ahead of them.

They lack draft capital, their team MVP is a free agent, and they have a bevy of UFA and RFA players who they have to make decisions on — and fast.

Oh, and one of the highest paid defenders in hockey wants to play for the Canucks.

The NHL’s sixth-best general manager has a lot to figure out this week. Here are some questions that (hopefully) we get some clarity on over the next 96 hours.

Will OEL become a Canuck?

The smoke billowing around this situation has subsided slightly, but it seems like every day, there’s some kind of update from the national media.

This much is clear: The Coyotes have cap problems and they want to alleviate that by trading one of their best players (okay then...). Said best player wants to go to either Boston or Vancouver, two cap strapped teams without their 2020 first round pick.

Any trade probably involves a high pick in 2021, a solid prospect and a roster player. Conversely, the Canucks might want to move heaven and earth to dump Eriksson’s salary to Arizona with this move.

I said it on The Quickie yesterday, but I do believe a trade happens here. The real question is, do you want to see Ekman-Larsson in a Canucks uniform?

Poll

Do you want to see Ekman-Larsson in a Canucks uniform next season?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Yes
    (81 votes)
  • 55%
    No
    (100 votes)
181 votes total Vote Now

How do the Canucks solve their goaltending dilemma?

Los Angeles Kings v Vancouver Canucks
Jacob Markstrom #25 of the Vancouver Canucks smiles at his brother after being named first star after their NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Arena December 28, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 3-2.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

The Canucks are suddenly one of the most interesting teams heading into the draft and free agency because of the impending decisions on Ekman-Larsson and Jacob Markstrom.

An answer on this situation will surely come this week. Free agency opens on Friday and if the Canucks don’t have a deal done with Markstrom by then, it’s hard to imagine him coming back to this team.

The goalie market is fickle, but there’s surely a team willing to give Markstrom that No-Movement Protection for the expansion draft, if that’s what he desires.

If Markstrom does walk, the Canucks will be under the gun to find a competent back-up for Thatcher Demko. Hello, Henrik Lundqvist?

Will the Canucks use any of their buyouts

The buyout window ends on Thursday, October 8th, right before the draft.

By now, we know all the names on the table. Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Brandon Sutter and Sven Baertschi are the candidates.

AHL: FEB 05 Utica Comets at Laval Rocket
Utica Comets left wing Sven Baertschi (47) tracks the play during the Utica Comets versus the Laval Rocket game on February 05, 2020, at Place Bell in Laval, QC
Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I think the only realistic buyout options here are Sutter and Baertschi. I don’t think the Canucks want to buy out anyone with term, but Baertschi might be an exception considering they’ve unsuccessfully tried to trade him for the past year. However, the Canucks only save $700,000 on the cap this season, considering that they can save $1.075 million on the cap just by burying him in the AHL. They would also be on the hook for $800,000 next season.

Buying out Sutter might make the most sense here, if the Canucks can’t find a trade partner for the 31-year-old veteran. Buying out Sutter out would save the team $2.3 million this season, while costing the team another $1.16 million in 2021-22.

Is Jake Virtanen still a Canuck by the end of the week?

Jake Virtanen’s arbitration case, coupled with the lack of praise from his general manager leaves the Abbotsford native in a precarious place heading into free agency.

Although the Canucks probably don’t want to pay another bottom-six forward upwards of $3 million dollars, that’s what might happen if the Canucks qualify Virtanen and then to arbitration.

Look for Virtanen to be a trade chip at the draft over the next two days.

Will Benning trade back into the first two rounds of the draft?

While Virtanen probably won’t fetch you a pick in the top 62, don’t be surprised if Benning does look for a way to get back into the top two rounds of the draft.

How that will work is still up for debate. Trading a player like Virtanen, or trading picks in the 2021 draft might be two ways where he can make that happen.

What’s the strategy for the Canucks limited number of picks?

If the Canucks don’t trade for any picks, they won’t select until the third round at 82nd overall.

I think the only strategy here has to be to draft the best player available. That should be the strategy every time you draft, but I digress.

Reports from Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal suggest that the Canucks and goaltending coach/guru Ian Clark like a goaltender that should be available in the third round.

How many answers do we get on the Canucks remaining free agents this week?

Chicago Blackhawks v Vancouver Canucks
Troy Stecher #51 and Adam Gaudette #88 congratulate teammate Jacob Markstrom #25 of the Vancouver Canucks after their NHL game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Arena January 2, 2020 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 7-5.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

The fact that I got to question number seven while only mentioning two of the Canucks free agents tells you just how crazy this offseason — and this week, for that matter — will be for Benning and his management team.

Everything right now hinges on the decisions about Ekman-Larsson and Markstrom, but the Canucks have a decision to make on free agents such as Tyler Toffoli, Josh Leivo, Chris Tanev and Oscar Fantenberg.

They also have a glut of RFA’s including Adam Gaudette, Troy Stecher, Tyler Motte, Zack MacEwen, Justin Bailey, Guillaume Brisebois and Jalen Chatfield. The deadline to qualify RFA’s is 2:00 pm PST on Thursday, October 7th. So far, the Canucks have only qualified Brisebois.

The madness begins today with the start of the NHL Entry Draft. Don’t expect things to subside in the days following either.