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Nikita Tryamkin’s KHL season ended today.

What’s next up for the Big Friendly Giant?

Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks”t
Nikita Tryamkin appears in his final home game at Rogers Arena on April 8th, 2017 before signing a 3-year contract to play in the KHL.
Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

Nikita Tryamkin’s Avtomobilist hockey club was eliminated this morning by a 2-1 score in the first round of the KHL playoffs by Sibir. The Best of Seven series was close despite only lasting five games. Sibir won two of the games in sudden death overtime.

Tryamkin was a defensive stalwart in the series. He was only on the ice for one opposition even strength goal in the entire five game set-to. He averaged just under twenty-three minutes of ice time per game. He doled out eighteen hits and blocked six shots and also added two assists on the offensive side of his game. On the negative side he did take a sneaky tripping penalty in today’s game that an eagle-eyed referee saw him do. Sibir scored their opening goal on their ensuing power play.

With Avtomobilist’s exit from the Gagarin Cup post-season sweepstakes, the very tall Russian’s 3-year KHL contract is effectively done. Technically, it does not expire until April 30th, 2020 but his season is over. There had been some expectation earlier this season that he might be able to fly to North America and sign with and suit-up for the Vancouver Canucks when his KHL season ended. This is what he did at the end of the Canucks 2015/16 season when he first played for the team-of-many-colours.

There was a concern raised that a new KHL rule that would penalize his team by forfeiting his future KHL rights would stand in the way of an early contract release. However, it turns out he was only allowed to join the team at the end of the season in 2016 because he had signed his first NHL contract then. This time around he is considered to be a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) and this precludes the Canucks from registering a contract with the NHL Office for him until July 1st, 2020.

Vancouver’s defence crew right now certainly looks like it could use the addition of a nasty, above-average skating solid defensive behemoth on its somewhat soft and leaky blue-line. But that potential addition will have to wait until next season.

Next season the Canucks will no doubt be looking to further improve their defence corps. While the current group is an upgrade over the likes of Erik Gudbranson, Michael Del Zotto, Derrick Pouliot et al, there is still room for a major upgrade or two.

The only untouchable is Calder Trophy favourite Quinn Hughes. Both Alex Edler and Tyler Myers are essentially unmovable due to their contractual No Movement Clauses (NMC).

However, while Jordie Benn has one year to go on his contract, he is movable by trade or waivers. Chris Tanev and Oscar Fantenberg are Unrestricted Free Agents and Vancouver can walk away from them with no strings attached. Also, Troy Stecher is an RFA and his rights are tradable and/or the Canucks can choose to not qualify him and let him become an UFA like they did with Ben Hutton last season.

So there could be as many as four available spots if the Canucks stick with seven defencemen on their roster or even five spots if they choose to run with eight defencemen like they have done so in previous seasons.

If signed, Nikita Tryamkin would be a heavy favourite to start the season as a member of the Canucks’ revamped 2020/21 defence corps. He is an eight season proven professional hockey player and has spent one season plus in the NHL already.

His main competition will likely come from AHL rookie sensation Brogan Rafferty. But there may be room for both of them.

Other candidates for vacancies on the Canucks’ backend next season include injury-prone former high draft pick Olli Joulevi and hot shot NCAA prospect Jack Rathbone. The latter appears quite capable of making the jump straight from college to the NHL like Quinn Hughes did this season.

The other top defencemen in the organization will almost certainly need further seasoning (Guillaume Brisebois, Jett Woo, and Toni Utunen) before contending for full time NHL spots.

The rest are AHL depth defencemen who can be summoned when injuries on the big club mount up (Ashton Sautner and Jalen Chatfield for example).

The outcome of the Vancouver Canucks’ 2019/20 season is not yet known. Will they make the playoffs? If they make the playoffs will they go out quietly or make some noise?

Whatever the final result of the Canucks’ 50th Anniversary season, you can already be assured that there will be some new members in the seven or eight defencemen that appear on their NHL roster to start their 2020/21 51st season. There might even be a surprise UFA backend signing on July 1st, 2020. You never know for sure.

Anaheim Ducks v Toronto Maple Leafs
Maple Leafs’ defenceman Tyson Barrie is set to become an Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1st, 2020. He is said to want to play full-time in his home province of British Columbia.
Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images