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Will the Canucks have enough cap space to notably improve in 2021-22?

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It’s going to take some master maneuvering by Jim Benning...or whoever’s in charge, to improve this team heading into next year.

Winnipeg Jets v Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks core is solid, but improving the group around them is a monumental task.
Getty Images

“I think in two years' time, I think we’re gonna be real competitive and have a chance to compete for the Cup.”

— Jim Benning, March 5th, 2021.

Despite the dreary day-to-day world we’re living in, you can see Benning’s logic about the Canucks being competitive in two years.

When you look at their cap situation heading into next season, it’s not pretty. Add in the fact that you have to re-sign three of your best players to new deals, and this is shaping up to be a pretty damn important offseason for the Vancouver Canucks.

Regarding the cap, I think the big question is, how do you notably improve this team next season after re-signing Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko to new deals?

And...can you?

I thought about this based on the roster with gaping holes that I laid out last week. The purpose of that was to see where players would properly slot in if this team didn’t have skaters playing above their heads in the lineup.

It painted a picture that wasn’t all doom and gloom, but it shows that there’s still some serious work that needs to be done before the Canucks can seriously compete for the Stanley Cup.

Add in the fact that you have a precarious cap situation, and the task ahead this offseason in Vancouver is an onerous one.

Here’s a look at the roster I outlined last week, along with cap hits, heading into next season. I’ve bolded both players that would be new to the roster, or players that would need new deals (along with their generous estimates).

Forwards

JT Miller ($5.25M) — Elias Pettersson ($7M) — Brock Boeser ($5.875M)

Guy — Bo Horvat ($5.5M) — Nils Hoglander ($891,667)

Guy GuyVasily Podkolzin ($925K)

Jayce Hawryluk ($850K)Adam Gaudette ($900K) — Tyler Motte ($1.2M)

Extras: Zack MacEwen ($825K), Jay Beagle ($3M)

Buried: Loui Eriksson ($4.875M), Antoine Roussel ($1.875M), Jake Virtanen ($1.425M)

Defence

Quinn Hughes ($7M)Guy

Guy — Nate Schmidt ($5.9M)

Jack Rathbone ($925K) — Tyler Myers ($6M)

Extras: Olli Juolevi ($800K)

Goalies

Thatcher Demko ($4.5M)

Braden Holtby ($4.3M)

Winnipeg Jets v Vancouver Canucks
How team friendly might Thatcher Demko’s next deal be?
Getty Images

Roster size: 18

Cap Hit: $72,926,879

Cap Remaining: $8,573,121

First off, let’s start by saying that signing Pettersson, Hughes and Demko for an AAV under $20 million would be a win for the organization. For the purpose of this exercise, I have their combined cap hit in 2021-22 coming in at $18.5 million.

This assumes that all three players sign some sort of short-term bridge deals, which is the most likely option considering the flat cap environment.

After that, there are a number of assumed short-term deals that bring the Canucks closer to a 23-man roster.

Up front, that includes signing Vasily Podkolzin to his entry-level deal worth the league-maximum of $925,000. It also includes giving Jayce Hawryluk a slight raise, along with a slight reduction of salary for Adam Gaudette. Who knows if Gaudette would be willing to do that, even if his number have dipped this season.

To further reduce the Canucks cap crunch, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel and Jake Virtanen’s contract have been buried in the minors. I have Jay Beagle on this team (as a healthy scratch) since the Canucks still do value his penalty killing and faceoff value. However, he’s a healthy scratch because he’s realistically a replacement-level player aside from those speciality attributes.

I don’t think ownership has the appetite to bury both Roussel and Beagle, but it’s hard to envision them both being with the club next here if they plan on improving.

Regarding Virtanen, I’d say there’s nearly a zero percent chance that his contract gets buried, But I did so for the purpose of highlighting the cap crunch. It probably makes more sense to trade Virtanen, especially for a defenceman on a similar contract.

On defence, aside from Hughes’s contract, Jack Rathbone and Olli Juolevi re-join the team. Even them with them on the roster, the Canucks likely still need two more top-four defenceman.

Without going too much into possible additions to the roster (we’ll touch on that in the coming weeks), you can see that the Canucks, in a favourable situation, would have about $8.5 million to spend on five players to round out their roster. That includes trying to add...

  • Two top four defenceman
  • A top-six winger
  • A third line center
  • Another third-line calibre winger

It’s no easy task...especially if you’re of the mindset that the Canucks need to take things “day by day...”

In fact, it’s impossible to fill all those holes next season with the amount of cap space the Canucks have.

The question then becomes, among the holes on the roster, what’s the biggest priority?