May 29, 2023
How would a rebuild of the Vancouver Canucks even look like?  - Daily Faceoff

How would a rebuild of the Vancouver Canucks even look like? – Daily Faceoff

Even the grumpiest, most pathetic Eeyore of a naysayer could not have imagined that nightmarish October for the Vancouver Canucks.

Quinn Hughes, Travis Dermott and Tucker Poolman injured as they saw the team’s blue line in half? Check. Captain Bo Horvat, on expiring contract, wonders aloud will the team ever win again? Check. JT Miller, who has signed an eight-year, $56 million deal that will pay him until he is 37, and calls himself “irrelevant”? Check. Fans throw jerseys on the ice? Check.

Coach Bruce Boudreau wondered after Monday’s loss dropped Vancouver to 0-5-2, and wondered if the team was suffering from “victory fears”? Check.

And perhaps most demoralizing of all: Hockey Ops team president Jim Rutherford, showing up this weekend Ice hockey night in Canada after hourssuggesting that the team “could very well be in the midst of a rebuild.”

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The same team that played .649 hockey in the last 57 games of the season after Boudreau took over last year? The same team that brought KHL star Andrei Kuzmenko to North America and just signed Ilya Mikheyev as UFA on a four-year, $4.75 million AAV deal? The same team that sent futures to the Arizona Coyotes a year ago to take on Oliver Ekman-Larsson on a six-year deal and signed Conor Garland on a five-year extension?

Oh man. If the Canucks are truly considering a rebuild, it will prove extremely difficult to reverse course for a roster that was clearly not designed for rebuild mode.

If Vancouver can’t get back into the Pacific Division race, I can understand the motivation to rebuild, sure. The team’s playoff ratings have already shrunk to a peak. And if you’re planning a nosedive, Connor Bedard year is the best window to do so, so deliberately depleting your list through seller deals isn’t the worst idea. But could it even happen? If the Canucks have no choice but to rebuild or refit, could their expensive win-now list even be converted into a tanker?

The way I see it they have a couple of easy escape hatches and several others that will be much more difficult to trigger. Here’s a tiered breakdown of how a semi-plausible Canucks rebuild or conversion could play out this season.

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No-Brainer option

Trade with Bo Horvat. That’s easy. If your captain is voicing a lot of negativity in the press, is pending UFA and hasn’t made progress on a contract extension with you, that’s not exactly a mood booster. It feels like Horvat is nearing the end of his time in Vancouver. And, my goodness, could he ever make a nice return for GM Patrik Allvin. With Horvat’s mix of all-situations play, goal scoring and face-off ability, he would be an extremely popular loan option for a challenger. He would easily order a first round pick and a good prospect in a trade.

Realistic option

Trading with Tyler Myers. He’s got two years left with a $6 million AAV, so the acquisitions team would probably want Vancouver to keep the salary, but it shouldn’t be that hard to find a market for a veteran top-four right-shot blueliner. A contender could commit to it for a season and a half. By the end of the contract he will be 34 years old. However, he has a no-trade list of 10 teams.

Plausible variant

Handel Brock Boeser. It would be a shame after the two sides worked out a three-year extension last offseason and paid Boeser $6.65 million annually. But Boeser has been so injury-prone in his career that he hasn’t even hit the 30-goal mark since his 2016/17 debut. At the same time he is only 25 and his raw shooting talent is undeniable so he could still be an attractive investment in the medium term and the two years remaining on his contract mean the market for him would not just have to be the top tier cup Candidate. Boeser’s contract also has no movement restriction until July 1, 2024, when a 10-team no-trade list goes into effect.

Long Shot Options

Trade in Conor Garland. Surprise aside, healthy scratches aside, Garland has a spirited, heart-and-souled skill that should appeal to any competitor. The contract is still pretty fresh though. It’s the second year of a five-year contract with an AAV of $4.95 million. It doesn’t feel like a contract that you take on during the season. It would make more sense to acquire Garland at an off-season hockey deal where you send similar money and transit time to Vancouver.

Trade Tanner Pearson. He is a proven top 9 winger with a Stanley Cup ring. He might return a mid-round pick as a depth addition at the close. But he has two seasons left with a $3.25 million AAV thanks to a deal that was ill-advised the day before the handover by GM Jim Benning. The Canucks would almost certainly have to eat salary for a Pearson deal to go through. He also has a seven-team no-trade list.

Fire Bruce Boudreau. You can’t pull off the “fire the bus to boost the room” trick twice in less than a calendar year… right? Normally any 0-5-2 bench boss should be looking over his shoulder, but Boudreau’s removal would be sneaky and complicated. It would mean the Canucks are Paying three coaches between Travis Green, Boudreau and the replacement. That would be painful. With Boudreau not under contract for next season anyway, weathering the storm with him makes more sense.

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Hail Mary options

Buy out Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The good news? If you did it after this summer, you wouldn’t feel the pain right away. Per capfriendly, year 1 of an “OEL” buyout would only yield a cap hit of $146,667. But it would go up to $2,346,667 in year 2, then two painful years at $4,766,967, and it would add up to $20,533,336 over 10 years. Ouch. The deal isn’t quite buyout proof, but it’s close.

Trade with JT Miller. It would be unprecedented (I think?) to delay Miller before his seven-year extension occurs. There was no way the Canucks were going to keep the salary, so you’d have to convince the acquisition team to essentially “sign” Miller as UFA. . Given that he’s not yet past his prime and would have easily commanded seven years at an $8 million open market AAV next summer, the Canucks might sell a team on it. It would be a repeat of a deal that somehow aged badly before it even started.


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