NHL Rumor Mill – January 17, 2023
CHANGES IN STORE FOR CANUCKS
THE PROVINCE/THE ATHLETIC: Ben Kuzma and Harman Dayal. reports Jim Rutherford, the Vancouver Canucks president of hockey, indicated big changes are coming for the roster during a press conference on Monday to address the state of the franchise.
“We have to do major surgery,” said Rutherford. He declined to call it a rebuild but felt it would be a retooling.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford’s toeing the company line with that comment. Team owner Francesco Aquilini is reportedly dead set against rebuilding the roster.
He indicated that the club is stuck right now with contracts that they can’t move. “Until we move those out, or until they expire, it’s going to be hard to make changes. He also warned that some of the changes won’t be popular.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kuzma believes that last comment refers to team captain Bo Horvat. The 27-year-old center is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July and has become the subject of trade rumors after reportedly rejecting the Canucks’ contract offer earlier in the season.
Rutherford said the Canucks offer to Horvat was fair up to what he’s done in 2022-23 but it’s under market value for his performance this season. The center is on pace to score over 50 goals for the first time in his career.
It’s believed the Canucks can’t or won’t exceed J.T. Miller’s seven-year, $56 million contract in their dealings with Horvat. He could end up shopped by the March 3 trade deadline if the two sides fail to reach an agreement on a new deal.
Kuzma and Dayal both believe overpaying for Horvat will make it difficult to re-sign pending UFA winger Andrei Kuzmenko. Rutherford said they’ve recently opened contract talks with the 26-year-old winger.
Canucks fans hoping for Rutherford to trade Miller and re-sign Horvat are going to be disappointed. Rutherford pointed out the value of retaining players such as Miller. He also wasn’t concerned about how his contract could affect the Canucks over the long term because of the anticipated rise in the salary cap in the near future, which he believes could reach $90 million to $95 million. In the short term, however, Dayal pointed out that Miller’s deal is already having an impact on the Canucks because it’s hampering their efforts to re-sign Horvat.
Dayal also reported that Rutherford is willing to consider buying out contracts if they can’t move them via trade. While they can provide some short-term relief, Dayal noted that they come at a future cost, pointing out that a buyout of Oliver Ekman-Larsson would leave dead cap space on the Canucks’ books until 2031. I think Rutherford could be looking at someone with a year or two left on their contract like defenseman Tyler Myers.
Kuzma also wondered what Rutherford’s plans are for Brock Boeser. The winger’s agent has permission to speak with other clubs but his lack of production and league-wide salary-cap problems make it difficult to move Boeser’s $6.65 million cap hit.
Rutherford didn’t address Boeser’s situation but made a general statement that a player’s performance dictates his trade value. Even then, Rutherford indicated that a contract could still be tough to move if an interested club lacks the cap space to acquire him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford might have an easier time moving Boeser if he agreed to retain part of his cap hit. However, that’s a scenario he reportedly doesn’t want to do. It’s my belief the earliest Boeser gets moved is in the offseason when clubs have more cap room to work with and a greater willingness to make significant trades.
Talking about his trade plans, Rutherford said that he won’t necessarily seek draft picks in return. Instead, he prefers bringing in young players from other clubs that didn’t work out with their entry-level contracts and giving them a second chance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kuzma speculates the Canucks could target someone like the New York Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere. Dayal, however, is skeptical whether that’s a workable strategy, suggesting recent reclamation projects like Ethan Bear, Travis Dermott, Jack Studnicka and Riley Stillman haven’t done much to improve the club.
Rutherford didn’t say much about the future of head coach Bruce Boudreau as rumors swirl that he could be replaced by Rick Tocchet. He admitted he’s spoken with some potential coaching candidates going back a couple of months. “All I can say is Bruce is our coach right now,” said Rutherford.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hardly a ringing endorsement or a vote of confidence for Boudreau by Rutherford. As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman observed, it appears Boudreau will remain the Canucks coach until they’ve found a suitable replacement.
RUMOR TIDBITS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “32 THOUGHTS”.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks had “legit conversations” about Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson. However, he doesn’t think it got to the point where it got to Karlsson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Friedman means that it didn’t reach the point where the Sharks felt talks reached the stage where Karlsson would have to be asked to waive his no-movement clause to go to Edmonton.
Friedman also said he felt last summer that there was a high probability of Anaheim Ducks defenseman John Klingberg ending up with the Oilers. The blueliner was interested in Edmonton at the time but the salary-cap pieces couldn’t fit. Friedman no longer expects Klingberg will join the Oilers but expects he’ll be moved by the March 3 trade deadline.
Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin is only interested in a trade that will improve his club or provide him assets that he can use in another deal. Friedman isn’t sure Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun would make sense for the Wild as a potential replacement for Matt Dumba given their salary-cap concerns after this season.
The Ottawa Senators are considering rental defensemen. It would give them an opportunity to evaluate someone they’d like to re-sign plus they want to finish as strong as possible for their players and their fans.