Category Archives: Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Vancouver Canucks Tough Salary Cap Situation for 2024-25

The Vancouver Canucks’ 2024-25 Season – Cap Space, Roster Holes, and Potential Solutions: The Vancouver Canucks enter the 2024-25 NHL season with cautious optimism and a clear mandate: fill critical roster holes while navigating a tight salary cap. With the buyout of Oliver Ekman-Larsson (OEL) and a slew of unrestricted free agents (UFAs) leaving gaps, the Canucks’ management team faces significant challenges. Is the potential there to recreate the magic of last season and build a team capable of making a deep playoff run? This article delves into the current cap space, the impact of the OEL buyout, and potential strategies to turn the Canucks into true contenders.

Vancouver Canucks Current Salary Cap Space and Contract Commitments

As of now, the Canucks have approximately $23.78 million in available cap space, according to CapFriendly. This figure provides a considerable amount of flexibility for General Manager Patrik Allvin and the management team to make necessary roster adjustments. However, it’s important to note that this cap space will need to accommodate the re-signing of restricted free agents (RFAs) like Filip Hronek and any other potential signings to fill out the roster.

The Impact of the OEL Buyout on the Salary Cap

The buyout of Oliver Ekman-Larsson was a strategic move to create cap space, but it comes with its own set of challenges. The buyout will result in a cap hit of $2,346,667 this year and $4,766,667 the next two seasons before becoming less significant $2,126,667 for the final three season. While it provided some relief this season, it will now  eats into the potential benefits of any future salary cap increases, limiting the team’s flexibility especially in the next three years.

Addressing Roster Holes with Limited Salary Cap Space

Penalty Killing Forwards and Defensemen

The Canucks’ penalty kill unit faces a major overhaul, with six of their top eight penalty killers hitting free agency. This includes critical players like Dakota Joshua and Ian Cole. The impending RFA status of Filip Hronek further complicates the situation. While internal options such as Vasily Podkolzin and Ilya Mikheyev could potentially step up, their effectiveness in penalty-killing roles remains uncertain.

To fill these crucial roles, the Canucks could target several potential replacements:

  1. Kevin Stenlund Cap Hit (2022-23): $1,250,000:  Stenlund is an underrated penalty killer and boasts a solid faceoff win percentage of 53.2%. His defensive capabilities and ability to win key draws make him a valuable addition to the Canucks’ penalty kill unit. Given his previous cap hit, he should be an affordable option within the Canucks’ budget.
  2. Teuvo Teräväinen  Cap Hit (2022-23): $5,400,000: Teräväinen is one of the top forwards on the penalty kill, logging 129:34 on the kill last season while chipping in with a short-handed goal and five assists. His two-way play and experience would provide a significant boost to the Canucks’ special teams. While his cap hit is higher, his versatility and skill set justify the investment.
  3. Brett Pesce Cap Hit (2022-23): $4,025,000: Pesce headlined the Hurricanes’ top-rated penalty kill last season, spending an impressive 163:35 on the ice during the kill. His defensive prowess and ability to handle significant minutes make him an ideal candidate to strengthen the Canucks’ penalty kill. Although he might seek a moderate raise, his impact on the team’s defense would be well worth the cost.

Revamping the penalty kill is a critical task for the Canucks as they prepare for the 2024-25 season. By targeting players like Kevin Stenlund, Teuvo Teräväinen, and Brett Pesce, the Canucks can significantly bolster their penalty-killing units and ensure they remain competitive. These additions, combined with strategic cap management and internal development, could help the Canucks overcome their special teams’ challenges and position themselves for a successful season

Right-Shot Center with Strong Faceoff Skills

One glaring need is a right-shot center who excels in faceoffs. Last season, faceoff efficiency was a weak spot, and finding a player above the 50% mark is crucial. Though the Canucks would prefer to resign Elias Lindholm, it is unlikely given their cap situation and Lindholms salary ask that a deal can be done. The Canucks might look towards the free agency market or potential trades to address this, although cap constraints will limit their options. Names like Kevin Stenlund, Derek Ryan or Luke Glendening, known for their faceoff prowess, could be potential targets.

Top-Line Winger for Pettersson

Elias Pettersson needs a consistent finisher on his wing to maximize his playmaking abilities and drive the Canucks’ offense. Ilya Mikheyev’s struggles to convert scoring chances last season highlighted the need for an upgrade. While Mikheyev brings speed and tenacity, his finishing ability left much to be desired. Nils Höglander was a bright spot last season, and though he had flashes of brilliance, he was unable to produce consistently at the end of the season and in the playoffs. While another season could see him take another step, Mikheyev seemed to be the weak link on that line. Therefore, some help will be needed next season to ensure Pettersson has the support he needs.

Here are some potential free agent targets who could fit this role:

  1. Tyler Bertuzzi Cap Hit (2023-24): $5,500,000:  Bertuzzi brings a combination of skill, grit, and scoring ability. He has proven he can play in high-pressure situations, contributing both in the regular season and playoffs. His physical style of play complements Pettersson’s finesse, potentially creating a dynamic top line. Bertuzzi’s asking price might align with the Canucks’ budget, especially if he’s willing to take a slight pay cut to join a team with strong playoff aspirations.
  2. Jake Guentzel Cap Hit (2023-24): $6,000,000: Guentzel is frequently linked to the Canucks and for good reason. He is a proven scorer with a track record of success in Pittsburgh. His ability to finish plays and his chemistry with top centers make him an ideal candidate to pair with Pettersson. While his cap hit is substantial, his impact could justify the investment, particularly if the Canucks can manage their cap space effectively.
  3. Teuvo Teräväinen Cap Hit (2023-24): $5,400,000: Teräväinen offers a mix of playmaking and scoring ability. He is known for his hockey IQ and ability to make smart plays in the offensive zone. His versatility and experience would make him a valuable asset on Pettersson’s wing. Given his recent cap hit, he might be within the Canucks’ financial reach, especially if they can negotiate a team-friendly deal.

These players offer the kind of finishing ability that Pettersson needs on his wing. Bertuzzi’s grit, Guentzel’s scoring touch, and Teräväinen’s playmaking would each provide different, yet complementary, elements to the top line. Acquiring one of these free agents would be a significant move towards making the Canucks a more potent offensive threat and providing Pettersson quality linemates.

Replacing Key Departures on Defense

The departure of Nikita Zadorov leaves a significant gap on the blueline. His physical presence and defensive prowess will be sorely missed. Additionally, Ian Cole’s experience and reliability on the back end create another void that must be filled. While Tyler Myers is expected to return, his age and declining foot speed raise concerns about his ability to maintain top performance.

To address these gaps, the Canucks need to add a right-shot defenseman with playoff experience. Here are some potential options based on the current free-agent market:

  1. Christopher Tanev (RD, 34) – $4,500,000: Tanev is a familiar face who could provide the stability and leadership the Canucks need on the back end. Given his age, it’s unlikely he will command a significant raise, making him a financially viable option. His defensive reliability and experience in high-pressure situations make him an ideal candidate to fill the void left by Zadorov.
  2. Matt Dumba (RD, 29) – $3,900,000: Dumba brings a blend of physicality and offensive capability. His recent cap hit was $3.9 million, and while he might seek a slight increase, his value could fit within the Canucks’ budget, especially if they can negotiate a team-friendly deal. His experience and ability to play significant minutes could be invaluable to the Canucks’ defense, particularly with Myers’ declining speed.
  3. Brandon Montour (RD, 30) – $3,500,000: Montour had a solid season with the Florida Panthers and would bring offensive upside and a right-handed shot to the Canucks. His cap hit was $3.5 million last season, and he might command a slight raise. However, his ability to contribute offensively while being responsible in his own end makes him a strong candidate worth considering.
  4. TJ Brodie (LD/RD, 34) – $5,000,000: Brodie’s versatility allows him to play both left and right defense, providing flexibility in the lineup. His cap hit was $5 million, and given his age, it’s unlikely he will see a significant raise. His defensive acumen and experience would be a great addition to the Canucks’ blueline.
  5. Brady Skjei (LD, 30) – $5,250,000: Skjei’s solid two-way game and ability to log heavy minutes make him an attractive option. His cap hit was $5.25 million, and while he might seek a slight raise, his addition would help balance the defensive pairings and could be worth the investment.
  6. Dylan DeMelo (RD, 31) – $3,000,000: DeMelo’s strong defensive play and ability to move the puck efficiently would complement the Canucks’ existing defensive corps. His cap hit was $3 million, and he might see a slight raise, but his steady presence on the blueline would be a significant boost.
  7. Justin Schultz (RD, 33) – $3,000,000: Schultz provides offensive capabilities from the backend and has experience in playoff situations. His cap hit was $3 million last season, and given his age, he is unlikely to see a substantial increase. His ability to quarterback the power play and contribute offensively would be valuable.
  8. Brett Pesce (RD, 29) – $4,025,000: Pesce is a reliable defenseman known for his defensive prowess and ability to play against top competition. His cap hit was $4.025 million, and he might command a moderate raise. His addition would bolster the Canucks’ penalty kill and overall defensive depth.
  9. Sean Walker (LD/RD, 29) – $2,650,000: Walker’s flexibility to play on either side and his steady defensive play make him a valuable target. His cap hit was $2.65 million, and he might seek a slight raise. His cost-effectiveness and reliability would help manage the Canucks’ cap space while improving their defense.
  10. Ilya Lyubushkin (RD, 30) – $2,750,000: Lyubushkin is a physical defenseman known for his shot-blocking and penalty-killing abilities. His cap hit was $2.75 million, and he is unlikely to see a substantial increase. His rugged style of play would bring a needed edge to the Canucks’ defensive unit.

The Canucks need to make smart, cost-effective decisions to address these defensive holes while managing their cap space effectively. The options listed provide a mix of experience, versatility, and reliability, ensuring that the team can maintain a competitive edge and support their aspirations for a deep playoff run. While the cap space situation is tight, with strategic signings and possibly negotiating team-friendly deals, the Canucks can fill these critical gaps and build a roster capable of competing for the Stanley Cup.

The Dakota Joshua Situation

Dakota Joshua emerged as an unsung hero last season, excelling in penalty killing, driving play at even strength, and forechecking. However, he is due for a raise, and the Canucks may struggle to retain him. If Joshua departs, replacing his unique skill set will be challenging. Players like Jujhar Khaira or Austin Watson, who offer physicality and penalty-killing ability, could be potential replacements.

Internal Options and Prospects to Alliviate the Salary Cap

As the Canucks navigate their cap constraints, internal options and prospects become increasingly important. Developing homegrown talent not only alleviates salary cap pressure but also builds a strong foundation for the future. Here are some key prospects to watch this offseason

  1. Linus Karlsson: Karlsson showed promise during limited playoff action last season. His potential to step up and secure a regular roster spot is a positive sign. Karlsson’s development will be crucial, especially if the Canucks are unable to make significant free-agent acquisitions due to cap constraints. His offensive instincts and versatility could provide the team with much-needed depth.
  2. Nils Aman: Nils is another prospect worth keeping an eye on. He has shown flashes of potential and, with further development, could become an everyday NHL player. His size, skating ability, and two-way play make him a valuable asset. The upcoming season will be pivotal for Aman to prove that he can consistently contribute at the NHL level.
  3. Arshdeep Bains: Bains had an impressive year with the Abbotsford Canucks, demonstrating his scoring ability and playmaking skills. Given his accomplishments in the AHL, it might be time to give Bains a long look at the NHL level. His offensive upside and energy could inject new life into the Canucks’ lineup and provide additional scoring depth.

Integrating prospects like Linus Karlsson, Nils Aman, and Arshdeep Bains into the roster can help alleviate salary cap pressures while adding youthful energy and talent to the team. These players represent the future of the Canucks and their development will be crucial for the team’s success. Balancing internal development with strategic free-agent signings will be key to building a competitive roster for the 2024-25 season

Other Minor League Prospects

The Canucks have a few prospects in the pipeline who could make an impact. Players like Danila Klimovich and Aidan McDonough will be closely watched during training camp. While relying heavily on unproven talent is risky, these prospects provide a potential solution to some of the team’s depth issues.

The Salary Cap Space Conundrum

Despite appearing to have decent salary cap space, the Canucks’ reality is more complex. The impending Hronek deal and other re-signings will consume much of the available space. Additionally, the desire to retain some UFAs further tightens the budget.

Management’s Strategic Moves

Patrick Allvin, Jim Rutherford, and the Canucks’ management team demonstrated their ability to navigate the salary cap challenges last offseason by securing players on team-friendly deals. This season will require a similar level of creativity and strategic thinking. The focus will likely be on finding undervalued players who can fill specific roles without commanding high salaries.

Why the Salary Cap is Going to Make the Offseason Interesting

The 2024-25 season presents a challenging yet intriguing landscape for the Vancouver Canucks. With limited salary cap space and several key roster holes, the team’s management will need to be both strategic and opportunistic. While the OEL buyout provides some immediate relief, it also imposes long-term constraints. The need for penalty-killing forwards, a reliable right-shot center, and defensive reinforcements are critical areas to address.

Fan patience and trust in the management’s ability to navigate these challenges will be crucial. The Canucks have the foundation of a competitive team, and with the right moves, they can solidify their roster for a successful season.

Go Canucks Go