The year is 2016, and comic book culture is at its absolute peak. The idea of alternate timelines have never been more popular, and this mindset has definitely leaked into other forms of culture, Canucks hockey included.
Whether they realize it or not, Canuck fans have become obsessed with alternate timelines as the 2016 offseason rapidly approaches. Will the Canucks win any of the three draft lotteries? Will Jim Benning choose to pursue free agents or stick with the rebuild? Will the Canucks be able to cut some dead weight? Let us gaze into the future and look at both the darkest and brightest timelines for the Canucks offseason in 2016, all within the bounds of realism.
Draft 6th overall, draft someone off the board:
The lowest the Canucks can draft is 6th overall, so the darkest timeline begins there. However, the 6th overall pick isn’t necessarily that dark. Many great prospects may be available, including Jakob Chychrun, Matthew Tkachuk, Alex Nylander, or Olli Juolevi. However, the timeline gets real dark real quick when the Canucks go off the board with their pick, picking someone ranked in the late teens or early twenties. To make things even worse, it’s a two-way center.
Sign Lucic and Eriksson at overpayments with long-term
Due to Benning’s Boston history, the two free agents most tied to the Canucks in rumours are Milan Lucic and Loui Eriksson. Both are aging wingers, with Eriksson the more senior of the two but Lucic more likely to see his play deteriorate quickly. Signing either to a long-term overpayment could seriously hinder the team’s ability to re-sign their developing youngsters. Signing both could be devastating.
Buyout Burrows to fit them in
Many Canucks fans have come to terms with buying out Alex Burrows, but only because it helps to clear a roster spot for a young player and gives the team some salary flexibility. If instead of those worthy causes, Burrows is sacrificed for Lucic and Eriksson, it will be a sad day for Canuck fans.
Do not re-sign Hamhuis
The trade deadline day was a stressful one for the Canucks, and ultimately Dan Hamhuis stayed with the team. This was saved from being a total disaster because of the open secret that Hamhuis would be re-signing with the Canucks in the summer anyway. If the Canucks fail to sign Hamhuis, they really are letting an asset walk away for free.
I don’t have to say much about Matt Bartkowski. He had a dreadful season, and the amount of minutes he played were way too high. Of all the possible re-signings, only Radim Vrbata would frustrate Canuck fans more, and that is so unrealistic it doesn’t make it into any timeline.
I doubt that many Canuck fans hold any ill will towards Chris Higgins. However, it is definitely best if he is not on the NHL roster next year. If the Canucks are unable to dump him via trade with retention or buyout, but do get rid of a more useful veteran like Burrows, it will be a bitter pill for Canuck fans to swallow.
The physical role of Luca Sbisa has been bettered by both Nikita Tryamkin and Andrey Pedan. At this point, his presence on the roster is just holding them back, and tying up unnecessary salary. If there truly is a market for him, and the Canucks decide to keep him, it will be a foolish and unpopular choice.
Do not sign Thatcher Demko
Hurray, this potential disaster has been averted! Maybe the darkest timeline won’t come true!
The hype of signing Demko could be quickly squashed if the Canucks extend Ryan Miller, cutting off Demko’s access to NHL action in two years. Miller is not quite at retirement age, and while the Canucks may look to trade him this season, they could lock him up for a few more years of serviceable goaltending.
Fail to sign Larsen
This one might look minor, but the Canucks did trade a 5th round pick to Edmonton for the rights to Philip Larsen. Wasting another 5th rounder, like the Canucks did in the Brandon Prust trade, would be annoying. To make this even worse, that 5th rounder could end up riding shotgun with Connor McDavid for years.
Miss out on any further NCAA signings
The Canucks should be happy with Troy Stetcher, but many fans have their hearts set on more signings from the NCAA. Missing out on Brandon Tanev was a bummer, missing out on Drake Caggiula will be worse, especially if he goes to a rival team like Chicago.
Don’t wallow in the dark for too long, move on to the…
Draft 1st overall, draft Auston Matthews
The brightest timeline starts off with an obvious event; the Canucks win the first draft lottery and pick Auston Matthews. Matthews becomes the most-hyped prospect to ever enter the Canucks system, and transforms the franchise overnight.
Sign Lucic to hometown discount
The most controversial choice on this list, but directly related to the first item. While Lucic is not popular amongst Vancouver fans, he does have some enticing qualities, one of which is definitely his ability to add some serious muscle to a top-6. The idea of him riding shotgun with Matthews during Matthews’ first few years in the league is really appealing. If the Canucks can manage to sign Lucic to a hometown discount, especially in term, they could benefit greatly. Something at or under three years, and hopefully under $6 million per year.
Sign Hamhuis to hometown discount
Perhaps a more realistic candidate for a hometown discount is Dan Hamhuis, who has pretty much stated his desire to do exactly that. If the Canucks are able to keep Hamhuis’ term low, at around four years, that’s a win. If they can also keep his salary similarly low, at around $4 million per year, that is major win. It also sets up the next point
Trade Edler for a huge return, including NHL-ready d prospect
The Canucks can run next season with a top-4 defense of Hamhuis, Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton, and Nikita Tryamkin. This gives them the opportunity to dangle one of their biggest trade chips, Alex Edler. Edler’s no-trade clause complicates matters, but the Canucks should still be able to land a huge return for Edler, a top-2 D on a great contract. If that return contains an NHL-ready defense prospect who can eventually slide into Hamhuis’ spot, all the better.
Trade Hansen for huge return
Another controversial choice, but the logic is that trading Jannik Hansen is an obvious opportunity to sell high. Nobody expects Hansen to repeat his career season. If the Canucks can get a 1st round pick for Hansen, or a top prospect, they should do it. This opens up a roster space and gets the Canucks another pick in a deep draft.
Find a way to keep Burrows
The above trades could result in a consolation prize of sorts, keeping Alex Burrows. Burrows can fill a role on the 4th line for another year, and ideally retire as a career Canuck.
Not re-signing Bartkowski is definite addition by subtraction. At the very least, this will result in a happier season for the Canuck goalies. Canucks fans will cheer when he signs elsewhere in July.
Again, no ill will towards Higgins, but getting rid of him gives the Canucks some needed roster flexibility. Ideally, they can trade him with retention and gain a spot for someone like Brendan Gaunce or Alex Grenier.
Trade Sbisa for scraps
Pretty much the same description here as for Bartkowski. Tryamkin and Pedan can more ably fill Sbisa’s role, and getting rid of his frequent gaffes can only help our goaltenders’ confidence. Who cares what return they get, as long as they don’t have to retain salary.
Sign Thatcher Demko, give him starting role in Utica
Part one of this is already done, and part two is almost certainly happening. With Joe Cannata unlikely to re-sign, Demko just has to beat out Richard Bachman for the starter role, which shouldn’t be too difficult. Maybe the brightest timeline is already coming to pass!
Bring Larsen over
If Larsen is able to come over and step into an NHL role, it will be a nice moral victory for the Canucks as they reclaim an Edmonton prospect and make him work, similar to what the Canucks did to the Flames with Sven Baertschi. Bonus points if Larsen can help the powerplay.
Sign Drake Caggiula
The cherry on top for a perfect Canucks offseason, the team landing Brock Boeser’s UND linemate would leave the prospect pool looking perhaps the best it ever has. Canucks fans would have a reason to tune in not just to NHL games next year, but also to catch as many Utica Comets games as possible.