With the end of June rapidly approaching and the Stanley Cup now residing in, of all places, Washington, the offseason has begun and it is time for the Vancouver Canucks to make decisions on all of their impending free agents. This list will take a look at those free agents, their potential future roles with the team, and whether it’s best to retain their services or release them to sign with another organization.
Restricted Free Agents—these players must receive a Qualifying Offer (100-110% of their current contract value for another year), or else be released into Unrestricted Free Agency. Players can accept this offer, or negotiate an entirely different contract with the team.
Baertschi had a difficult season, but he still put up more than 0.5 PPG over 53 games, further cementing himself as a top-six forward. Even if he’s not in the Canucks’ long-term plans, such players always hold value around the league, so there’s absolutely no reason not to lock Baertschi up, assuming his demands are reasonable.
KEEP and SIGN LONG-TERM
Stecher had a pretty good sophomore season, and he looks to be a long-term top-4 option for the Canucks. With the potentially-traded Chris Tanev and the questionable Erik Gudbranson the only right-side defenders competing with him on the roster, Stecher should be looking to land a lengthy contract. The Canucks should give it to him, and they can probably keep the value down thanks to a slow start last season.
KEEP and SIGN LONG-TERM
This could be an important contract for the Canucks. Virtanen seems like he’s on the verge of breaking out, but he doesn’t have the numbers to back up any serious contract demands quite yet. If the Canucks can sign him to a multi-year contract at a low rate, it could end up being a real bargain. At the very least, Virtanen has shown that he can contribute in the bottom-6, so there’s little risk to such a contract.
KEEP and SIGN LONG-TERM
This was a trying year for Granlund, who only put up 12 points in 53 games, but his strong season in 2016/17 suggests he may bounce back. If he does, he’ll make a solid trade chip for the Canucks in a year or two, and there is little reason to throw away such an asset. However, committing to Granlund long-term would probably be a mistake.
Pouliot didn’t light the world on fire as a Canuck, but he did show some offensive potential—something that is sorely lacking on the Vancouver blueline. He’s likely to be very willing to re-sign with a Travis Green-coached team, but probably won’t earn a contract any longer than two years.
Boucher didn’t look good in any of his NHL auditions this season, and the Utica Comets have a number of incoming winger prospects, including Jonathan Dahlen, Kole Lind, and Jonah Gadjovich, that will need playing time. The Canucks can afford to cut ties with Boucher.
With all those wingers heading to Utica, a veteran center is a necessity, and Chaput has done a decent job in that role in recent seasons. The Canucks should explore a few other options on the free agent market, but there’s nothing wrong with doing that and also retaining Chaput. Center depth is never a bad thing.
Cassels finally showed some pro hockey potential when he was pressed into top-line duties for the injury-and-callup-riddled Utica Comets. His numbers still aren’t all that impressive, but there’s once again reason to believe he could be an NHL fourth-line center, and that’s enough to justify another contract.
After playing a few games with the Canucks last year, Molino was a real letdown in Utica. With only 10 points in 46 AHL games, there are plenty of better players out there for Vancouver to stock their farm system with.
Cedarholm was pointless in 12 AHL games this year, but he had a decent season at the ECHL level with Kalamazoo. Cederholm might earn himself a contract with the Wings or Comets, but there’s zero reason to think the Canucks will re-sign him at this point.
Most fans were mystified when Mackenze Stewart was signed by the Canucks, and he’s done nothing in his pro career to justify that strange decision. Stewart will be lucky to land an ECHL contract, never mind an NHL deal.
Unrestricted Free Agents—as of July 1st, these players can sign with any organization they choose, as the “Unrestricted” title suggests.
Jokinen had a surprising resurgence after being acquired by Vancouver as a cap dump, and it likely earned him one last NHL contract. However, it will likely be with another organization. With several young forwards vying for more ice-time, Jokinen would just be taking up space.
Center depth is always valuable, and Dowd is certainly a depth center. However, there should be some options on the free agent market that offer more offensive potential than Dowd does, and the Canucks should probably pursue one of those options. Dowd is likely Europe-bound.
Archibald’s effort level seemed to wane as his NHL audition wore on, but that could be chalked up to a difficult adjustment to the big leagues. He’s still one of the best hitters in pro hockey, and a valuable veteran on the farm, so there’s no reason not to retain his services, unless he is seeking an opportunity elsewhere. Whether in Utica or banging and crashing on the fourth-line, Archibald is a useful guy to have around.
Michael DiPietro isn’t eligible for pro hockey until 2019/20, so the Canucks will need some goaltending depth on the farm. If Bachman is willing to stay, that’s great, but he is reportedly heading to Europe. Vancouver will likely need to look for a similar replacement.
KEEP (if possible)
Wiercioch turned out to be a solid addition to the Utica blueline, and played important minutes for them all season. If he’s willing to return to a similar role, he’s definitely worth keeping around as an organization depth defender.
Megna has definitely wore out his welcome in the Canucks organization and its fanbase, and after a dismal and injury-plagued season with the Comets, now is the perfect time to officially cut ties.
LaBate may be a solid Fortnite streamer, but he’s not showing much growth as a professional hockey player. There are others who can play a similar physical role to LaBate’s while carrying more potential, and he should be let go to make room for them.