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Vancouver Canucks' free-agent targets, qualifying offers, development camp

June 25, 2019, 1:02 PM ET [387 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The draft is in the rear-view mirror, but the hockey news cycle is still on high.

On Tuesday, we have the 2 p.m. deadline for teams to issue qualifying offers to their restricted free agents. Also, the on-ice portion of the Canucks' development camp begins out at UBC.

The free-agency meeting period also continues.

On the free-agent front—as expected, the Canucks brass held an exploratory meeting with big Winnipeg Jets defenseman Tyler Myers on Sunday evening.

I know I'm not alone—this tweet nicely sums up my feelings on what the Canucks would be getting if they signed Myers for what he's rumoured to be looking for—something in the range of seven years at $7 million.

Yes, he has size at 6'8" and 229 pounds. Yes, he's a right shot and yes, he was rookie of the year in Buffalo. But his 11 goals and 48 points in his rookie season in 2009-10 are the most he ever scored and as Pete suggests in his tweet, Myers has mostly thrived in a support role on a team that had very good defensemen above him on the depth chart.

One other note—I hadn't realized that Myers is already 29. A seven-year deal would take him all the way to age 36.

If the Canucks are going to go big-game hunting among free-agent defensemen, I think I'm more comfortable with the idea of Jake Gardiner, who has mostly been a productive player in Toronto but has had a couple of really bad games at really bad times that seem to have sullied his reputation.

FYI, Gardiner is also nearly 29—his birthday is July 4. He's a lefty, where the Canucks have more organizational depth—and he missed 18 games near the end of last seasons with back spasms, before returning for the Leafs' one-round playoff run.

With that in mind, I'm not sure if it's good that he hasn't had surgery, or if that makes it more likely that this back may continue to be an issue?

Sportsnet 650's Rick Dhaliwal has also mentioned a couple of lower-profile defensemen that the Canucks are rumoured to be looking at:

• Jordie Benn is a gritty left-shot blueliner who hails from Victoria. I'm always surprised that he's actually Jamie Benn's *older* brother—he turns 32 in late July. Interestingly, Benn hit a career high with 22 points in Montreal last season and was a plus-15, while also delivering 128 blocked shots and 124 hits. Originally undrafted, Benn is coming off a three-year deal that he signed while he was still in Dallas, at a very affordable $1.1 million a season. I expect he'll be looking for a raise, but he'll come in at significantly lower money and term than Myers or Gardiner.

• Patrik Nemeth also started his career in Dallas—chosen in the second round in 2010. Now 27, he was claimed off waivers by Colorado at the beginning of the 2017-18 season—right around the same time the Canucks traded for Derrick Pouliot.

At 6'3" and 219 pounds, Nemeth is also a physical presence. He had 131 blocks and 137 hits for Colorado last season. He's also a lefty and he won't bring much offense—his best season to date was three goals and 15 points with the Avs in 2017-18. Nemeth has generally been a bottom-pairing guy. He averaged 16:29 per game last year.

Yes, Alex Edler has been re-signed, and Quinn Hughes will also play on the left side. So are the Canucks looking at either of these players as a possible replacement for Ben Hutton?

Word is, Hutton may not receive a qualifying offer on Tuesday.

Even more than the $2.8 million-a-season overpayment that Hutton's coming off in his last contract, his case in front of an arbitrator is strengthened by all the ice time he logged while Edler was injured last season—a career high of 22:21 per game. As Dhaliwal outlines above, if an arbitrator awarded Hutton more than $4.4 million per season, the Canucks would be free to walk away, making him an unrestricted free agent. But if the number came in just below that, they're required to accept the arbitrator's ruling.

Ben Kuzma has a good outline of the ice-time comparables that are scaring the Canucks:

Last year, the Canucks went down this road with Derrick Pouliot—essentially asking him to surrender his arbitration rights by leaving him unqualified, then signing him to a one-year deal. It remains to be seen whether they can do something similar with Hutton—or if they want to. As Kuzma points out, Ashton Sautner and Guillaume Brisebois are also both left-shot D who have been marinating in Utica and showed that they were capable of handling the NHL game during their brief call-ups last year.

As for the right side, we were led to believe that Luke Schenn would be locked up by now, but that's not the case.

Sounds like his late-season resurgence in Vancouver also caught the attention of other teams, and he's now looking for more money than the bargain deal that the Canucks are willing to offer.

According to Dhaliwal, Markus Granlund also may not receive a qualifying offer on Tuesday. The 26-year-old is also eligible for arbitration after making $1.475 million last season. He had 12 goals and 22 points last season, the second-most productive of his career. I like his versatility, but I can see how it can be argued that Travis Green essentially used him as a spare part, slotting him in all over the lineup when he didn't have a better option.

Players that will be qualified, according to Dhaliwal, include Nikolay Goldobin, Tyler Motte and—to my surprise—Reid Boucher. We had previously heard that Brendan Gaunce and Derrick Pouliot won't be coming back.

A couple of other quick notes before I sign off for today:

• New trade acquisition J.T. Miller made a good first impression when he was introduced to the Vancouver media via conference call on Monday.

• The full NHL schedule was released Tuesday morning, and the Canucks have also announced the theme nights that will be part of their 50th-anniversary celebrations.

I'll break this down in more details after the free-agency dust has settled, but you can take a look now.

• Finally, development camp will be going on at UBC for the next three days.

I'm heading out there this morning, so I hope to have more notes on the prospects for you as the week rolls on.

At a glance, I noticed two key names missing from the roster: newly-minted first-rounder Vasily Podkolzin and Harvard defenseman Jack Rathbone. Also disappointed to see that Jett Woo and trade-deadline acquisition Linus Karlsson won't be skating.

Before we get too panicky about Podkolzin's absence, I give you this:

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