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Canucks' Jim Rutherford talks Boeser contract and the art of the NHL deal

May 17, 2022, 2:31 PM ET [334 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Vancouver Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford laid out his club's offseason game plan in some detail this week, when he sat down for a conversation with Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli and Jason Gregor on the DFO Rundown podcast, which dropped Monday.

You can listen to the full conversation here. It's about 20 minutes, near the end of the podcast.

The first thing that jumped out at me — which I've noticed each time I hear Rutherford speak — is that he's not afraid to give hard-and-fast answers. He's willing to answer a question with a yes or no, then provide an explanation with more specifics than we typically heard from the prior regime.

Rutherford reiterated that his game plan for this summer is to try to shore up the roster — preferably with more players who are 26 or under. He specifically mentioned right defense as a position where the organization doesn't have any prospects coming — and centre.

That seems counterintuitive, given that centre depth is currently an organizational strength. But he was talking about that next wave of talent, and how there's nothing currently in the pipeline.

When asked about a possible contract extension for J.T. Miller this summer, he simply said that Patrik Allvin and Emilie Castonguay handle contracts, and that he believes there have been some preliminary conversations with Miller's agent.

Of course, Bo Horvat is also eligible to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2022-23 season, just like Miller. His name did not come up in the conversation.

But Brock Boeser's did, and that was an interesting segment. While acknowledging the personal challenges that Boeser went through this year while dealing with his father's health issues, Rutherford reminded us that the sniper is just 25 years old, and still managed to score 23 goals this year under trying circumstances.

Asked about Boeser's contract, Rutherford sounded like a shorter-term option is probably the most likely outcome. He said that the organization is in talks with agent Ben Hankinson, and that if they do a shorter deal now, Boeser would still be young enough to sign a long-term deal after that.

He also bluntly stated that if the two sides don't reach an agreement before the qualifying offer deadline, the Canucks will have no problem issuing Boeser's qualifying offer of $7.5 million. According to Rutherford, the organization has the cap space to handle that comfortably for next season, and Boeser would still be under team control at the end of the year.

He cited Patrik Laine as the illustration of this strategy. After just 21 points in 45 games in Columbus last season, Laine accepted his one-year qualifying offer of $7.5 million. He came back with a better year — 56 points in 56 games. Now a 24-year-old restricted free agent with arbitration rights, it's believed that he and the Blue Jackets are looking to hammer out a long-term deal.

"I don't think it should be an issue, you know?" Laine said at the end of the season. "They have expressed they want me here. I've said the same thing. So, you know, the feeling is mutual. Just figure out the term and the money and all that, and I think we should be fine."

Boeser will also be eligible to file for arbitration this summer. Rutherford did not address that possibility — and given how comfortable he sounded when talking about Boeser's qualifying offer, I got the impression that he didn't think it would be an issue.

Boeser is near the top of the salary range of RFAs with arbitration rights this summer. But his 46 points do not compare favorably to his closest comparables: Laine, Matthew Tkachuk ($9 million Q.O., 104 points), Pierre-Luc Dubois ($6.65 million Q.O., 60 points) and Kevin Fiala ($5.1 million Q.O., 85 points).

Boeser lines up closer to Dylan Strome, who is also 25 and had 48 points with Chicago this year. His qualifying offer is $3.6 million. So, at this junction, arbitration is probably not an appealing option for the Boeser camp.

Another interesting subject: sandpaper. When asked if he thought the Canucks have enough grit in their current lineup, Rutherford bluntly answered, "No," and acknowledged that the playing style in the Western Conference demands a somewhat 'heavier' approach than what he's used to from all his years out East.

"It's a different game in the West," he said. "We have to get some guys — not a lot of guys — but a few guys that are a little bit heavier, to play with some sandpaper."

It's an area where the Canucks were probably weaker than originally expected this season, after losing both Zack MacEwen and Jonah Gadjovich on waivers at the beginning of the year.

MacEwen finished ninth in the NHL with 110 penalty minutes this season. In 75 games, he had nine points and 12 major penalties with the Philadelphia Flyers. That tied him for fourth in the league, with Minnesota's Brandon Duhaime, and earned him the Flyers' Gene Hart Memorial Award, voted by members of the Flyers fan club and given to the player who demonstrated the most "Heart" during the season.

Gadjovich only got into 43 games, but still managed to put up 74 penalty minutes. He had 10 majors to go along with his three points with the San Jose Sharks.

Of course, those numbers underscore how both MacEwen and Gadjovich don't bring much to the table beyond their big bodies and their toughness. My sense is that Rutherford will be looking for more multi-dimensional players. After all, there's only so much cap space to go around — and a finite number of roster spots, as well.

Which brings us to trades. Rutherford, of course, has a reputation for always being willing to make a deal.

During the podcast, he underscored that, as president of hockey operations, it's important for him to give his staff the autonomy to do their jobs. So I'm not sure he'll be working the phones anymore.

But I was interested to hear his answer when asked about some of his favorite trades.

The first one he mentioned was the deal that brought Justin Williams to Carolina in January of 2004. He mentioned that he'd pounced on an opportunity, where the Philadelphia Flyers were desperate to make a deal to acquire a defenseman due to injuries on their blue line, and acquired Danny Markov from the Hurricanes.

This trade came before the introduction of the salary cap. Nevertheless, Rutherford said he felt good about being able to swap the 27-year-old Markov for the younger Williams, who was just 22 at the time.

We don't see hockey trades like this very often anymore. But I can understand why Rutherford was pleased with this piece of work.
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