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Buyouts on the table as offseason work begins for Canucks' GM Jim Benning

May 23, 2021, 2:16 PM ET [538 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
With Travis Green back in the fold, now the real work begins for Jim Benning and the Vancouver Canucks.

As expected, Friday's season-ending media availability came just after the organization announced that it had come to terms on a new deal with Green.

The contract is for just two years, which means it's set to expire at the same time as Benning's current deal.

Benning said that talks had taken place over the entire season.

"We made Travis an offer at the start of the year," he said. "During the course of the year, we would go back and forth and talk about it. As it came down to the end of the year here, we dived into it a little bit harder. Travis, he had a decision to make, if he wanted to come back. We got it done here at the end, so I'm grateful for that."

If the choice to return was Green's the whole time, perhaps he wasn't as much of a 'lame duck' as he'd been made out to be. I guess it depends what kind of offers were on the table — and I wonder if he had originally been looking for more term and decided, in the end, that he was willing to settle for two years. Even in 12 months' time, he could be in a better negotiating position if the Canucks can put this crazy season behind them and get back on track.

That being said, Green did have options. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times reported Thursday that, in addition to Rick Tocchet, the Kraken were indeed interested in interviewing Green for their vacant head-coaching position if he didn't re-up with Vancouver.

Now that Green's in place, Benning said that they'd get to work on the rest of the coaching staff. Of course, all eyes are on goaltending guru Ian Clark. Nothing was explicitly said about his status.

Benning was more specific when discussing his goals for next season, and how to get there.

Making the playoffs is the objective — which will be just a little bit harder next season, with 32 teams vying for 16 slots instead of 31. And Benning made it clear that ownership has granted him the resources he requires to get there.

"Francesco and the Aquilini family want to win and care so much," Benning said in the prepared statement that kicked off the presser. "They have committed to providing us with the resources needed to be successful.

"Having Travis resigned as head coach was a critical step; Travis and his staff have contributed immensely to the development and the success of our team, and we're grateful they are committed and dedicated.

"Among our priorities this offseason is to re-sign Petey and Quinn. We also will be exploring trade options, free agency and buyouts, to help strengthen our group as a means to have more balanced scoring next season."

When he put buyouts into the spotlight like that, of course my first thought was Loui Eriksson. As we've discussed previously, it isn't much, but the club could get a small cap saving next season by buying out the last year of his deal. And don't get your hopes up if you saw a tweet over the last couple of days about Loui choosing to retire; that did not come from a legitimate source.

As far as other potential buyout candidates, don't forget that injured players can't be bought out without a player's permission. For me right now, that takes Micheal Ferland and probably Jay Beagle off the list.

Iain MacIntyre mentions Beagle, Antoine Roussel and Braden Holtby as possible buyout candidates.

Roussel has one year left on his deal with a $3 million cap hit, and is owed $1.9 million in real dollars. A buyout would cost the team $633,333 in each of the next two years. The club would save $1,266,666 in cap space next season, but be hit with an additional charge of $633,334 in 2022-23.

Physically, Roussel never seemed to get his wheels back after that major knee injury he suffered in March of 2019. And his points per game his three seasons with the Canucks have gone from 0.48 to 0.32 to 0.11.

I like Roussel's passion, and I think his edgy playing style is valuable to the Canucks — and something that younger players can learn from. But with Benning talking about how he wants more speed and more secondary scoring from his forward group, I can see how he might be legitimate buyout candidate.

As for Holtby, he has one year left with a cap hit of $4.3 million, but is owed $5.7 million in real dollars. After paying $3.8 million to buy Holtby out, the move would deliver a big cap saving of $3.8 million for next season, with a new charge of $1.9 million in 2022-23. If cap space is tight, this move could create meaningful breathing room for next season.

Jake Virtanen is another name that gets bandied about as a buyout candidate. Regarding his situation, Benning confirmed that the complainant in his sexual assault case has filed a police report, so there is a police investigation in progress as well as the independent investigation that was launched by the team. In addition, it was reported last week that the complainant has filed a civil lawsuit against Virtanen.

If the allegations are found to be true, it's possible that the Canucks could terminate his contract. But that doesn't necessarily mean that his cap hit would vanish. As one example where a cap hit remained, the NHLPA launched a grievance on behalf of Mike Richards after the Los Angeles Kings terminated his contract in 2015. His back-diving deal led to a five-year cap recapture penalty for the Kings, which ended in 2019-20. They're also on the hook until 2031-32 for termination fees totalling $10.5 million — apparently, the total amount of the settlement that the two sides ultimately agreed to.

As the final games wrapped up last week, another big talking point was that many Canucks players were unhappy, given everything they had been through this season, and that trade requests would be forthcoming.

Benning said Friday that no trade requests had been made. And Elliotte Friedman specifically reported Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada that J.T. Miller has no intention of requesting to be dealt.

And not to cause any alarm, but I noticed that Elias Pettersson posted from Los Angeles on his Instagram Stories on Saturday. Of course, that's the home base for his new agents at C.A.A.

Given his mid-season change of representation and his status as a restricted free agent who could potentially sign an offer sheet, it makes sense that he'd want to spend some time with Pat Brisson and J.P. Barry before flying home to Sweden for the summer.
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