The Vancouver Canucks' post-arbitration window has come and gone, and the team elected not to buy out the last year of Brandon Sutter's contract.
I wouldn't have been surprised if they had pulled the trigger, because the financial impact seemed to make sense with respect to the team's salary-cap situation for the upcoming season.
But I'm also not surprised that they didn't do it. As I said in the last blog, I think Sutter is valued quite highly — by players in the room and by Travis Green as well as by Jim Benning, who reiterated that point on Sunday.
Also on Saturday, we saw yet another member of the 2019-20 roster sign on with the Calgary Flames. This time, it was right winger, Josh Leivo, who inked a one-year deal worth $875,000.
After struggling to pin down a regular roster spot with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who drafted him in the third round back in 2011, Leivo settled nicely into the Canucks roster when he arrived in December of 2018. He had 10 goals and 18 points in 49 games in the 2018-19 season, and beat that with seven goals and 19 points in 36 games last season before he suffered that devastating kneecap injury against the Vegas Golden Knights just before Christmas.
According to Wes Gilbertson
of PostMedia, Leivo made a trip to Calgary so that the Flames' doctors could look over his knee before inking the deal. Obviously, they gave him a clean bill of health.
"I’m ready to go," he said. "I’ve felt great. I’ve obviously had second opinions. Everyone has looked at it, and everyone has said it’s good. It feels good. The leg is strong. That was the issue that I was scared of — if I wasn’t able to build up my muscle back. But I’m almost equal leg size again. And anyone who’s had a leg injury, they know it takes a while to get the actual muscle size back up.
"It’s been a slow journey, but very rewarding at the end. I’m just excited to get back going."
During the offseason, Jim Benning had mentioned that he'd been interested in bringing Leivo back if he was healthy. Once again, it sounds like he was rebuffed in favour of the Flames.
Of course, Leivo follows Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev and Louis Domingue to Calgary — and if the Canadian Division does end up happening when the new NHL season gets underway, there will be plenty of opportunity for Canucks fans to get a close-up look at old faces in their new uniforms.
After avoiding arbitration by settling on a new two-year deal for forward Andrew Mangiapane, Flames GM Brad Treliving also inked three depth players last week who weren't Canucks, before he signed Leivo.
He picked up yet another Swede when he signed Joakin Nordstrom, who spent the last two seasons in Boston. He scooped up Czech forward Dominik Simon, most recently of the Pittsburgh Penguins. And he signed defenseman Nikita Nesterov, who spent the last three seasons playing in the KHL.
All three deals were for the league minimum, which gives the Flames 21 roster players signed and $1 million in available cap space. Twenty-three-year-old defenseman Oliver Kylington remains an RFA, but he's coming off his entry-level contract and doesn't have arbitration rights, so he shouldn't be too expensive to sign.
Thinking about all that — I know the Flames wanted to do a bit of an overhaul after their embarrassing playoff ouster, but it seems incredible to me that the team had so many holes to fill with players from outside sources.
From the roster of their last playoff game, on August 20, they've lost:
G: Cam Talbot, Jon Gillies
D: T.J. Brodie, Derek Forbort, Erik Gustafsson, Michael Stone — also Travis Hamonic, who wasn't in the bubble
F: Tobias Rieder, Mark Jankowski, Austin Czarnik
All these signings suggest to me that, other than defenseman Juuso Valimaki, the Flames aren't expecting to see a big surge from their prospect pool in the new season.
As for the Canucks — yes, when healthy, Leivo was a useful middle-six two-way forward, who could play in all situations. But I don't really understand the desire to spend still *more* money, especially at wing, where the Canucks are already overloaded.
It sounds so strange so say, but with a week left before the calendar flips to November, we're now sliding into the dog days of the offseason, where there probably won't be much news other than updates on how the new season will come together. Judging from the news that came out of the GMs' virtual meeting on Friday, that's still very much a work in progress and once again, the league is going to take all the time it possibly can in order to be nimble and come up with a plan that best suits the environment when they are ready to get back on the ice.
The Canucks do still have to come to terms on new deals with a handful of minor-league RFAs — forward Justin Bailey and defensemen Guillaume Brisebois and Jalen Chatfield.
Brisebois and Chatfield are coming out of their entry-level contracts, and Bailey was signed last summer as a UFA at $750,000/$175,000. This year, the Canucks retained his rights by issuing his qualifying offer — a five percent raise to $787,500 at the NHL level.
Brisebois and Chatfield could both be in the mix for jobs with the big club this fall. Their qualifying offers are also still two-way and also with five percent raises off their base salary — in both their cases, to $735,000 at the NHL level.