Friday October 1 - Calgary Flames 4 - Vancouver Canucks 1
Amidst excitement in the market on Friday over the reported signings of Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson, the Vancouver Canucks sent a 'B' squad to Calgary, where they fell 4-1 to an NHL-caliber Flames lineup on Friday night.
Jonah Gadjovich had the lone goal for the Canucks — a second-period tip-in of a shot from the side boards by Olli Juolevi.
The Flames' goals were scored by Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk and Brett Ritchie. Thatcher Demko played the full game for Vancouver, giving up three goals on 30 shots. Ritchie's goal was scored into the empty net with 49 seconds to go, with the teams at 5-on-5 while Calgary was on the power play.
That was the only special teams goal of the night. Vancouver went 0-for-4 with the man advantage, while Calgary finished 1-for-6.
And even though there were plenty of penalties, there were no cross-checking infractions called, despite the league's early-season crackdown. Many of the calls were for sloppy play, rather than anything physical — although Zack MacEwen and Erik Gudbranson had a quick scrap in the third period.
There was also a fracas just before Calgary's second goal, early in the second period. That came after Nikita Zadorov levelled Jason Dickinson near the face-off dot in front of Demko. While MacEwen tried to stick up for his teammate, the Flames took the puck to the net and scored.
At 6'6" and 235 pounds, Zadorov is a physical menace who likes to throw the body. Sometimes, that leaves him out of position, but his crushing physicality brings back memories of how hard Darryl Sutter's L.A. Kings were to play against when they were at their peak. Zadorov could get under the skin of the Canucks this year — although they won't see the Flames as often as you might think. After the repetitive schedule from last season, the return to league-wide play — and one extra team in the mix, Seattle — will create a lot more variety.
The Canucks and Flames will play each other just four times this season, with their first game of the year on Jan. 29, 2022.
Preseason has its detractors, but it is an important evaluation opportunity for coaches. And on Friday, after some rest and practice, I'm not sure any of the Canucks raised their stock.
Maybe Brad Hunt? He played top-pair minutes with Tyler Myers, logging nearly 20 minutes in all situations. They were even for the night while the Luke Schenn/Jack Rathbone pairing got roasted — a minus-3 for Rathbone and a minus-2 for Schenn.
Kyle Burroughs also seemed reasonably steady on the third pair with Olli Juolevi. He played 15:35, including 3:31 on the penalty kill, and was only on the ice for Calgary's empty-netter. But he was also the only Canucks player to get tagged with two giveaways on the night.
I'm wondering if Burroughs, a righty, is getting a look as a possible placeholder due to the ongoing uncertainty with Travis Hamonic? As I'm sure you heard on Friday, the Canucks announced the Hamonic is not opting out of the season but is still at home in Manitoba.
Iain MacIntyre offered some possible insight into why the team is being so tight-lipped about the situation.
I'm now framing this in my mind more like Jonathan Drouin's situation with the Canadiens last year. Basically, Hamonic will simply be away from the team — until he isn't.
The clock is certainly ticking toward the Canucks' regular-season opener in Edmonton on October 13, and it's not hard to imagine a scenario where the team won't have clarity on Hamonic's situation before that. It'll be interesting to see if Jim Benning decides to pluck someone off the waiver wire to shore up the depth on the right side — especially now that another depth right-sider, Brady Keeper, is sidelined with a broken leg.
According to CapFriendly
, the Canucks are now sitting at $82.9 million against the $81.5 million salary cap. That's with just 22 players on the roster, including Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, but without the LTIR-relief that they'll get from Micheal Ferland's $3.5 million cap hit.
That's an 11 forward/9 defenseman mix, so it's certainly not going to be the way the team ends up starting the season. I'll take it as more of a general suggestion that Benning does still have a little bit of cap flexibility before he has to set his opening night roster in just over a week.
As for Pettersson and Hughes, the new deals still haven't officially been announced by the team, but all the Insiders aligned on the details on Friday afternoon. And when Dan Murphy is talking about it on the TV broadcast, you know it's legit.
I don't believe we have the breakdowns yet on how the contracts are structured, in terms of signing bonuses and, in Pettersson's case, the value of the contract in the final year for qualifying-offer purposes.
The bare bones, as I'm sure you've seen:
Pettersson: three years at a cap hit of $7.35 million. Takes him to age 25, one year before unrestricted free agency.
While the value comes in, perhaps, a little lower than many people expected, the deal sets a new benchmark for a three-year bridge deal for a forwards, surpassing the $7 million cap hit that another Pat Brisson client, Mat Barzal, settled on with the New York Islanders last season.
Still, it buys the Canucks some short-term cap savings, and gives them three or four years to show Pettersson that the team is evolving to the winner that he says he wants to play on. If he's unhappy with the club's direction when this deal is up, he can simply accept his one-year qualifying offer and go straight to unrestricted free agency.
Hughes: six years at a cap hit of $7.85 million. That buys one year of unrestricted free agency, and actually lines his contract up to expire at the same time as Oliver Ekman-Larsson — the longest term on the team, one year more than Thatcher Demko and Conor Garland.
While he comes in below the second contracts signed this summer by Cale Makar and Miro Heiskanen, it's still a tidy ticket for Hughes. And the six-year term should put those 'trade to New Jersey' rumours to rest for awhile, at least.
While there was always talk about exploring different options, it's interesting that both contracts came in at the exact lengths that had been rumoured all summer. And when all was said and done, the general feeling seemed to be that the Canucks came out relatively well in the negotiations.
But don't forget — the reason why the values came in a bit lower than they might have is because the Canucks didn't have the cap space to go longer and pay more. There would have been more sticker shock if the pair had both signed eight-year deals at bigger money.
I'm glad the deals are done. But we'll see, when Petey is up in three years, whether this summer's strategizing ends up causing the Canucks worse pain down the road.
Up next, the Canucks host the Winnipeg Jets for a 4 p.m. game on Sunday at Rogers Arena — their first home game with fans since March of 2020. Because the arena is still required to operate at 50% of capacity, tickets for the game are being made available to season-ticket holders only. The rest of us can watch on Sportsnet.