Justin Bailey re-signs, Sven Baertschi's ready to compete for a roster spot
The Vancouver Canucks brought another depth player back into the fold, announcing on Thursday that they had signed Justin Bailey to a one-year, two-way contract.
The 25-year-old right winger came in a little above the league minimum, at $750,000 at the NHL level and $225,000 for the AHL. That matches his NHL salary from last season, where he was up with the Canucks for a total of nine regular-season games and dressed for two of them. His AHL salary increases from $165,000 last season.
Though Bailey played fewer NHL games last season than at any other time in his pro career, he was a standout for the Utica Comets, finishing second in goals with 28 and third in points with 47, in 53 games played. He was also with the Canucks in the playoff bubble — and as a right-winger with size at 6'4" and 214 pounds, he could be a useful figure on Vancouver's taxi squad if and when the season gets underway.
All indications are that the league and the players' association have agreed on the fundamental details of the season. The hang-up now is getting sign-off from all the Canadian health authorities, at a time when restrictions are increasing in many areas.
There was talk on Thursday that, if an agreement can't be reached, the NHL's seven Canadian clubs, including the Canucks, might have to follow the path of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Toronto Raptors and head stateside for the season. But it seems like the preferred alternative is to keep the idea of the Canadian Division alive if at all possible — even if that means using hubs again, at least to start.
As I mentioned in the last blog, Edmonton and Toronto appear to be the most likely options for North of the border — no surprise, really, given that they now have experience at this sort of thing.
Of course, the Edmonton bubble has proven not to be quite so airtight for the players and staff at the World Junior Championship.
Quarantine ended Friday, with the announcement that eight players from Germany and two staff members from Sweden had delivered positive tests.
Sweden also had one staff member sent home earlier this week for breaking quarantine rules.
While we had previously heard that anyone who tested positive would be disqualified from participating in the tournament, it seems like there may now be some wiggle room.
So far, the IIHF has said that the German team is required to quarantine until Dec. 24 and Sweden is required to quarantine until Dec. 21.
Practices were set to begin for all teams on Friday. Seven members of Team Sweden are permitted to practice, because they already have antibodies.
That list includes Canucks prospect Arvid Costmar and the man he's likely battling with for minutes down the middle, Theodor Niederbach.
Pre-tournament games are set to begin on Sunday — and will be televised on the TSN network. With Germany and Sweden unable to ice teams, the schedule is currently being revised.
Back in Vancouver, the Canucks are preparing as if there's going to be a season, with home games.
The ice is back in at Rogers Arena and a small group is skating.
Sounds like we've got another player on his way back — I highly doubt Adam Gaudette's wife is making the trip without him.
I wonder if Nate Schmidt will have his new fiancee with him when he arrives in Vancouver? Good Minnesota boy that he is, he posted some very rustic photos on Instagram on Thursday to announce his engagement to his longtime girlfriend and college sweetheart.
Also — if you missed it. Ben Kuzma spoke with Sven Baertschi a few days ago. He said he has every intention of coming to camp and trying to fight for a job.
With the most obvious offensive opening on the team's roster being on the right side, Baertschi reminds us that he did spend some time in that position while Willie Desjardins was behind the Vancouver bench. That spot would also happen to reunite him with Bo Horvat — who he had arguably the best chemistry with during his time as a Canuck.
“At times, back when Willie was there, I played right wing, but it’s been long time,” admitted Baertschi, who had 46 points (13-33) in 43 AHL games last season before COVID-19 cancelled the season in March. “It’s obviously different. You get so used to that side, but if that is being asked of me I would have time at camp to work on it.
“The game does play a little bit different on the right side. The part I do like about it offensively is that it opens up more options.”
Though the 28-year-old couldn't crack Travis Green's opening lineup last season, the two do have a history, going back to their WHL days with the Portland Winterhawks.
“His expectations never really change, even going back to junior with him in Portland,” said Baertschi. “It’s always about the same things — a fast-paced game and being hard to play against — and being reliable defensively and creating some offence.
“The biggest thing he says to me is that you have to play with confidence in your abilities and make the plays when they’re there.”
Baertschi also told Kuzma why he chose to opt out of the summer return to play, after going through the initial two-week quarantine and thinking about how much he'd miss his wife and young son, as well as dealing with the uncertainties surrounding the virus.
“I pretty much stared at the wall and thought about it every single day,” he said. “What’s the right thing for me, personally, and for the family to keep them safe? At the time, there were so many unknown (COVID-19) things and we know so much more now.
“I was amazed how well the NHL handled the whole thing because there were no cases and that was huge. And the team played great and was fun to watch."