Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning did well at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in his home arena. About the only controversy he caused was to trade a first-round pick, but otherwise, he might have picked up one of the best steals of the draft.
In this edition of Canucks news and rumors, I will share some of what I’ve been reading about the team. Although the draft has been completed, Benning certainly will be busy over the next few weeks solidifying his roster for the coming season.
Item One: Alex Edler Signs a Two-year Extension
Alex Edler said he wanted to stay in Vancouver with the Canucks, and he was good to his word. Although he likely could have gotten a larger payday with another team, he signed with his “hometown” Canucks. From what I read about Edler, it’s a family thing. He has developed deep roots in the community and is noted for his community service work. His signing for two seasons is a good move for both the Canucks and for Edler.
Vancouver Canucks’ Alexander Edler (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
The team’s number one defenseman signed a two-year, $12-million extension. I’m not certain what Edler’s thinking, but I’m wondering if this might be the 33-year-old Swede’s last contract. That said, because he’s a smart, experienced defenseman, I’m sure he could sign another contract when this two-year pact is completed. I’m guessing it will depend on how the Canucks are doing when his contract expires.
The shorter-term deal gives both Edler and the Canucks flexibility to make another decision in 2022 when young players like Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes, and perhaps even Russian draftee Vasili Podkolzin become the core of the team. As well, a two-year contract allows more payroll certainty than a longer term. I have to think that no veteran player would want to be in the situation Patrick Marleau found himself in recently where the Toronto Maple Leafs were desperate to dump him (and his contract).
The Canucks remain interested in remaking its defense, but any rebuild will now include Edler.
Item Two: Brock Boeser Rumored to Sign Shorter Deal
On June 19, Nick Kypreos tweeted that, although signing Brock Boeser was part of the Canucks’ immediate wish list, a negotiated contract might still be far away. Currently, the rumor is that the team won’t sign a max-term deal with him. Instead, Kypreos suggests that the two sides were seeking a contract close to four or five years at about $7 million per season.
Vancouver Canucks’ Elias Pettersson (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Given Edler’s short-term contract, it seems that Benning is laying out a philosophy of retaining as much payroll flexibility as possible, even with his star players. The salary cap has changed the nature of negotiating contracts; and, as Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock tersely noted:
“It’s a new landscape in the NHL. I’ve never seen the kind of things that take place now.” (from: ‘No first-round pick, but Leafs GM Dubas gets some crucial work done at draft’, The Toronto Sun – 6/22/19)
Item Three: Canucks Choose Vasili Podkolzin in Round 1
The Canucks first pick of 2019 NHL Entry Draft was young Russian forward Vasili Podkolzin. He’s only 17 years old and will remain under contract for two more seasons with St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Regardless of his contract status, he was a great draft pick for the team.
Related: Canucks’ Podkolzin: Drafting a Russian Bulldog
Podkolzin has a reputation as an in-your-face offensive player. He has experience both with under-18 Russian national teams and playing against much older men in the KHL. It was a bit of a surprise that he fell to the #10 spot where the Canucks could pick him. He was ranked as the number two European player on the NHL Central Scouting prospect list.
Vasily Podkolzin, Vancouver Canucks, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers
Podkolzin competes hard, is difficult to play against, and has the potential to become a high-scoring NHL player.
Item Four: Canucks Trade for J. T. Miller
The Canucks traded for salary-cap victim J. T. Miller, a 26-year-old forward from the Tampa Bay Lightning. To get Miller, the team traded goalie Marek Mazanec, a 2019 third-round pick, and a 2020 conditional first-round pick to the Lightning. The condition is that the Canucks make the playoffs. If they don’t, the 2020 first-rounder becomes a 2021 first-round pick.
Related: Canucks Acquire J.T. Miller
The Canucks should be happy to pick up Miller. He’s a 50-point player who will certainly become a top-six fixture for the Canucks. His versatility allows him to play all three forward positions. He also has a track record of being effective on the power-play, which is something the team sorely lacked last season.
During an interview after the trade, although Benning noted that Miller would play in the top six, he wasn’t sure where Miller would fit. But, listening to Benning carefully, he seems to be thinking that he would be the third partner on a Pettersson, Boeser, and Miller line.
J. T. Miller with the Tampa Bay Lightning (Credit: Chris Rutsch)
Unlike his time with the Lightning, Miller will see lots of ice time. The Canucks simply don’t have the skill the Lightning had, which makes Miller more valuable to his new team than he was with the Lightning. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a breakout season.
Miller’s a good player, and there’s no way the Lightning would have traded him if it wasn’t a salary-cap dump. Vancouver is simply fortunate to have the cap space to sign him. Moving Miller was the price the Lightning paid in their desperation to sign Brayden Point, who just completed his entry-level deal.
Related: NHL Rumors: Senators, Oilers, Canucks, More
Obviously, critics of the trade will think a first-round draft pick was too steep a price to pay for Miller. However, Miller helps the team immediately and might be a Canucks’ tipping point for making the playoffs.
Goalie Mazanec came to the team from the Nashville Predators in February, but he didn’t play for the team last season and I doubt he was in their plans for the future. The Canucks are deep at goal with Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko, Michael DiPietro, Michael Leighton, Richard Bachman, and drafted goalies Arturs Silovs (2019 draft) and Matthew Thiessen (2018 draft).