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  • Kyle Welsford

Who Stays, Who Goes? 2023

My thoughts on what the Vancouver Canucks will do with all 14 Free Agents

 

Ethan Bear: (RFA)

Qualifying Offer - 2.2M


After being acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in late October, Ethan Bear played 61 games for the Canucks and registered 16 points. He played big minutes for the Canucks (18:32) and was one of the team’s more consistent defensemen all season long. Bear is a good skater which is a prized possession in a league that is only getting faster, but he is not physically inclined and turns the puck over a little too frequently.


Bear has played over 250 games in the NHL and despite two other organizations not viewing him as a long-term solution, the Canucks believe he is an “emerging player, thus, the likelihood of the Canucks letting Bear walk for nothing is next to zero.


Ethan Bear carries a qualifying offer of 2.2 million which will serve as the baseline for contract negotiations and if all else fails I could see a prove-it deal worth 1 x 2.2M. In all likelihood, the Canucks will try to extend Bear to a multi-year extension, a deal that could provide upside. Bear’s recent play doesn’t warrant a big pay raise from his qualifying offer, and I believe that the Canucks will try to sign Bear to a 2/3-year deal worth 2.5 million per season. This would provide Bear with a modest raise, and it would keep the commitment relatively low on the Canucks end.


 

Kyle Burroughs: (UFA)

Qualifying Offer - N/A


Kyle Burroughs was the perfect 7th defenseman for the Canucks last season. He played 48 games and averaged over 17 minutes a night, providing a physical presence that no other Canuck defensemen could match. I’m sure the Canucks would love to sign Burroughs to an extension; however, they are not the only team with a scarcity of right-handed defensemen and interest from other teams could price the Canucks out.


Burroughs is a hometown kid and has played the best hockey of his career under newly hired head coach Rick Tocchet, so it is entirely possible that Canucks are able to entice Burroughs to sign for cheap, but it is all going to come down to if other teams value his services.


It is also important to note that according to Rick Dhaliwal, there have been no contract talks between the Canucks and Kyle Burrough's agent, thus I think Burroughs signs elsewhere :(


 

Colin Delia: (UFA)

Qualifying Offer - N/A


Colin Delia played a total of 29 games last season, suiting up 20 times for the Vancouver Canucks (started 18). He secured 22 out of a possible 36 points in his starts and had a winning record, but despite that, I think Delia will be the odd man out in the crease. Delia will be 29 years old when next season rolls around, and the Canucks already have 4 goalies signed to pro contracts headed into next season.


Delia will face tough competition in the crease as Spencer Martin will get another shot to backup Thatcher Demko and the Canucks have two young and up-and-coming goalies in Arturs Silovs and Mikita Talapila who should share the crease down in Abbotsford.


Colin Delia filled in adequately when Demko went down, but the Canucks will look to get younger and more cost-effective between the pipes.


 

Travis Dermott: (RFA)

Qualifying Offer - 1.75M


Travis Dermott was acquired for a 2022 3rd-round pick (79 Overall) during last season’s trade deadline from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hindsight is always 20/20, but this is the first definitive trade loss that Patrik Alvin has made.


Dermott has only suited up for 28 games as a Canuck, notching 2 goals and 1 assist. While he ran into some bad luck on the injury front, plagued with post-concussion side effects for the vast majority of the 2022-2023 season, Dermott has been surpassed on the depth chart by the likes of Wolanin, Hirose, and Rathbone whether he is injured or not.


Carrying a qualifying offer of 1.75M, Dermott will hit Unrestricted Free Agency where every team in the NHL will be able to bid for his services.


Is it possible he comes back? Sure. Is it likely? No.


 

Justin Dowling: (UFA)

Qualifying Offer - N/A


Justin Dowling signed a two-year, two-way contract in the summer of 2021 and since then has primarily played in Abbotsford. There he notched 60 points in 71 games whilst adding 4 points in 8 playoff games. He did suit up for the Vancouver Canucks, playing in 22 games, recording 2 goals and 2 assists.


Justin Dowling is a good AHL player, not great, and at 32 years old the Canucks will most likely look for younger talent with higher upside.


 

Micheal Ferland: (UFA)

Qualifying Offer - N/A


Michael Ferland signed a 4-year contract in the summer of 2019 worth 14 million dollars (3.5 AAV). Due to multiple head injuries, Ferland has been on long-term injured reserve for the overwhelming majority of his contract, only playing in 14 games registering 1 goal and 4 assists.


Ferland has not played professional hockey since the 2019-2020 season and will never play in the NHL again. While his Canucks tenure didn’t go according to plan, the club and the player made the right decision to put his health first and I wish him nothing but the best in retirement.


 

Carson Focht: (RFA)

Qualifying Offer - 750K


Carson Focht was drafted in the 5th round of the 2019 NHL entry draft and showed some early promise. He jumped into the AHL at the age of 20 and put up a respectable 12 points in 28 games. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got as he struggled to find consistency over the next two seasons eventually being sent down to the ECHL.


Fifth-round picks only have a 15% chance to play 100 games in the NHL, so it is not surprising that Focht didn’t pan out.


The Canucks will not be re-signing him.


 

Akito Hirose: (RFA)

Qualifying Offer - 855K


The Canucks won the Akito Hirose sweepstakes as they signed the college free agent in late March. Hirose only suited up for 7 games for the Canucks recording 3 assists, and immediately impressed fans and coaches alike with his smooth skating and fantastic breakout passes.


Hirose is an RFA and carries a 10.2(c) player designation. This means that Hirose can only negotiate and sign a contract with the team that holds his signing rights (the Canucks). In addition, Hirose is not eligible to negotiate a contract with any other team nor can he file for arbitration. Essentially, the 10.2(c) designation restricts Hirose’s ability to explore offers from other teams and limits his negotiating options with the Canucks.


The Canucks have all the leverage with Hirose and with limited depth on the backend, it is a no-brainer to offer him an extension.


 

Nils Hoglander: (RFA)

Qualifying Offer - 832.5K


Nils Hoglander was drafted 40th overall in the 2019 NHL entry draft and made an immediate impact in his rookie year; however, his progression has not been linear as he has struggled to find consistency in his first three years in the NHL. He was relegated to the AHL for the better part of last season, playing in 45 AHL games, registering 32 points, and adding another 6 points in 6 playoff games.


Despite not solidifying himself as an everyday NHL player there is little doubt that Hoglander has NHL upside, and he was clearly the most dangerous player on the ice throughout the AHL playoffs. Known for speed, skill, and tenacity, Hoglander brings a dynamic presence to the ice. His offensive instincts and creativity make him a threat in the offensive zone while his tenacious playstyle allows him to be effective in puck battles and on the forecheck.


Hoglander’s contract extension is hard to gauge, but when you look at adjusted point share thru the first three seasons of his career, he matches up very closely with Mason Appleton, Tanner Jeannot, and Ryan Garbutt. Using these players as a template I think the Canucks will likely offer Hoglander a 2-year bridge deal worth 900k. The interesting aspect of the extension will be if he receives a one-way or two-way contract.


I think Hoglander has enough leverage to go for a one-way contract...


 

Noah Juulsen: (UFA)

Qualifying Offer - N/A


Noah Juulsen along with Juho Lammikko was acquired from the Florida Panthers in 2021 for Oli Juolevi. Throughout his Canucks tenure Juulsen has played 20 games in the NHL notching 2 points and has played 99 games in the AHL registering 36 points.


It’s no secret that the Canucks have a shortage of right-handed defensemen. Juulsen has filled in admirably when called up to the NHL and has played very solid for the Abbotsford Canucks. I am sure the Canucks would be keen to sign him to another 2-way contract, but he is entering the prime of his career, is a former first-round pick, and is an Unrestricted Free Agent. Other teams could swoop in and offer him the much more desired one-way contract.


I think the Canucks will try to re-sign Juulsen to a two-way contract and barring another team offering a one-way contract, Juulsen should be back in Abbotsford.


 

Brady Keeper: (UFA)

Qualifying Offer - N/A


Brady Keeper was signed as a free agent in the summer of 2021 and was set to compete for a bottom-six role. Unfortunately, he suffered a horrific leg injury during training camp in 2021 and missed the entire season.


He returned last season and suited up for 35 AHL games, notching 6 points and played in 2 games during Abbotsford’s playoff run, scoring 1 goal. While Brady Keeper is a right-handed defenseman, he will be 27 years old when the 2023-2024 starts and the Canucks should be looking to get younger, especially at the AHL level.


 

Vitali Kravstov: (RFA)

Qualifying Offer - 800K


Vitali Kravstov was acquired ahead of the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline from the New York Rangers in exchange for Will Lockwood and a 2026 7th-round pick. The 9th overall pick in the 2018 NHL entry draft was never able to live up to expectations at the NHL level as he only played 64 career NHL games tallying 12 points, two of which came during his 16-game stint with the Canucks.


On Monday, May 22nd Rick Dhaliwal reported that Kravstov had signed a 2-year deal in the KHL with Traktor Chelyabinsk. Kravstov is a Restricted Free Agent meaning the Canucks will need to qualify him to retain his NHL signing rights. I think the Canucks will make a qualifying offer in the hopes he can rebuild his value in Russia.


The likelihood he will ever come back is quite low, but the Canucks can keep his signing rights and will not need to worry about him taking up a roster spot, going on waivers, and taking up cap space.


The experiment may have failed, but the process was on point here...


 

John Stevens: (UFA)

Qualifying Offer - N/A


John Stevens is a veteran AHL center who has been with Abbotsford Canucks for the past 2 seasons, playing in 111 games and notching 62 points. Stevens adds some depth to an anemic center core and more importantly, adds some much-needed veteran leadership to a young AHL squad.


I have a feeling the Canucks will look elsewhere for Center depth, ultimately deciding to get younger with someone who has legit NHL upside, but I would not be surprised to see them bring him back for his aforementioned leadership.


 

Jett Woo: (RFA)

Qualifying Offer - 832.5K


Jett Woo was drafted 37th overall in the 2018 NHL entry draft and had high expectations coming out of the WHL. Unfortunately, he had a down draft plus-1 year with the Calgary Hitman followed by two lacklustre seasons in the AHL where he notched only 13 points in 70 games.

Entering the final year of his entry-level contract Woo finally showed some real potential, scoring 21 points in 68 games. He played a physical brand of hockey and was an important part of Abbotsford’s success down the stretch and into the playoffs.


Woo has absolutely earned a qualifying offer from the Canucks and will be back on the squad with a two-way contract. Don’t be surprised if we see Jett Woo play games in the NHL next season when the inevitable injuries occur to the Vancouver blue line.


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