Vancouver Canucks Free Agency: Vanek, Helm, and Boedker

Dec 3, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek (26) in the second period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 3, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek (26) in the second period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

The UFA negotiation period has officially opened and the Vancouver Canucks are not wasting any time getting work done.

The Vancouver Canucks will not be tampered with in their pursuit of the league’s top free agents. The club has reportedly made contact with five free agent forwards already, including B.C. native Andrew Ladd.

GM Jim Benning has already disclosed that he is planning to add a 20+ goal winger as well as a versatile two-way forward. His most recent comments also suggest that Milan Lucic and Steven Stamkos are also on their radar.

According to News 1130, the Canucks have made the much-anticipated move to engage in talks with right wing Loui Eriksson. He is a 30-goal scorer who had 63 points last season. The Sedins have played with Eriksson on multiple occasions as linemates for Team Sweden.

Andrew Ladd’s physical style and leadership will certainly perk Jim Benning’s interest. Ladd had 25 goals and 46 points this past season. He and Eriksson would fall under the “20+ goal winger” category, though Ladd would not be as stud a fit as Eriksson as the third Sedin.

The Other Names: Boedker & Helm

Mikkel Boedker and Darren Helm have also reportedly been reached by the Canucks. The two are both very versatile forwards who are capable of putting up a dozen goals a year. Boedker would be a fantastic top-six addition as a 40+ point producer who is still just 26 years old.

Though Helm isn’t as young and prolific a scorer, both he and Boedker share a common trait: speed, a two-way acumen, and versatility. If indeed names of Boedker’s calibre are being targeted to check the “two-way forward with versatility” box, I am genuinely surprised at how big Jim Benning is trying to go here.

Free Agency: SPEED is one of Six Strategies for July 1st

When referencing a versatile two-way player, Jim Benning, I thought, would target players of Mike Santorelli or Brad Richardson‘s tier. Instead of a bottom-six player of those qualities, it seems that Benning is going for a middle-six forward of those qualities.

That brings us to the question whether the Canucks have enough roster space to make this happen. Time will tell.

Jimbo’s Old Buffalo Ties

Remember when Jim Benning was still just a head scout in Buffalo, New York? It seems that the two days he spent in Buffalo for this year’s entry draft is bringing back some memories.

Thomas Vanek, the former Buffalo Sabre, was bought out by the Minnesota Wild earlier this week. His $6.5 million contract was too much for just 18 goals and 41 points as the 32-year-old starts his decline.

Why do we care about an old winger in decline? Well, don’t be surprised if the one who drafted Vanek way back in 2003 decides to sign him on July 1st. Jim Benning already did something similar with Ryan Miller, did he not?

Related: TOP 5 RW’s to Target on July 1st

Vanek is versatile as he can play both sides of center. His biggest downfall, however, is his lack of consistency coupled with his satisfactory skating ability. If the Canucks weren’t sold on Matthew Tkachuk because of the faults in his skating, they have no reason to like Vanek, who doesn’t even play half as physical as Tkachuk does.

But again, if Vanek takes a huge discount to play for the man who drafted him, there are reasons to believe that he could be Radim Vrbata 2.0 should all else fail for Jim Benning.

If Vanek is available at $4 million or under on a short-term contract, I would throw a pitch to sign the 6-foot-2, 218-pound forward who can tip a good few shots in front of the net.

For what it’s worth…

More from The Canuck Way

Getting Stamkos would be huge, but the asking price seems to be in eight digits per year. Nielsen wouldn’t be much of a fit as a center in Vancouver, but if Brandon Sutter moves to the wings and Nielsen lines up as the No. 3 center, that would also be adding a 20-goal scorer and a versatile two-way player as well.

The Canucks now have a projected $11 million in cap space with the buying out of Chris Higgins. With the new salary cap set at $73 million, that low figure could prove to be a big factor in deciding what teams land the biggest free agents, Stamkos, Lucic, and Eriksson, amongst many others.

As of Monday at noon, the Canucks have yet to qualify RFA Emerson Etem. He will become a UFA if the Canucks do not qualify him.

Next: Free Agency: Preparing for July 1st

Free agency officially kicks off on July 1st. The Canucks have until 2 P.M. PT to make qualifying offers to their restricted free agents.