Vancouver Canucks: 2017 NHL free-agency preview

Alexander Radulov is a potential free agent the Canucks have the ability to pursue.
Alexander Radulov is a potential free agent the Canucks have the ability to pursue. /

The Vancouver Canucks cannot afford to make a mistake at this year’s NHL free agency.

The offseason has not been friendly to the Vancouver Canucks. They lost two top-six defencemen for nothing, with Nikita Tryamkin leaving for Russia and Luca Sbisa having to don the Vegas black-and-gold next season as part of the Expansion Draft.

The NHL free agency provides the Canucks with an opportunity to make up for those losses without giving up any extra assets.

With the departure of Sbisa and his $3.6 million payroll, Vancouver certainly has the capacity to make some noise in the open market where the highest bidder — more often than not — wins the services of a player.

So, with money on their side, how should the Canucks approach the 2017 NHL free agency?

A Little Age is Fine, but Term Isn’t

The Vancouver Canucks cannot afford a Loui Eriksson 2.0 at this time.

Don’t get me wrong here. Eriksson is a serviceable hockey player who should have a bounce-back year after a lacklustre season in 2016-17. It was fine that Jim Benning signed a guy who was 30 years old. Heck, it was fine that they paid the Swede $8 million last year in salary.

It’s the term.

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As the Canucks seek to add some players who can help develop the younger core in a winning environment, they should not be afraid to sign players who are on the wrong side of 30 as long as they do it in a short-term deal.

Nothing more than two years, please.

That would allow Vancouver to flip these veterans at the Trade Deadline for some draft picks or prospects, which is almost always the right thing to explore as a rebuilding team.

Be mindful of the younger players

Even if the money is there, the age is alright and the term is good, one should always remember that Vancouver already has numerous young players who are battling for roster spots. This group of players would include forwards like Jake Virtanen, Nikolay Goldobin, Brendan Gaunce, Reid Boucher and Griffen Molino — and, to a lesser extent, even Brock Boeser.

With Derek Dorsett and Jayson Megna already signed for the coming season, there is an overabundance of wingers and not enough space for them.

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There is absolutely no need to add multiple wingers just for the sake of having depth. If they do, the Canucks will have to be comfortable having him primarily as a healthy scratch.

On defence, however, there is a little more room. Though the Canucks have signed blueliners Philip Holm and long-time prospect Andrey Pedan for next year, the loss of Tryamkin and Sbisa has essentially wiped out an entire pairing of defencemen.

Olli Juolevi, Jordan Subban, and perhaps even Evan McEneny will push for spots come training camp. But if the Canucks want to amass a stronger back end to let the youth run free on the offensive side of things, they will want to sign a top-six defenceman in free agency — at the right contract length.

Finally, let us not forget. It is now over never for Jacob Markstrom to become a starting netminder in the NHL.

What do the Canucks have?

Cap Space

The Vancouver Canucks have a few Restricted Free Agents to sign, namely Gaunce, Bo Horvat, and Reid Boucher. But, as things stand today, the Canucks have about $19.5 million in cap space. The Canucks are likely working with at least $10 million on July 1st.


The Canucks absolutely need a second NHL netminder for Markstrom to work with. They should look for a defenseman to add to their blue-line depth. It is difficult, however, to see them adding a forward in free agency unless some other player transaction is in the works.

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Come July 1st, there may be a few big names in the open market, from Alexander Radulov and Kevin Shattenkirk to Martin Hanzal. It is highly unlikely that the Canucks end up signing any of these players, but Vancouver certainly has the power to acquire pieces via free agency.