Why trading Loui Eriksson is not as crazy as you think

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 25: Loui Eriksson
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 25: Loui Eriksson /

The Canucks made a terrible mistake signing Loui Eriksson to his bloated contract. However, getting out of it may not be as difficult as you think.

Ah, Loui Eriksson. I do feel bad for the soft-spoken forward. He faces a lot of criticism since his play will never live up to that six-year, $36 million deal from 2016. Some of the criticism is warranted, but the scary thing I am noticing is people beginning to care less and less.

He is rarely interviewed and people have grown tired of Eriksson to the point where they pretend he’s not there. It’s not a pleasant feeling. Eriksson knows what people think about his contract and there isn’t a lot he can do to change that. But, the Vancouver Canucks can.

For a quick recap, Eriksson just finished the second year of his massive contract. To this point, the Canucks have paid him $16 million, according to CapFriendly. On July 1st, he is due for a $6 million bonus (his contract is heavily-laden with signing bonuses).

Those bonuses are where the problem lies. They guarantee money for Loui Eriksson and complicate a buyout. If Vancouver were to buy out Eriksson this year, the Canucks would carry a $5.5 million cap hit for the next three seasons, followed by a year at $3.5 million and four more years at $500 000.

The Canucks have a lot of cap space now, but tying up your cap with dead contracts will punish them later on when their up and coming players earn their next contract. So how will the Canucks find a way to remove this cumbersome contract? Trade him.

No, I’m not crazy

You might be wondering why anyone would want Eriksson. At his current cap hit, you could say that you are paying a bottom six forward first line money. I would say you are technically not correct. The Vancouver Canucks did that, but another NHL team does not have to.

First, if the Canucks wait until after July 1st to orchestrate a trade, $22 of $36 million will be off that contract. That leaves $14 million over four years, which isn’t too bad for a third line defensive winger. The pesky part of the deal is the cap hit itself. Not every team can absorb $6 million in space.

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This is where the Canucks can use their financial wealth to their advantage. The team can retain up to 50% of a contract in a trade. NHL teams are only allowed to retain on three players, but with Jannik Hansen‘s deal about to expire, the Canucks will have two open retention slots. As an aside, this gives the team flexibility to retain on another bad deal down the road.

Let’s say the Canucks retain $1.5 million in each of the remaining years of the Eriksson contract. The team trading for him can now get a useful shutdown winger with a $4.5 million cap hit, collecting an average of $2 million per season.

NHL clubs with internal caps such as the Florida Panthers, Arizona Coyotes and Ottawa Senators would love a deal like that. They get a player that makes a low amount of money and it creates the illusion they are paying for a good player, cap hit wise.

The Canucks get something back

Normally, when a team gets rid of a bad contract or is in desperate need to clear cap space, they have to throw something on top of the player. This can mean a prospect, draft pick or a talented piece that will become too expensive soon.

We’ve seen examples of this, such as the Dave Bolland trade that cost the Panthers Lawson Crouse or the Pavel Datsyuk trade that caused the Red Wings to fall back in the first round. However, since the Canucks can make the Eriksson contract more attractive, they could get a mid round draft pick in return.

That might not seem like much, but considering the Canucks have less than the allotted seven picks they receive every year, I’ll take it. Please, just please don’t trade for another Tyler Motte. We have enough of those wasted trades already.

Negotiations are not Jim Benning’s strong suit. However, there a couple pitfalls he can avoid. To sell Eriksson to another team, he should steer clear of his offensive ability. With 23 points this year and 24 points last season, this is not an area of strength. Eriksson is a streaky scorer. The Prince of Garbage Goals is not as effective anymore and won’t get better past the age of 32.

Next: Canucks should build their own model

If Benning can market Eriksson as a proficient defensive forward who can kill penalties and occasionally chip in some offence, then he should be fine. Draft picks can become available with the right tactics and a smart pitch. Trading Loui Eriksson is certainly doable. Jim Benning always tells us that he learns something new with each year. Hopefully he can put that to work.