The Vancouver Canucks are stuck with Loui Eriksson for four more years. They won’t get 60-point production out of him, so how can head coach Travis Green find a way to make the most of the declining 33-year-old?
There are lots of great things Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has done to rebuild the struggling organization into a future Stanley Cup contender.
But signing veteran forward Loui Eriksson to a six-year, $36 million contract in the summer of 2016 is easily the worst move he’s made thus far. The contract seemed like a bad idea at the time, and sure enough, the Canucks got burned badly.
Now, Eriksson alone can’t be faulted for the mere 21 goals and 47 points in 115 games as a Canuck. Eriksson did miss 17 games in his first season here, and 32 last season. Before coming to Vancouver, Eriksson was mostly durable throughout his career, so let’s blame bad luck a little bit here.
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Secondly, the Canucks signed Eriksson with the assumption that he would slot in nicely with the Sedin twins and become a 30-goal scorer.
He just wasn’t a fit with the twins, and former head coach Willie Desjardins just couldn’t find the right linemates for Eriksson.
Now that the blame game is done with, let’s get back to the main point. It’s clear what the Canucks have in Eriksson: A solid two-way forward who probably won’t score more than 40 points if he plays an entire season.
The Canucks can’t buy out Eriksson just yet, as it would cost them a hefty $5.5 cap hit for each of the next three years, per CapFriendly.com.
Buying out the final year would cost them $3.5 million, so they can consider that down the road. And no, they’re not going to find any takers for Eriksson’s contract.
So the only option here is for head coach Travis Green to try and squeeze out as much production as he can from Eriksson. There’s no place for him on the top line, with Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and likely Sven Baertschi rounding that out. Hard to see how they’d slot Eriksson onto the second line, with younger, faster and more impact forwards on the roster.
Green may have to just use Eriksson as a pure shutdown forward on the third or fourth line. Give him the hefty penalty killing minutes, and maybe some occasional power play time. Try to make Eriksson the ultimate shutdown/special teams forward. Think of Stanley Cup hero Tom Wilson for the Washington Capitals, minus the overly-generous $31 million extension he just received.
At this stage of his career, Eriksson isn’t a 20-30 goal and 60-point forward, and the Canucks have to accept that. Another example of how the Canucks can use Eriksson?
Well, Ryan Callahan was instrumental in helping the Tampa Bay Lightning come within one game of reaching the Stanley Cup Final. He carries a $5.8 million price tag and had just 18 points, but he was used as a shutdown and penalty kill specialist in the postseason, helping Tampa shut down the top line of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins.
The Canucks can try and do that with Eriksson. Accept the fact that he’s overpaid and won’t return to his old scoring form. But Eriksson can still make an impact as a pure shutdown forward, so that’s where Green should use him most in 2018-19.