Vancouver Canucks: Predicting which free agents will stay and go

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 28: Alexander Edler #23 of the Vancouver Canucks waves to fans during their NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Arena March 28, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 28: Alexander Edler #23 of the Vancouver Canucks waves to fans during their NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Arena March 28, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n /

The Vancouver Canucks will have some tough decisions on which players should stay and who should leave in free agency. Here’s how it could all play out.

The year has come to an end and once again, the Vancouver Canucks will be exercising their golf swings rather than shots this April.

This was a season of improvement from the dreadful performances of years past, but there is still a long way to go before we can expect to see this team in the playoffs again. They have many decisions when it comes to re-signing free agents.

How will it all play out? I’m going to predict the future of this year’s Canucks restricted and unrestricted free agents.

According to, the Canucks have 12 free agents among the players on the final roster.  Two of them are unrestricted, while the remainder will be restricted, so some rules for who qualifies for this list will be set.

For starters, Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko are all but certain to receive contract extensions, so they will not be included. Likewise, college signings Josh Teves and Brogan Rafferty will more than likely be re-signed and spend much of next season with the Utica Comets, so they will be exempted from this list as well. Only roster players whose futures are not entirely certain will be taken into account.

Sticking around

Alexander Edler – Having just finished the final year of his contract, Edler is a team legend and one of the only remaining members of the 2011 Stanley Cup finalist Canucks. He is now the franchise leader in goals and points by a defenceman.

This past season, he showed that despite his age (33), Edler can still mentor younger players and anchor a relatively weak defensive core. General manager Jim Benning has expressed interest in keeping Edler, so another couple years at a heavily-reduced rate are in the cards.

Josh Leivo – Leivo was acquired in December from the Toronto Maple Leafs with the goal of providing secondary scoring and reaching his full potential that was not being met with his previous team.

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By all accounts, Leivo did that by scoring 10 goals and 18 points in 49 games in Vancouver.

While he is unlikely to set the league on fire next season, Leivo has a decent amount of offensive upside and was found to be capable of producing throughout the lineup, especially with Elias Pettersson and Boeser. The Canucks have no reason to let him go this offseason, so an extension is in his future.

Luke Schenn – Schenn was initially seen as a low-risk return for fledgling defenceman Michael Del Zotto.

He was called up after Erik Gudbranson was traded at the deadline and proved to be everything that Gudbranson was in just 18 games, minus the defensive liabilities.

He was willing to fight and emerged as a mentor to the younger players. Benning would be wise to avoid a lengthy or pricey contract with Schenn, but a longer look at the big d-man is a must.

Ben Hutton – After an abysmal 2017-18 campaign, Hutton regained his poise at the beginning of the season. All the work that he had done during the offseason had paid off and his offense increased, as well as his defensive skill.

However, as the season, progressed, the wear and tear got to Hutton, and he began to regress once more. This isn’t a good sign for the future but should not be enough to disqualify him from another bridge contract. Hutton will stick around, if only on a one-year, “show me” deal.

Tyler Motte – Another player who likely play on a show-me deal next season is Motte, who quietly had a very solid 2018-19 season. My colleague Oliver Thompson recently covered Motte and argued that he carried low expectations into the season and performed his role of a serviceable plug admirably, without filling the net. This is exactly the type of player that Jim Benning loves to sign, making another year or two likely for the fourth-liner.

On the move

Nikolay Goldobin – Goldobin is highly offensively gifted but has been unable to elevate his game to the NHL level, often becoming a defensive liability instead. This season was his last chance to elevate his game as an NHL regular and gain the trust of Coach Travis Green.

He failed to do either, despite early-season chemistry with Pettersson, and ended up spending the final stretch of the season in the press box, likely spelling the end of the Goldobin experiment.

Derrick Pouliot – Anyone who has followed the Canucks this year knows that Pouliot spent 2018-19 playing himself out of a job. All season, he was prone to lapses in defence without the slightest offensive upside as compensation. The Canucks would be wise to let Pouliot go and hope that he finds his confidence elsewhere.

Markus Granlund – Canucks fans must accept the fact that the Granlund that scored 19 goals in 2016-17 is no more. His 22 points in 77 games were an improvement on last season, but not enough for him to find an offensive role on a rebuilding team. His defensive numbers were fairly insignificant, and his special teams were next to none. It’s difficult to see a place for Granlund on next year’s team, a less than ideal position to be in in a contract year.

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The Canucks have many changes to make this offseason, including shedding poor contracts and ineffective players. Let’s hope that this serves as a proper guide for Benning and the front office.