Vancouver Canucks: Why the AHL benefits Sven Baertschi

Sven Baertschi, Vancouver Canucks #47 (Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Sven Baertschi, Vancouver Canucks #47 (Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks waived forward Sven Baertschi. The Swiss forward was forced out in Vancouver’s roster crunch ahead of opening night.

Sven Baertschi came to the Vancouver Canucks in a trade with the Calgary flames where general manager Jim Benning only gave up a second-round pick. In a move which not long ago was heralded as one of Benning’s finest, the former Flame finds himself without an NHL job.

The winger could not have been sent to the AHL without clearing waivers. On Tuesday morning, it was confirmed that he had indeed cleared. With that, the Canucks can shift him between Utica and Vancouver.

From an organizational standpoint, the Canucks get some benefits by sending him to the Comets. By going to the AHL, Vancouver will get a little over $1 million in cap relief. With that and the clearing of Nikolay Goldobin and Alex Biega, it allows Adam Gaudette on the team and for Antoine Roussel to return when healthy.

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Baertschi will be making his first trip to the AHL as a member of the Vancouver Canucks organization and will be one of the best players in Utica, maybe even in the league.

In the past few seasons, Baertschi has been maligned with injuries, so much so that he only got into 26 games in 2018-19. It was a concussion and post-concussion symptoms which plagued him through last year and forced him away from the game for so long.

He was very good in his 26 games though, putting up 18 points and being one of the most beneficial players on the ice. However, he has never played a full 82 game season — so the likelihood that he could handle an 82+ game season from the beginning is slim.

The NHL is a very tough league to compete in. The skill has taken over the game, but the physicalness persists; meaning that many players, including Baertshi, can be caught with their head down every once in a while, only to be blown away from an injury delivering hit.

While on the surface it looks bad for this Swiss man to go down a level, he may benefit from it in a few different ways.

The AHL, while similar to the NHL is played at a slower pace, which allows players to use their smarts more than they may be abler to in the NHL. Because Baertschi is a knowledgable hockey player, he will have more time and space in the minors which will lead to fewer injuries. If he has time to position himself correctly, he can be prepared for the inevitable physical impact.

Starting the season in the minors is a good thing because he will be able to stay healthy and join the Canucks roster when he is more useful. If Baertschi plays the first half of the season with Utica and stays healthy, he will come up to Vancouver in a much better position than if he were to have started in the NHL. Of course, it would be best to see him play a full 82 games and playoffs but given his career history, that is unlikely.

Another aspect which will aid Baertschi is the re-invigoration he will surely get putting on the Comets’ jersey. No player wants to be in the AHL, they are all in pursuit of the Stanley Cup, which is awarded in the NHL. Being a career NHLer, Baertschi won’t take the demotion lightly. I am 100 percent sure that his speed, effort and skills will all be shown to a greater extent in the AHL.

One thing to remember is that Baertschi will likely be on the Canucks at some point this season. Injuries will happen, they always do, it’s Vancouver. With a player like Baertschi at call up disposal, the Canucks will be calling up a quality player rather than a replacement-level AHL’er.

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Baertschi on the Utica Comets benefits three different parties. The Canucks get $1.075 million in cap relief, allowing them more roster flexibility. The Comets get a skilled NHL player who will be a leader both on and off the ice. And for Baertschi, he gets a bit of a reset on his career and can learn parts of his game, as well as himself, that he didn’t know before.