If the Vancouver Canucks plan to be active in free agency, they should pursue Nashville Predators forward Mikael Granlund.
The difficult salary cap situation may force Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning to say goodbye to multiple key contributors in the offseason.
Forwards Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette need new contracts. Goalie Jacob Markstrom is a pending UFA. So are blueliners Chris Tanev and Oscar Fantenberg. Trade deadline acquisition Tyler Toffoli, too. Troy Stecher is a pending RFA.
Other than that, nothing is complicated.
Add it all up, and you can see why Benning is going to have to make some difficult decisions. He’s likely losing at least one of his top four defencemen here, and very likely Toffoli. Losing Markstrom would be the ultimate blow, however.
Unless he can clear out a bad contract or two (Brian Burke suggested that the league could grant compliance buyouts if the 2019-20 season is canceled) Benning is likely going to have to head to the bargain bin to replace some of these losses in free agency.
One potential target for Benning this summer? Nashville Predators forward Mikael Granlund.
The 28-year-old has bounced back nicely, following a disappointing 2018-19 campaign split with the Preds and Minnesota Wild. Prior to the season suspension, Granlund had 17 goals and 30 points in 63 games.
Granlund has two 20-goal, 60-point seasons on his resume. He is three years removed from a career-best 26-goal and 69-point season. He was just four goals behind Filip Forsberg for the team lead in goals.
The veteran forward can play both centre and wing. He’d be a fine replacement for Toffoli — whom the Canucks probably can’t afford to retain — in the top-six. Granlund also has a nice defensive edge in his game, even earning some love in the 2016-17 Selke Trophy voting.
Because of his age and inconsistency, however, Granlund shouldn’t be too expensive in free agency. Rival GMs will be too busy trying to throw money at top free agent forwards such as Taylor Hall, Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug, if they hit free agency, will also take much of the spotlight away from Granlund and the next tier of UFAs.
So the Canucks might be able to land Granlund on a short-term contract (one to three years) worth around $3 to $3.5 million annually. He may also consider a one-year “prove it” contract to reset his value for free agency next year. If that’s an option to Granlund, Benning has to have his agent on speed dial.
This isn’t to say that Vancouver has to do whatever it takes to sign Granlund. But if they to replace some bodies in the top-nine, it doesn’t hurt for the Canucks to at least make a push for the versatile forward with a nice two-way game.