Canucks: Adam Gaudette extension should be long-term

Adam Gaudette broke out this year supplying the Vancouver Canucks with three scoring lines. A long-term extension would solidify the team down the middle.

Adam Gaudette never quit on fulfilling his NHL dream with the Vancouver Canucks and this season he broke out in a major way. Management should seriously consider pouncing on a long-term deal with the 23-year-old while he is still affordable.

Gaudette gave everything he had this year. From the very beginning of training camp, all the way to the NHL pause, the puck-hungry center never took his foot off the gas. He was 100% full-steam ahead, 100% of the time, and fortunately for him, that’s exactly the spark the 50th season Canucks needed, even if they didn’t know it at first.

The “Offensive Experiment” with Brandon Sutter (if you want to call it that) has more than run its course in Vancouver and it’s time for the Canucks to move on and shake things up. Gaudette’s offensive abilities in the third line role heavily outweigh the defensive game of Sutter.

The two centres jockeying for position carry the in-game traits that the other lacks, but at this point in their careers placing money on Gaudette to sharpen his defensive game, rather than Sutter to start finding the back of the net, definitely sounds like the safer option. Gaudette’s dedication this season proved he’s got the desire to put in the work and be better each day.

The fifth-round pick of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft put up a respectable 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) in 59 games this season and at times provided the team with quality PP2 production. His hard-nosed style of play meshed well with multiple combinations of wingers and proved to be effective both offensively and defensively.

Jim Benning should strongly consider tacking on a long-term stipulation to the dollar amount in negotiations this offseason. Gaudette is still an RFA and there is value in the years he can get in this next deal. Being over half a point per game this season makes him a strong candidate for a hefty raise, but the lack of overall NHL experience works in the Canucks favour. The real question is, “How much do the Canucks believe in Gaudette?”

They don’t call him, “The Hockey Gaud” for nothing. This kid has figured it out offensively and the Canucks would be stupid not to at least explore a longer-term deal. Sutter’s final year can be spent helping mould Gaudette’s game away from the puck. And if Gaudette’s second stint somehow turns out to be a dumpster fire and he doesn’t sort it out defensively, he still carries enough offensive talent that if necessary, can be dangled as a sweetener on the trade market.

Of course, just like any other contract talk, the price has to make sense, but I think if Benning plays his cards right, he might be able to get Gaudette at a steal of a deal price. A ballpark of $2-2.75 million annually as long as the term exceeds three seasons. Gaudette has the opportunity to play under some pretty talented players entering the peaks.

Fast-forward two, maybe three years and the Canucks center depth will all be playing in their prime. The captain Bo Horvat likely near a point per game, Elias Pettersson putting up insane numbers, J.T. Miller still providing offence, and hopefully a mid-20 Gaudette with a mean 2-way game capable of 45-50 point seasons.

A long list of the last 10 Stanley Cup champions would indicate that such teams are built with a strong cast of center depth and locking Gaudette in for the long haul just might be how the Canucks take that next step towards NHL greatness.