During their first offseason with the Vancouver Canucks, Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford made a huge splash by signing the most sought-after Russian free agent, Andrei Kuzmenko. Kuzmenko, playing in the KHL, finished second in scoring, recording 53 points in 45 games. It was reported that every team in the league was interested in his services, yet the Canucks – under new management – won the Kuzmenko sweepstakes by promising him ample opportunity to play in the top-six and the power play.
Due to his free agent status, Kuzmenko could only sign a one-year contract, raising the stakes considerably for his “rookie” season. Despite this, Kuzmenko walked into camp with a big smile and that smile remained present throughout the season. He blew past all reasonable expectations, setting a new high for goals by a first-year Canucks player with 39, surpassing the 34 put up by Pavel Bure in 1991-1992. He totaled 74 points which were 4th best on the team and his 39 goals were tied for 1st. Kuzmenko was rewarded mid-way through the season with a 2-year contract extension worth 11M (5.5M AAV).
The Canucks kicked off the 2023-2024 season on a high note, witnessing stellar performances from most star players—except for Andrei Kuzmenko. His recent struggles show a marked regression, netting only 15 points across 25 games, with a mere 4 goals. He’s faced the bench twice as a healthy scratch, drawing notable criticism from Head Coach Rick Tocchet on multiple occasions.
While Kuzmenko undoubtedly possesses considerable skill, it’s becoming increasingly evident that his style of play might not align with Tocchet’s system. If this continues to be the case, it’s critical for the Canucks to consider exploring trade options.
According to Elliotte Friedman, that process is already in the preliminary stages.
It’s important to highlight that Kuzmenko’s contract includes a 12-team no-trade clause, necessitating approval from Kuzmenko and his representatives before any trade can proceed.
#3. A fresh start for all
Tyson Barrie has recently caused a stir in Nashville by asking to be traded, airing out his grievances to the media following being scratched.
This 32-year-old right-handed defenseman is currently in the final year of his contract, earning $4.5 million per season. He’s contributed 10 assists in 24 games while maintaining an average ice time of over 18 minutes per game.
The proposed trade isn’t solely about fulfilling the Canucks’ current needs; it represents a strategic maneuver offering both immediate gains and future adaptability. By freeing up $1 million in cap space, the team gains the flexibility for potential additions before the trade deadline. Acquiring a versatile defenseman like Barrie bolsters the defensive roster, adding a seasoned player capable of handling considerable ice time. Shedding Kuzmenko’s contract improves the Canucks’ capacity for player re-signings during the offseason while also securing a valuable third-round pick
For Nashville, they clear out a significant locker room distraction while gaining a skilled winger who seamlessly fits into their top 6 and enhances their Powerplay. While the third-round pick might seem like a hefty price, Nashville is set to make a total of 11 selections, boasting six opportunities in the first three rounds alone.