Canucks face stiff competition from Leafs for key pending free agent

The Canucks understandably want Dakota Joshua back, but the Leafs are reportedly among a number of other teams interested in signing the breakout winger.
Vancouver Canucks v Edmonton Oilers - Game Six
Vancouver Canucks v Edmonton Oilers - Game Six / Codie McLachlan/GettyImages

We are now just over two weeks away from the official start to NHL free agency on July 1, and the Vancouver Canucks have plenty of difficult decisions looming. That's what happens when you have 10 unrestricted and two restricted pending free agents to consider, and not enough money to please everyone.

Arguably among the more valuable of the pending free agents for the Canucks to consider, is Dakota Joshua. He's one of the younger ones at 28 years old, and will also be one of the cheaper players to sign - at least in theory.

The reason we say theoretically cheaper, is because Joshua is reportedly going to be in high demand. And much to the chagrin of Canucks fans, one of the teams apparently interested in the forward is none other than their Canadian rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Anyone but the Leafs!

During Thursday's Donnie and Dhali - The Team show on CHEK, Rick Dhaliwal said he'd heard that at least 10 teams are interested in Joshua. And among those aiming to make a move for him is the Leafs, who originally drafted him but subsequently traded his rights to the St. Louis Blues.

Now this isn't the first time we've heard about the Leafs being connected to their 2014 fifth round draft pick. However, it sounds like we're further along from when The Athletic's James Mirtle previously said Toronto's NHL team might be open to coming after him.

You can certainly appreciate the interest in Joshua, especially with him coming off the best season of his career in the NHL. Among other things, he set single-season highs of 18 goals, 14 assists, 32 total points, a +19 rating and 14:23 of average ice time per contest.

In addition, the Dearbon, Michigan native proved his toughness and physicality. He led the Canucks in hits during both the regular season and playoffs, while also helping their penalty kill unit improve from dead-last a season earlier, to 17th in respect of efficiency.

How far can the Canucks push it financially?

Joshua has made it quite clear he loves Vancouver and would like to return next season. However, as we've previously written, there is the challenge of how much he wants versus how much the team want to/can afford to pay him.

Joshua will undoubtedly -- and deservedly -- receive a significant increase on this season's salary of $825,000. However, initial talks have not gone well with the Canucks, with the player looking for around $3 million per season on a long-term deal but the team thinking closer to $2 million a year at this stage.

Next. Elias Lindholm isn't worth what he thinks he is to Canucks. Elias Lindholm isn't worth what he thinks he is to Canucks. dark

We would argue the Canucks need to find a way to get closer to the $3 million per season mark, as Joshua would still work out as better value for money than some of their other pending free agents. Ultimately though, there has to be the real fear that they will get priced out by other teams offering more money, including those damn Leafs.

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