What should Dakota Joshua's next Canucks contract look like?

What does resigning Dakota Joshua look like?

Vancouver Canucks v Dallas Stars
Vancouver Canucks v Dallas Stars / Sam Hodde/GettyImages
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Dakota Joshua, a former fifth-round pick (#128) by the Toronto Maple Leafs, honed his skills at The Ohio State University in the NCAA, where he showcased remarkable talent across 128 games, tallying an impressive 100 points (41 goals, 59 assists). Despite his notable production, the Maple Leafs traded him to the St. Louis Blues for future considerations on July 12, 2019. Transitioning to the Blues, Joshua primarily navigated between the AHL and NHL.

Throughout his time in the St. Louis organization, he amassed 71 AHL appearances, accumulating 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists), and participating in 41 NHL games, contributing 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists). It's worth highlighting that 8 out of his 9 points were earned in his final season, during which he played 30 games.

With a lack of substantial production, the St. Louis Blues allowed Dakota Joshua to enter free agency as an unrestricted free agent (UFA). Capitalizing on an opportunity to bolster their forward group with an emphasis on size, the Canucks secured the 25-year-old Joshua, signing him to a two-year contract worth 825k per season. In his first season with the Canucks Joshua set career-highs in games played, goals, assists, and points. He suited up for 79 games, scoring 11 goals and recording 12 assists for 23 points. Joshua quickly received a big boost of confidence from newly hired head coach Rick Tocchet.

"“I think there’s another level, really like him. Big kid. We need some big players who can play and he can do that. I told him you win some wall battles and you can pay the mortgage for a lot of years in the NHL.""

Rick Tocchet (January 30, 2023)

Amid escalated expectations for the 2023-2024 season, Joshua appeared primed to significantly elevate his game and vie for a larger role. However, his season began with some challenges. During various stages of the training camp, he found himself excluded from the main squad's line rushes in Canucks' practices. Coach Tocchet's blunt remarks shed light on the situation, asserting,

"Dakota needs to step up. I won't delve into other aspects, but he needs to earn a spot. The spot isn't there; there are players competing who are hungry for that opportunity."

Rick Tocchet (September 26, 2023)

Joshua secured a spot on the opening night roster and was among the Canucks' goal scorers in the season opener against the Oilers. However, following that initial success, he faced an eight-game drought without recording a point and was even a healthy scratch during a game against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 2. Since the scratch, Dakota Joshua has showcased the finest form of his career, notching an impressive 15 points across his last 26 games.

He notably emerged as a crucial component of the Canucks' third line and has been a mainstay on the penalty kill. With 16 points amassed in 35 games (nine goals, seven assists), Joshua currently is on pace to record 37 points over 82 games. As the 27-year-old approaches the end of his contract, he's set to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA). While the Canucks boast solid forward depth, Joshua's physicality and size present a valuable and comparatively rare asset that the team would benefit from retaining. This begs the question: What might a Dakota Joshua contract extension look like?

Players hitting their stride in the final year of their contract is a familiar story, and Dakota Joshua's trajectory with the Canucks echoes this trend. Averaging 28 points per 82 games during his Canucks tenure, Joshua's performance aligns with that of players like Pius Suter, Trent Frederic, and Jack McBain. Their extensions will serve as potential benchmarks for assessing Joshua's value moving forward.

Pius Suter secured a two-year contract with the Canucks, averaging $1.6 million AAV, at the same age as Dakota Joshua currently (27). Throughout his career, Suter had sustained an average of 33 points per 82 games, producing 17 goals. While Suter and Joshua fill different roles on the team, Suter's production has been greater than Joshua's, particularly in goal-scoring. The Canucks could use Suter's contract as a benchmark in evaluating Joshua's potential extension.

Drawing a closer parallel to Dakota Joshua's style is Arizona Coyotes forward Jack McBain. Standing at 6-foot-4, McBain boasts a production rate of 29 points per 82 games, a figure remarkably similar to Joshua's 28 points per 82. However, McBain holds a significant age difference, securing his two-year, $1.59M AAV contract extension at the younger age of 23. Their shared roles solidify McBain as a compelling comparison to Joshua: both contribute to the penalty kill and fulfill physical roles within their teams' bottom-six.

Trent Frederic, a 2016 first-round pick by the Boston Bruins, faced early challenges in his initial three NHL seasons (2018 - 2021). However, the 6'2" forward has recently hit his stride, averaging 30 points per 82 games over the last three seasons. Last summer, Frederic secured a 2-year contract extension, worth $2.3 million. Although Frederic is younger and possesses a more established track record compared to Joshua, he differs in that he doesn't contribute to the penalty kill. Nonetheless, his $2.3 million salary might set a ceiling for negotiations.

The Canucks face significant tasks this offseason, notably handling extensions for Elias Pettersson and Filip Hronek; however, Dakota Joshua's recent surge in performance, his adaptability on the penalty kill, and his valued 6-foot-3 frame underline the importance of prioritizing his re-signing for the team.

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Drawing insights from the three players mentioned and considering the projected rise in the salary cap for upcoming seasons, Dakota Joshua's contract extension will fall within the range of a 2-3 year deal, valuing between $1.75 million and $2 million annually. The pivotal question lies in whether the Canucks perceive Joshua's value at that price point and whether they can strategically maneuver to carve out sufficient cap space, preventing him from exploring the open market of free agency.