Loui Eriksson’s tenure in Vancouver has been close to disastrous, but it has now reached a new low. In his third season and with 184 games with the Canucks under his belt, Eriksson has been made a healthy scratch for tonight’s home game against the New York Rangers, reports TSN’s Jason Brough. It is the first time in his Canucks career that Eriksson has been scratched.
To be fair, Eriksson had it coming. While a respected veteran and capable two-way forward, his 22 points through 69 games this season marks a career-low in per-game production, although a similar pace to his first two seasons in Vancouver. Making those disappointing offensive totals all the worse is how much Eriksson is paid to produce them. One of a series of terrible contract calls made in the 2016 off-season (see: Milan Lucic, Andrew Ladd, David Backes, Kyle Okposo, Danny DeKeyser), the Canucks signed Eriksson to a six-year, $36MM contract weeks before his 31st birthday. Based on that $6MM cap hit, Eriksson has been the sixth-worst cost-per-point value among forwards with 60+ games played this season. Between poor play and chronic injury issues, the Canucks have yet to see any semblance of value from the Eriksson deal through three seasons, yet they have three seasons left to go.
The decision by head coach Travis Green could be the first step toward a more permanent split between the team and player. Discussing the move, Green told the media “it’s not like I’m sitting here saying that Loui’s played terrible, but has he done enough where I can’t take him out of the lineup?” If the coaching staff and front office have lost trust in Eriksson’s ability to at least be a positive impact on the lineup, they may decide to do what it takes to move on. The Canucks are not in bad shape in regards to the salary cap, but have proven time and time again that they feel they are closer to being a contender than a rebuild and may want to dump a bad salary in hopes of adding to the roster this off-season. While Eriksson’s contract would be hard to move, Vancouver could sweeten the deal with a pick or prospect or take back another bad contract that they feel would be a better fit. The buyout route is likely not an option; the structure of Eriksson’s contract would do little to help alleviate costs. A buyout this summer would only save the team $444K in each of the next two seasons, at the cost of $556K against the cap for three years after the deal would have expired. As such, the Canucks may have to get creative to get rid of Eriksson. They have lived with his under-performing play to this point, but the healthy scratch has drawn a new line in the sand and both sides may want to end their current relationship.