Free agency is now a little less than a month away from opening up and there are quite a few prominent players set to hit the open market while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign. Vancouver has one of the better forwards in the RFA class and one of the better defenders among the unrestricted free agents. Here’s a closer look at their free agent situation.
Key Restricted Free Agents: F Brock Boeser – The 22-year-old had a nearly identical sophomore season compared to his rookie year. While some stagnation can be cause for concern, that’s not the case with Boeser. He has already established himself as a legitimate top line winger and will be looking to be paid accordingly this summer. Unlike the players at the top of the RFA class though, Boeser doesn’t have quite as much of a track record. The first year of his contract was burned with just nine games and between that and injuries, he doesn’t have two full NHL seasons of games under his belt. While that could make a short-term deal more palatable from Boeser’s perspective, it’s still expected that a long-term contract will get done.
D Ben Hutton – A year ago, it looked rather unlikely that Hutton would still be in Vancouver and even less likely that they’d be entertaining the idea of tendering him a $2.8MM qualifying offer. However, he had a much-improved 2018-19 season, working his way from being in and out of the lineup a fixture in Vancouver’s top four. While the presence of Quinn Hughes could ultimately cut into Hutton’s ice time next season, he should still be an important part of their back end for next season. The 26-year-old is a year away from UFA eligibility and is eligible for salary arbitration.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: D Alex Edler – Edler is near the top of the list in terms of left-shot defensemen available. Normally, this would bode well for his market value but by all accounts, he’d rather not make it to July 1st and would simply rather remain with the only NHL organization he’s ever known after being a third-rounder of the Canucks back in 2004. However, at this point, it appears that the hold-up is at least in part due to his preference to receive a no-move clause in his contract. While that may not seem like a big deal on the surface, we are just a couple of years away from the Seattle expansion draft and if he’s not interested in leaving Vancouver now, he likely wouldn’t be open to waiving no-move protection down the road.
D Luke Schenn – His acquisition in mid-January was largely for salary-matching purposes but Schenn wound up filling a useful role for Vancouver down the stretch after his recall from AHL Utica. He logged just shy of 15 minutes per night over 18 games with the Canucks and there is already talk that the team is interested in bringing him back for next season. Schenn made $800K in 2018-19 and it’s unlikely that it would cost much more than that to keep him in the fold considering he played in more AHL than NHL games this past season.
Projected Cap Space: Vancouver currently has just shy of $52.5MM committed for next season, per CapFriendly. While re-signing Boeser and Edler won’t be cheap, they’ll have some room to shop at the top of the free agent market if they so desire. However, knowing that Hughes and Elias Pettersson are two years away from what will likely be very pricey second contracts, expect GM Jim Benning to be somewhat tempered in his spending and will likely prefer to add some shorter-term deals this summer.
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