The Vancouver Canucks begin training camp on Friday ahead of a big season with big expectations. Their young core led by Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Brock Boeser is hoping to turn things around push the Canucks into a playoff spot in the Pacific Division. There’s only one thing wrong with that picture—Boeser still doesn’t have a contract. The 22-year old won’t be with the club on Friday without one, and Rick Dhaliwal of Sportsnet reports that the two sides are still not close to a deal, with a big salary gap even on a short-term deal.
Boeser, who has scored 59 goals through the first 140 games of his career, is absolutely paramount to the Canucks’ chances this season. Though the team has added talent like J.T. Miller, Micheal Ferland and Tyler Myers, no one can match Boeser’s pure goal-scoring ability and perfect fit with Pettersson on the top line. His 39 even-strength goals over the last two seasons puts him ahead of other wingers like Patrik Laine, Mitch Marner and Phil Kessel and he ranks 25th in the entire league for goals (of any variety) per game over that time.
The question will be how the two sides finally structure the deal to provide Boeser with the best financial opportunity. There have been reports earlier this year that had the player asking for a number somewhere in the vicinity of $7MM per season, but it would be difficult for the Canucks to fit that in at the moment given their other cap commitments—this is where Roberto Luongo’s recapture penalty is really squeezing GM Jim Benning and the rest of the front office. A comparable player in Timo Meier signed at the beginning of the summer for $24MM over four years, but loaded $10MM of that in salary at the end so that his qualifying offer would be that high in his final year of restricted free agency. The Canucks may not want to do something like that and provide a roadmap for Boeser to get to UFA status so easily, but obviously there is a substantial gap still on shorter-term deals.
It is important to note that unlike other restricted free agents that have played three full seasons on their entry-level contracts, Boeser is not eligible for an offer sheet thanks to making his NHL debut at the end of the 2016-17 season after coming out of college. He only has two options at this point, hold out or sign a deal with the team, since he’s also not arbitration eligible. Boeser must sign before December 1st in order to be eligible to play at all this year.