It wasn’t so long ago that Olli Juolevi was the fifth-overall pick in the NHL draft. Now, after finally showing he can play at the NHL level, he has signed a one-year contract worth the league minimum of $750K with the Vancouver Canucks. Canucks GM Jim Benning released a short statement on the deal:
Last season was an important step in Olli’s development as an everyday NHL defenceman. We’re glad to have him signed and look forward to his game progressing further next season.
Now 23, Juolevi actually made his NHL debut in last year’s bubble playoffs, playing one game on the Canucks’ run. This year he suited up 23 times for the team, recording two goals and three points in limited minutes. He hasn’t developed as quickly as the Canucks hoped—especially compared to some of the defensemen taken after him in 2016, like Mikhail Sergachev and Charlie McAvoy—but there’s still hope that Juolevi can be a valuable member of the Canucks blueline moving forward.
There will be plenty of competition this time around, after the Canucks brought in Brad Hunt and Luke Schenn as veteran depth options, but there is still a path to playing time for Juolevi. The fact that he’s on a league-minimum deal will only help his cause as Vancouver tries to navigate a tricky salary cap situation.
Though they have $13.3MM left in cap space, the Canucks still have to sign Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson, not to mention an arbitration hearing coming up with Jason Dickinson. Things will get tight in a hurry, meaning cheap options like Juolevi could come in handy if he can prove he’s able to hold down a regular spot on the bottom-pair.