When Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin took over the Vancouver Canucks, things seemed dire. The team was at the bottom of the standings, the cap situation was a mess, and many of the team’s top players were underperforming. Trade speculation immediately exploded, most notably regarding the trio of J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, and Brock Boeser. There was no way the team could keep them all, while the group struggled to even stay competitive on the ice.
A few months and one spectacular late-season run later, things don’t appear to be nearly as chaotic in Vancouver. Bruce Boudreau will be back as head coach and there is at least some optimism that the team can get back to the playoffs as soon as next season.
Of course, there is still the issue of that trio of expensive forwards. Boeser is a restricted free agent this summer, while Miller and Horvat are both in the final year of their contracts. The latter two are extension candidates well ahead of that UFA status, and Rutherford spoke to CHEK TV today about both, explaining that while the plan is to sign them, nothing is decided yet:
We’re already in a tough situation cap wise, and we’re trying to gradually untangle that so we can add new players. So any player that has a contract that’s up, or in the future, we are going to project where they fit within our cap so we can add more players and make this team better. It’s not just about J.T., it’s all players.
I really like Bo. I’ve always liked him back to his junior hockey days. There has been good discussions with him after the season. He had a good year this year, 30-some goals. He’s got a lot of good hockey left in him. He’s a character guy. He’s a center that’s hard to find. We believe he should be part of our team going forward.
On Boeser, who recently lost his father, Rutherford explained that the team is letting the family go through a grieving period before taking a look at next season, and wouldn’t really go into contract negotiations other than to confirm that the team believes they can fit in the $7.5MM qualifying offer that’s due as a restricted free agent.
The most interesting part of the interview may be the idea that the team is trying to “untangle” their cap situation, especially given the whispers that they are trying to find a market for Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The $7.26MM cap hit that Ekman-Larsson carries for the Canucks (the Arizona Coyotes are retaining a small portion of his full $8.25MM hit) makes it much more difficult to sign players like Miller and Horvat long-term, as the veteran defenseman is signed through 2026-27. Still, even then there should be some wiggle room, with Tyler Myers, Tanner Pearson, and Jason Dickinson all coming off the books in 2024.
Officially, extensions with Miller and Horvat would not be possible until after the hockey calendar rolls over in July when free agency opens. One of the last things Rutherford said today was that he understands people are impatient but stressed the need for his front office to take things step by step and avoid making a mistake as they look to turn things around.