While most of the headlines from today’s news conference with Vancouver Canucks president Jim Rutherford will be about the “major surgery” coming up for the roster, or the lame-duck status of Bruce Boudreau, there was at least one nugget of positive news for fans.
Rutherford said that the team had started negotiations with Andrei Kuzmenko on an extension, ahead of the Russian winger becoming a free agent in July. Because he was 26 when the Canucks signed him, Kuzmenko was limited to a one-year entry-level contract last summer.
An extension will certainly come at a much higher price, given how well he has transitioned to life in the NHL. The offensive winger has 17 goals and 38 points in 42 games, while averaging just under 16 minutes a night. While there are flaws to his game, that kind of production can’t be overlooked.
Keeping a player of Kuzmenko’s caliber is certainly a positive – or at least it would be in most situations. Some might argue that for the Canucks, signing him is actually moving in the wrong direction. Rutherford himself talked today about how he hadn’t given the team enough cap-related freedom in his time there. Signing Kuzmenko certainly won’t help that, even if he is deserving of a raise.
The crux of that decision is in some of Rutherford’s other comments. He believes that the team can be competitive within the next three years, and that it has plenty of talented players already in place. Signing Kuzmenko, then, would make sense.
But there is a legitimate argument to be made that the Canucks should instead just cash in on their asset. Because he was limited to an ELC, Kuzmenko’s price tag is extremely low, relative to his production. That kind of asset would be very valuable on the trade market, especially with the possibility of an acquiring team extending him themselves.
It doesn’t look like that’s what the plan is here, given Rutherford’s explanation that the Canucks won’t be heading into a rebuild. Instead, another extension appears to be around the corner – albeit with a deserving player.
4 more years of OEL at $7.6 million.
No wonder they are in a cap crunch.
AZ thanks Benning every day.
AZ drafted Hayton before Hughes so it’s even