Mar. 29: The Canucks have officially signed Hirose to an entry-level contract, which will last one season. CHEK’s Rick Dhaliwal confirms the contract is for this season, carrying an NHL salary of $855,000, a minors salary of $82,500, and a $95,000 signing bonus. As CapFriendly notes, because it’s a one-year contract signed late in the season, it has a pro-rated cap hit of roughly $2.11MM. Hirose will report directly to Vancouver.
Mar. 26: The Vancouver Canucks are expected to land their second NCAA free agent of the day: Minnesota State defenseman Akito Hirose.
CHEK’s Rick Dhaliwal was first to indicate mutual interest between Hirose and Vancouver, while Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman added that Hirose could join the Canucks this week. The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta notes that Hirose’s expected signing with Vancouver “has been in the works” for a few weeks.
While it’s important to clarify that nothing as of yet is official and until an official contract announcement is made anything can happen, this reporting does hint at a widely-held expectation that Hirose will be signing with the Canucks.
The expected acquisition of Hirose comes just after the Canucks announced the signing of Max Sasson from Western Michigan University. With Hirose expected to join the team and Sasson plus former Northeastern University forward Aidan McDonough in the mix, these recent transactions indicate that targeting NCAA talent will be an organizational priority for this still relatively new Canucks front office.
The younger brother of Detroit Red Wings minor leaguer Taro Hirose, Akito has made a name for himself over the past few seasons. He was named BCHL defenseman of the year in 2019-20 and was his conference rookie of the year in 2020-21. Last season, he helped Minnesota State reach the NCAA National Championship game and his stellar defensive play helped contribute to netminder Dryden McKay’s Hobey Baker Award win.
This season, Hirose has been a top-pairing, all-situations minutes-eater for Minnesota State. Paired with Jake Livingstone, a fellow coveted free agent, he led his program back to the NCAA tournament before they fell to St. Cloud State. He finishes his college career with a healthy 68 points in 104 games, and as Friedman notes could get his feet wet against NHL competition sooner rather than later.