- Earlier this week, a report surfaced that Canucks winger Alex Chiasson would be heading to Switzerland for next season. However, his agent Pat Morris told Rick Dhaliwal of CHEK and The Athletic (Twitter link) that the pending UFA has no intention of signing in Switzerland and intends to pursue an NHL contract this season with his first choice being to re-sign with Vancouver. Chiasson will have to wait a while for that option to present itself as team president Jim Rutherford recently indicated that they won’t decide on whether or not to keep the 31-year-old until after free agency. Chiasson had 13 goals and nine assists in 67 games this season.
It was a disappointing World Championship on a couple of fronts for Vancouver defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Sweden blew a 3-0 lead in the third period to Canada on Thursday before falling in overtime and to add to that frustration, he was also injured as the Canucks announced (Twitter link) that he suffered a foot fracture in the tournament.
The veteran blueliner had a fairly quiet first season in Vancouver after coming over in a trade back at the draft last summer. He picked up 29 points in 79 games, his lowest point per game average since his rookie year back in 2010-11. Regardless, Ekman-Larsson still played over 22 minutes a game, second on the team to only Quinn Hughes while also taking a regular turn on both the power play and penalty kill. He was similarly quiet at the Worlds, collecting just a pair of assists for Sweden in their six games while logging 19:20 per contest, third among their blueliners.
Fortunately for Ekman-Larsson and the Canucks, the recovery time for this injury is four to six weeks which means while his offseason training will be interrupted, he should be fully recovered by the time training camp rolls around in September. Vancouver will likely be icing a similar back end to the one they had this season so they’ll be counting on Ekman-Larsson to have a bounce-back season in 2022-23.
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.
The Vancouver Canucks have added another Swedish forward, announcing a two-year contract for Linus Karlsson. The 22-year-old Karlsson is signing his entry-level deal after exploding onto the SHL scene this season. General manager Patrik Allvin released a statement on the deal:
We are excited to officially welcome Linus to Vancouver. He is a good goal scorer who plays a solid two-way game, and he is coming off an impressive rookie season in Sweden. We look forward to seeing him develop his game in North America.
Named rookie of the year, Karlsson scored 26 goals and 46 points in 52 games for Skelleftea AIK. That tied him for second in the entire league in goals, just a year removed from putting up similar totals at the Allsvenskan level, Sweden’s second tier. The young forward, originally selected by the San Jose Sharks, was acquired by the Canucks in a 2019 trade for Jonathan Dahlen.
Notably, Karlsson would be one of the players affected by the new transfer agreement with Sweden. Previously, because he is over the age of 21, he would have been able to sign his entry-level deal and be assigned to the minor leagues. Now, with that age limit raised to 24, he’ll have to be offered back to Skelleftea if he fails to make the Canucks roster, as he is still under contract in the SHL through 2022-23. Despite that, Allvin’s statement suggests that he might be playing in North America next year, meaning Vancouver may have worked out an agreement with his Swedish club.
Either way, getting him signed now was a necessary move for the Canucks, as Karlsson’s exclusive draft rights would have expired in just a few days. If not signed by June 1, he would have become an unrestricted free agent, able to sign a similar entry-level contract with any team in the league. Even if he does spend next season overseas–something which is clearly not a sure thing yet–getting him under contract will keep him under the Canucks’ control for years to come.
Rick Dhaliwal of CHEK TV reported this morning that a deal was imminent.
While the North American focus on hockey remains starkly on the Stanley Cup Playoffs, most European seasons have wrapped up by now. That means a lot of players with NHL pedigrees are involved in some foreign transactions. We’ll keep track of those here today:
- Defenseman Andrey Pedan, a 2011 third-round pick of the New York Islanders and 13-game NHL veteran with the Vancouver Canucks, is on the move in the KHL. SKA St. Petersburg acquired him via trade today from Dynamo Moskva, meaning Pedan will suit up for his third different KHL team since returning to Russia in 2018. Born in Lithuania, Pedan has Russian citizenship but underwent the majority of his development in North America. He came to join the OHL in 2010 and played professionally exclusively in North America through 2018.
- Former Minnesota Wild and Washington Capital Casey Wellman announced his retirement today via Instagram. The California native was never drafted but made the jump to the NHL after the Wild picked him as a free agent from UMass in 2010. Before beginning a professional career in Europe in 2015, Wellman appeared in 54 NHL games, scoring six goals, 10 assists and 16 points.
When Bruce Boudreau joined Vancouver as their head coach, he brought along Scott Walker as one of his assistants. However, while Boudreau will be sticking around, Walker won’t be as the bench boss indicated on The Bob McCown Podcast (audio link) that Walker won’t be back behind the bench and the team has already started to look for a replacement.
This is now the second time that Walker has left Vancouver in his post-playing days as he had served in a development role for three seasons before departing to be a special assistant to the GM in Arizona in 2019. However, that role was short-lived and he was back to working with OHL Guelph as their President of Hockey Operations last season.
Boudreau and Walker have some history as Walker finished his career playing for Boudreau while Postmedia’s Patrick Johnston mentions Boudreau nearly hired Walker back in 2016 when he was coaching in Minnesota. The two were also set to coach internationally for Canada at the Channel One and Spengler Cups alongside Boudreau but those plans changed when Vancouver came calling. With that working relationship and how well the Canucks performed in the second half of the season, Walker’s departure certainly comes as a bit of a surprise.
There will be plenty of coaches (both head and assistants) changing places in the coming months and Vancouver can now be added to the list of those that will have someone new behind the bench in the fall.
- Vancouver Canucks prospect Linus Karlsson was named the SHL’s Rookie of the Year for the 2021-22 season, tweets Rick Dhaliwal of The Athletic (link). In 52 games for Skelleftea this season, Karlsson posted a strong 26 goals and 20 assists to go with a plus-10 rating. Originally a third-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2018, Karlsson was traded to Vancouver in the deal that sent Jonathan Dahlen to San Jose in 2019. Now 22, Karlsson is still yet to sign his first NHL contract, and has until June 1st to do so, otherwise he will become an UFA. Still, as recently as March, Karlsson had been hoping to sign with Vancouver (link).
The Vancouver Canucks have made it official, announcing that Bruce Boudreau will return as head coach for the 2022-23 season. While that doesn’t come with a long-term commitment, it will at least put some of the chatter to rest about who will be behind the bench. In a statement, general manager Patrick Allvin explained the decision:
We are pleased to see Bruce’s commitment to return to the Canucks next season. He has done a great job since arriving in Vancouver and we are eager to see the team continue to perform under his leadership as they did during the second half of the season.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Boudreau is back, especially given the reports that he was in the meeting with prized Russian free agent Andrei Kuzmenko recently. The question was is about whether the Canucks will be willing to commit past the 2022-23 season, something that is still very unclear. In his end-of-year availability, president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford explained that he needed to see more than half a season before handing out an extension like that, something that at least made some wonder if Boudreau would take his talents elsewhere.
For now, he will stay put and build off that half-season, which was exceptional even if the Canucks didn’t end up qualifying for the playoffs.
After starting 8-15-2 under Travis Green, the organization decided to clean house, firing almost the entire management group and coaching staff. Boudreau took over behind the bench, while Allvin and Rutherford moved into the front office to start cleaning up the mess left behind by Jim Benning. The team had only made the playoffs once in the last six years and yet had some of the most exciting young talent in the league. Under Boudreau, they went 32-15-10 down the stretch, coming oh-so-close to climbing all the way back into the playoff picture.
That trio of Quinn Hughes, Thatcher Demko, and Elias Pettersson will obviously be the building blocks for the Canucks moving forward, though there are plenty of other decisions to be made about who will surround them. Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and J.T. Miller have all heard their names bandied about in trade speculation, and now with the Boudreau situation finalized, the front office can get to work on either extending them, or making a move to maximize their return.
A regular season turnaround wasn’t anything new for Boudreau, who has never had a losing season as an NHL head coach. In fact, his .635 winning percentage is right up with the best of all time. It’s the playoffs that have been a different story so far, likely one of the reasons why Rutherford was so hesitant to jump in after 57 games. Boudreau has a 43-47 record in the postseason and hasn’t moved past the first round since 2015.
- From Rob Simpson of Vancouver Hockey Now, who spoke with Bruce Boudreau, the head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, Boudreau said he hopes to return to the organization next week. Currently, Boudreau is still under contract with Vancouver with whom he has an option to return, and said he plans on confirming his option with Canucks’ President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford and General Manager Patrik Allvin sometime early next week. Boudreau has until June 1st to accept the option. The veteran head coach had also made clear to Simpson that he has spent the last couple of weeks simply taking time off, visiting with friends and family and making other arrangements, and the delay was not tactical in nature. There had been recent rumors about a possible extension with Boudreau, however Rutherford made it clear he would not be interested in extending Boudreau just yet, but was open to the idea of it at some point. What exactly Boudreau thought of that situation was unclear, but it appears now that his primary focus is on returning to the Canucks for the 2022-23 season.
Beginning this season, the full effect of the changes to the draft lottery rules announced last year are in place. Starting this year, teams can only move up a maximum of 10 spots if they’re selected, meaning teams originally set at picks 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 cannot move up all the way to the first overall pick. A win for one of these teams in the first draft lottery secures the pick for the team that finished last.
The team with the best odds coming in will win the draft lottery for the second straight year, though. The Montreal Canadiens will pick first overall in their own building, the first time such an occurrence has happened since 1985 when the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Wendel Clark at Maple Leaf Gardens. The New Jersey Devils moved up from fifth overall to second overall, bumping down the Arizona Coyotes, Seattle Kraken, and Philadelphia Flyers down one spot each.
The order for the top 16 picks of the 2022 NHL Draft is as follows:
- Montreal Canadiens
- New Jersey Devils
- Arizona Coyotes
- Seattle Kraken
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Columbus Blue Jackets (via Chicago Blackhawks)
- Ottawa Senators
- Detroit Red Wings
- Buffalo Sabres
- Anaheim Ducks
- San Jose Sharks
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- New York Islanders
- Winnipeg Jets
- Vancouver Canucks
- Buffalo Sabres (via Vegas Golden Knights)
While Shane Wright is still the consensus no. 1 overall selection across public draft boards (and NHL Central Scouting), there’s been recent noise about players like Juraj Slafkovsky and Logan Cooley potentially challenging him for first overall. That’s an upset unlikely to happen, though, as Wright had a terrific second half of the 2021-22 campaign, finishing with 32 goals, 62 assists, and 94 points in 63 games with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. He also has 10 points in eight playoff games at the time of writing. While teams will draft him for his elite playmaking ability, he’s got an underrated shot when he chooses to use it as well. Standout Slovak defenseman Simon Nemec, Czech defenseman David Jiricek, Canadian forward Matthew Savoie, and Finnish forward Joakim Kemell are also names to watch for near the top of the draft board.