Trent Leith / July 6, 2022
NHL free agency is right around the corner. Don’t worry you haven’t missed it yet. In 2022 free agency didn’t open on July 1st like during a regular year, but instead on July 13th. The Canucks are not expected to make a big splash, but with names like Philip Forsberg and Johnny Gaudreau available, anything is possible.
The Canucks are most likely to sign lower lineup players rather than franchise-changing players if they make any moves at all. There is always an embarrassment of riches as far as depth players go when it comes to free agency, but what’s more fun to think about are the reunions that could take place. Let’s have a look at players who have formerly worn the blue and green and see if there is a fit once again.
The most recent player on our list is Tyler Motte of the New York Rangers. It feels like just yesterday Motte was playing in Vancouver, and it practically was. Motte was moved at the deadline for the Rangers’ 2023 third-round pick.
Motte was a player that was always more valuable to the Canucks than he would have been to most other clubs, which makes the trade seem poor with only a third in return, but it was just fine for a fourth-liner who kills penalties on an expiring contract.
Motte is most likely to test free agency and get the most lucrative deal possible for himself, but should the rest of the league also be cautious to sign an expensive or long contract, the Canucks should be involved if the situation looks favourable.
Motte was a fan favourite in his time in Vancouver and carved out quite a niche for himself within the lineup. He certainly fits well on the Canucks, killing penalties and using his speed to drive offence. He is a valuable piece at the right price.
Troy (and Phoebe) Stecher were also fan favourites when they were based in Vancouver and Troy from Richmond appears to still be among Brock Boeser’s closest friends.
Stecher is a bottom-pairing defenceman and has no problem playing up the lineup. While he is a little undersized, he is responsible and a reasonable puck mover.
After signing a two-year $1.7M AAV deal on Detroit, Stecher was traded to LA to be reunited with an old friend in Alex Edler. Steccher will likely end up testing free agency in hopes of a better deal. As an RHD he is likely to get a marginal raise.
On the right side, the Canucks already have Tyler Myers, Luke Schenn and Travis Dermott so, in a world where Steccher comes home, there would be an internal battle for ice time, which isn’t a bad thing. Likely, Schenn would be moved to the 7th defender’s slot if either Stecher or Dermott could find a fit alongside Quinn Hughes.
Unfortunately, adding Stecher would make the back end a rather small one in terms of size as Tony Stretcher and Quinn Hughes are only 5’10. Canucks management had already mentioned they want to get bigger, which implies that Stecher would not be a fit, even if the stars aligned.
Just as the Calgary Flames took all the Canucks players they possibly could in recent years, the Canucks have a chance at taking the entire second pairing from the LA Kings. Stecher’s partner in LA has been Alex Edler, who is also available to sign a new contract.
Unfortunately, the 36-year-old LHD isn’t likely to join the Canucks if he can find a full-time role on another team. Edler had played during the Canucks’ most important hockey since 1994, but he isn’t likely to sign in Vancouver if he wants a regular role every night. If he were to find a place in Vancouver, it would be as depth, playing to fill in injuries or when other players are not living up to expectations. With Rathbone signing a one-way deal and joining the hunt for one of the three left defence spots, Edler coming to Vancouver doesn’t make sense for the team as it’s currently structured.
Braden Holtby didn’t exactly mesh well with the Vancouver Canucks. Holtby was likely expecting more starts and to be more of a number one goalie in his lone season with the Canucks. He only played in 21 games with only a .889 sv% and a 3.67 GAA.
Holtby was not a great fit in Vancouver, especially as Thatcher Demko really used the 2020-21 season to springboard himself to number one goaltender status. Jaroslav Halak found himself in a similar situation in 2021-22 and it does not appear as though he will return to the Canucks, especially after signing Spencer Martin to a two-year $762,500 per deal to be the Vancouver Canucks’ backup goaltender.
Jay Beagle is a perfectly fine depth player. But the Canucks gave him a four-year $3M AAV contract and that immediately made Beagle a player that wouldn’t live up to his deal.
Beagle never reached his previous heights of 30 and 22 points for the Washington Capitals in the two years prior to him coming into Vancouver. Since his signing in 2018-19, he has only accrued 29 points.
Yet still, the 36-year-old right-shot centreman may have a shot with a deal in Vancouver. The Canucks will likely be looking for centre depth, especially right-handed depth. With Brandon Sutter sidelined for an entire season and without a contract, the door may be cracked open for Beagle to return to the GVRD.
For the quality of memes, a Loui Eriksson signing may be worth it, however, I don’t think the club or the player would have any interest in signing with the Canucks again.
The thing about Eriksson is, that his infamous 6×6 deal wasn’t a bad bet. Was it a little rich for the player? Maybe. But the thing is, Loui Eriksson had chemistry with Daniel and Henrik Sedin. At the time, the Canucks were looking to get everything they could out of the twins in the back half of their career and a countryman that had proven to be able to play with the pair seemed like a safe bet.
But something didn’t work. And it certainly wouldn’t work now. The Canucks should stay far away from the declining 36-year-old winger.
Kesler in his heyday was an elite second-line centre and absolute two-way force. He has recently had some injury trouble and will be looking for a cheap, short-term show-me contract. The Canucks should… I am just kidding. Kesler’s goose is good and truly cooked.
While we wait and see what shakes out at the draft table on Thursday and what trades may come as a result of the draft, we also have to wait and see which holes the team will have to fill on the roster using free agency. Will the Canucks look to upgrade with free agents? Or will they simply fill holes? Will they sign veterans to flip at the deadline? Or will they get the band back together with former players? We can only wait and see.