By: Brayden Fengler / January 26, 2023
There is widespread speculation that Canucks captain Bo Horvat is not a priority for Canucks management to re-sign. The team’s extension of Andrei Kuzmenko on Thursday only gives more legitimacy to those beliefs.
Although Kuzmenko’s production and potential made him a high-value trade piece, it seems that the Canucks were able to work out a favourable bridge deal with their new Russian asset.
Two Year Extension
Kuzmenko has agreed to extend his stay here in Vancouver for at least two more seasons, signing a two-year $11 million extension that will work out to an AAV of $5.5 million per year.
What makes this deal affordable for the Canucks and fair for Kuzmenko is the term. Two years is not a long time, so although the Canucks have locked in a player that has already contributed 21 goals and 43 points on the year to a deal with an AVV under $6 million, they certainly did not lock him in for long.
This price tag is only appealing to Kuzmenko’s camp due to its term length. This deal gives Kuzmenko the chance to bet on himself and in two years’ time potentially earn more than if he was penciled in for a longer-term deal right now.
The Canucks, and any team for that matter, could make the argument against Kuzmenko that although his season has been impressive, his NHL sample size is small. In two years, that same argument won’t be relevant anymore.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the very nature of the Kuzmenko deal taking place is a further nail in the coffin for Bo Horvat’s time as a Canuck.
If management made the decision to take a massive trade chip off the market like Kuzmenko, all while still maintaining that “major surgery” is needed, where are they going to get the supplies for this surgery from? They’ll get them from a deal for Bo, and they’ll be needing that deal now more than ever.
Rick Dhaliwal reported in early December that the offer the Canucks made to Bo earlier in the season came in below $8 million per year, which is lower than what the Canucks and this management team had only just signed J.T. Miller for this past summer.
Bo’s play this season has made management’s bet on J.T. over him look like a poor one. Rutherford and co. likely knew that by leaving Bo unsigned before the year started he would have a chance to develop “contract year” abilities and play himself out of their price range.
Although it’s likely that management understood the gamble they were making, the reality of it not panning out doesn’t make Horvat any more obtainable, or the fans any less annoyed. It did at least make this deal for Andrei Kuzmenko more possible.
Although the NHL salary cap has yet to see a massive post-COVID boom as many GMs would’ve likely hoped to see last offseason, it has been reported that the potential cap for the 2025-2026 season could be as high as $92 million, the same season Kuzmenko will be needing a new contract.
That is an additional $9.5 million that the Canucks could spend annually, compared to restrictions that they are being held to now under the current cap.
Miller currently makes $8 million, and a similar AAV would be needed to keep Bo. It sounds like an extra $9.5 million of spending money would solve all the Canucks problems (i.e., keeping Kuzmenko and then some). But of course, it’s never that simple. Before Kuzmenko is due for a new contract, the Canucks will need to look at extending some other big names.
Namely, Elias Pettersson will need a new contract for the 2024-25 season. Additionally, if the Canucks feel that Brock Boeser fits into their long-term plans, they will need to sign him ahead of the same season that Kuzmenko’s deal is expiring.
The most considerable risk to Kuzmenko’s ability to stay a Canuck is Elias Pettersson. With the way EP40 has been consistently playing, there is no doubt that he is going to eat up a lot of newly available cap space, especially if Bo is no longer a factor.
So You’re Saying There’s Hope
There are still many variables that can change Kuzmenko’s long-term situation with this team and impact his teammates or any other future hot tickets that this rebuilding, retooling, rehashing team looks to add in the years ahead.
It’s a certainty that Kuzmenko staying a Canuck makes this team better in the short term. The only unknown is if his signing may unintentionally prevent the Canucks from being better in years to come.
It doesn’t feel like major surgery yet.