Canucks News & Rumors: Kevin Hayes, Eriksson, Offseason Changes

Kevin Hayes, Loui Eriksson, Vancouver Canucks

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The Vancouver Canucks are gearing up for an active offseason. General manager Jim Belling is making moves to clear the roster of players he feels don’t fit into the Canucks’ future, and there is a move to add supplemental scoring on the team.

The 2018-19 season was a pleasant surprise and the team improved more than expected. But with this improvement, there is both an opportunity and an expectation to make further improvements. In fact, not making the playoffs next season would be a disappointment.

Related – News: Gretzky, Pettersson, Cherry, Demko & the Draft?

In this review of recent news and rumors, I will share some of what’s happening around the team.

Item One: Is Kevin Hayes on the Canucks’ Radar?

Alex Hoegler, of the Canucks’ Way, suggests that with the amount of salary cap space remaining the team should seek reliable secondary scoring. He believes Kevin Hayes might fill the bill.

Hoegler notes, and I agree, that there’s no reason to try to make a big splash by signing a superstar. The Canucks’ top stars of Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, and Brock Boeser seem to be rounding out nicely. However, a stronger supporting cast would help. And, next season’s $26 million in cap space allows Benning to seek immediate help. Hoegler also wisely notes that Loui Eriksson’s contract gaff has been a lesson about how unwise a high-end contract can become.

For these reasons, Winnipeg Jets center and soon-to-be UFA Hayes becomes a nice option. Hayes is a natural center, but Horvat and Pettersson have the top two center positions covered for the near future. However, when Hayes played for the New York Rangers, he was versatile enough to play both center and wing. The ability to play any forward position would be a huge help to the Canucks.

Winnipeg Jets Kevin Hayes
Winnipeg Jets forward Kevin Hayes (Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

What also makes Hayes attractive is that he’s experienced but, at only 27 years old, still young. His steady body of work suggests he can be counted upon for around 50 points each season (he scored 19 goals, 36 assists, and 55 points this season). In addition, at 6-foot-5 and 216 pounds, he uses his size to create chaos in front of the net.

Because the Jets have their own salary cap issues, Hayes isn’t likely to be re-signed. And, because a number of superstars are emerging as UFAs this season (Artemi Panarin, Jeff Skinner, Matt Duchene, and Joe Pavelski), Hayes likely will be attractive, but not so attractive as to warrant a huge annual salary. And, who knows, he might become more than the third-line center he was with the Jets. It’s unlikely he would have ever supplanted Mark Scheifele or Bryan Little in Winnipeg.

Related – Canucks Calling: Carey Price, Please Come Home

Were Benning to sign Hayes, or someone like him, there’s a good chance he would fit in on either the first or second line. Like I do, Hoegler sees Tanner Pearson playing on next season’s Canucks’ top-six.

Item Two: The Canucks Should Add a Defenseman

Iain MacIntyre of Sportsnet agrees with Hoegler that the Canucks should add another winger for the Horvat and Pearson line. However, he also believes the team should sign another reliable defenseman.

As MacIntyre reported, Benning outlined the Canucks’ plans:

Sven Baertschi Canucks
Sven Baertschi, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“We’re continuing to talk to Alex Edler and try to figure out a new deal for him there, and we’re in conversations with Brock and his camp. I don’t think we’re going to be going crazy with a lot of the top-end guys (in free agency).”

Benning added, “Whether it’s a player good enough to complement Pettersson and Boeser or complement Pearson and Bo, if we can add a player through free agency or trade that fits in with those guys, I think it’s going to improve our group.”

Item Three: The
Continuing Saga of Loui Eriksson

As I noted in a post last week, during an interview Eriksson did with the Swedish press about his time in Vancouver and the Canucks, he dissed coach Travis Green. It seems more was said that I had not heard. Patrick Johnston of the Vancouver Province reported that, although Eriksson isn’t planning to leave the NHL, he’s been frustrated playing in Vancouver.

Louie Eriksson
Louie Eriksson (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

In an interview with Swedish site HockeySverige, Eriksson announced, “The coach and I don’t really get on 100 per cent. It is difficult when I do not get the same trust that I received from all the other coaches I had during my career.” _(from ‘Loui Eriksson: ‘Travis Green and I don’t get on 100 per cent’ – Patrick Johnston, Vancouver Province – 5/3/19)_

Related – Canucks 2019-20 Predictions: Pearson, Leivo & Baertschi

I wonder if Eriksson’s whining about Green, combined with his track record of scoring in other places he’s played (he’s had a series of three 70-point seasons with the Dallas Stars and had 63 points with the Boston Bruins the season prior to signing with the Canucks), might tempt a general manager somewhere to trade for him. With the Canucks’ upcoming salary cap space, Benning might be willing to eat some of Eriksson’s salary.

Item Four:
Brendan Gaunce Is Gone as a Canuck

Rick Dhaliwal of Sportsnet 650 reported that the Canucks won’t be making RFA Brendan Gaunce a qualifying offer. The 2012 first-rounder (the 26th pick overall) never got on track with the Canucks. He spent the entire 2018-19 season with the Utica Comets and played well. But, along with Derrick Pouliot, Gaunce is a player Benning won’t be bringing back next season.

Brendan Gaunce Canucks
Brendan Gaunce (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Item Five: The
Canucks Will Move More Forwards

As noted, the Canucks told Pouliot he won’t be retained. In addition, MacIntyre also noted that the Canucks will move some forwards. Ryan Spooner could be bought out; Brandon Sutter and Markus Granlund could be traded; and the enigmatic Nikolay Goldobin might have so frustrated Green that the Canucks might trade him or simply let him sign with the KHL. Who knows? Goldobin might have some trade value.

Related – Canucks Rising Prospects: Juolevi, Woo & Madden

Moving Forward

Many changes will be made to the Canucks’ roster during the offseason. I, for one, am excited to see what players will be added to the roster. I imagine that, like many Canucks fans, nothing less than a solid run into the playoffs next season would be acceptable.

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