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The sudden winner is always a sweet one.
The grin on Elias Pettersson’s face, as wide as it gets for the young Swede, as we finished up talking about his game winner on Thursday night, told the whole story.
It wasn’t far off from the grin he flashed last season after breaking Pavel Bure’s rookie scoring record.
Winning hockey is better than anything.
“I always go with my first thought, if I think two times or doubt my abilities, the play might be gone,” he said of the crazy moment.
Working on picking up loose pucks isn’t necessarily something he does specifically in practice, but it’s something teams work on all the time. Just this week in a practice, skills coach Glenn Carnegie had the Canucks working on collecting loose pucks that had caromed off obstacles placed in front of the crease.
The read Pettersson made when the puck didn’t skip over the lost stick — it was Jaccob Slavin’s — was lightning fast. No shock there.
And the shot was as tough a shot as you can get off. It looked like Mrazek was caught off guard by it.
“I feel comfortable with getting pucks up high from short range,” he said, again with modesty. “I’m very happy with the win.”
Brock Boeser said he knew the loose stick was there but knew he didn’t have many options, so it was just about getting it near his star centre.
“Unreal,” he said of the shot that Pettersson pulled off.
Worries about Brock?
Big picture, kids, big picture. The missed breakaways stung him. But he’s healthy. The goals will come back.
Did you notice?
It’s not often your top ice-time man is a forward, but it was on this night: J.T. Miller’s 22:08 eclipsed Quinn Hughes’s 22:00.
Who wouldn’t want a top-six winger?
I did chuckle a little when Jim Benning said he’s after a top-six winger. It wasn’t earth-shattering more than it was confirmation of something you’d expect to hear from a GM who has ambitions of sending his team not just into the playoffs, but deep into the postseason party.
So, of course, he’s after a winger who would make an impact. Every GM should be.
But as you know, the Canucks’ roster has some wrinkles to it. As it stands, the only way to really add another winger to the roster would be if it works out that Micheal Ferland is out long-term. As yet, that’s not clear.
He’s dealing with post-concussion symptoms, it seems, though the team’s medical staff is still investigating.
If he’s out long-term, the Canucks could park him on LTIR, which would allow them to add a player whose cap hit comes in at about $3.6 million — while he’s on LTIR, anyway.
If he were to recover and play, there would be other moves to make, of course.
But in the summer, things would be pretty hairy.
Pondering free agents
Beyond the numbers we can see publicly at places like CapFriendly, there are undisclosed cap penalties that teams carry around from time to time. It’s well known among league personnel and capologists that in rare instances clubs have had cap charges for contract-related settlements not publicly known.
Add the interest in adding another winger to the not-surprising news that Benning would like to retain Jacob Markstrom — I mean, think about it, it makes sense, you need two NHL goalies anyway and there are two years between now and the Seattle expansion draft, and while some might argue that going ride or die with two young goalies next year in Thatcher Demko and Mike DiPietro would be worth the risk — we must think about the whole picture.
The Canucks’ No. 1 is pulling in $3.6 million this year. Assuming he carries forward with his solid play, he’s going to be after a raise. Think about it: Jake Allen is making more than he is. Freddy Andersen makes $5 million and he’s younger and probably better. A raise, maybe not a big one, but a raise nonetheless.
Is Semyon Varlamov, who makes $6 million, a comp? It does seem unlikely he goes that high.
Josh Leivo: An unrestricted free agent next summer, he’s on pace to post career highs in points. That said, this is his first full NHL season. He signed a one-year, $1.5-million show-me deal last summer and he’ll be after some kind of raise, that’s for sure.
Adam Gaudette: The next face in the 10.2(c) contract wars, the sophomore centre is set for a breakout season. But he also has no leverage. Brock Boeser missed training camp before he signed last fall. Will Gaudette wait that long before signing on for a small raise over $916,000?
Tim Schaller is making $1.9 million this season and may be a coach’s favourite, but it’s going to be hard to keep him around if there are raises elsewhere. Surely he’ll go back on the unrestricted free agent market.
Tyler Motte will be an unrestricted free agent, making $975,000 this year. He’ll surely be retained, especially if there isn’t room for Schaller.
Chris Tanev is making $4.45 million. If he finally stays healthy for a full season, it seems a safe bet the Canucks will look to re-up with him. He’s three years younger than Anton Stralman, who signed for $4.5 million this summer, but they feel like reasonable comparables.
Oscar Fantenberg has been fine as a depth option at $850k, but surely he’s a placeholder for Olli Juolevi?
Which brings us to restricted free agent Troy Stecher . He’s making $2.325 million this year and could push for an arbitration case. That’s if the Canucks qualify him.
A former Eastern Conference exec told me Stecher’s agent would likely go in asking for No. 4 d-man money, which would take him to the doorstep of $4 million. A team will argue that he is what he’s been used as this year, more like a No. 5, which should be valued at $2.75 million.
“Defensive defencemen don’t get points and that’s OK,” is the classic agent argument, vs. the team argument: “Points is how D get measured.”
“But you can basically argue a guy like this is worth $2.5 or $4.5,” he said.
It may be hard to keep Stecher this summer. Could he be trade bait before then?
Jake Virtanen is in a similar boat to Stecher in that he’s got arbitration rights if he doesn’t agree to his qualifying offer. But he’s also making “just” $1.25 million this year. He doesn’t kill penalties, the exec noted, and doesn’t get a lot of power-play time. But he has, nonetheless, been putting up points. Counting stats are good for your case.
“If he keeps scoring he has a case. Also could post best plus/minus of his career,” he said. “His arb profile will be between $1.75 and $2.1m. Really no leverage there unless agent convinced team he’s a 40+ point power forward for good now and he signs for term at closer to $3m.”
So there you go, there are some raises to be had. It’s going to make for another tight salary cap next year.
And this is without getting into the cap challenges posed by the performance bonuses Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and even Adam Gaudette could acquire this year. Much of that money could get applied to next year’s salary cap.
Call it by my name
Smythe Division. Let’s make it great again.
It’s a log-jam, folks.
Good news: the Canucks have games in hand on the three Smythe Division teams above them. The nervous news: those Preds, lurking below.
Could do some serious damage to opposition hopes this weekend, but that Sunday tilt in Vegas is scary scheduling.
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