Think the Canucks have buyers' remorse on Loui Eriksson's contract?
Ready to dive back into the world of long-term injury reserve?
Because if all else fails, the Vancouver Canucks may be looking to maximize their cap space on the eve of the NHL season if veteran forward Loui Eriksson remains in blue and green.
“The off-season is not over yet,” Jim Benning stressed Thursday morning when asked about the roster manoeuvring he’ll have to do before the 2019-20 season starts.
After Wednesday’s signing of Micheal Ferland, the Canucks now have 14 forwards, eight defencemen and two goalies under contract — two more than you can start the season with. And that’s before you dive into the salary-cap complications.
“Still having lots of conversations with teams,” Benning said about the possibility of him still finding a trade partner who would take on a player with a big-number contract like Eriksson or Brandon Sutter. The GM also implied his staff is ready to walk along a salary cap tightrope if a trade can’t be worked out.
“Whether we move money or not, we have a plan in place,” he said.
Benning didn’t say it directly, but long-term injury reserve presents a possible avenue the Canucks could find themselves working around. The reason differs, but the procedure would be the same as the one used on the eve of the 2010-11 season by the Canucks’ then-capologist Laurence Gilman, when Sami Salo’s Achilles injury allowed them to keep Kevin Bieksa.
The roster issue
To get to the 21 skaters they’re likely to start the season with, the Canucks will have to trade, waive or demote at least two players before the seasons starts, assuming Brock Boeser is signed by them.
As the Canucks have about $5 million in cap space right now, those two moves will have to open up enough cap space to fit in a new deal for Boeser. The Canucks have talked about a six-year, $6 million per deal, while Boeser’s camp is believed to be interested in a shorter deal, worth about $1 million more per season.
The Utica question
While Benning insisted Eriksson still has NHL utility to the Canucks, his preferred solution to the roster crunch would be to trade Eriksson — not an easy task given the player’s salary and sub-par offensive stats.
Eriksson’s agent has made it clear that the veteran isn’t opposed to finding a new NHL home. He also doesn’t expect his client to be waived or reassigned to Utica, N.Y.
“Loui’s an NHL player. There’s a lot of teams that would like to have him if his cap number weren’t what it is,” he told TSN Radio in Vancouver this week.
Asked about the Utica question Thursday, Benning paused before answering.
“I don’t have a direct answer for that right now,” he admitted. But he said he has finally spoken with Eriksson about comments the Swedish forward made in May about his relationship with head coach Travis Green.
“We had a real good conversation,” Benning said. “I don’t think his comments were as egregious as people think.”
Sutter versus Gaudette
The Canucks’ third-line centre will be either Adam Gaudette or Sutter. Gaudette’s cap hit is roughly $3.4 million cheaper than Sutter’s, but he’s also exempt from waivers and could easily be reassigned to the Comets.
Trading Sutter would create the needed cap space, but given Sutter’s injury struggles and lack of production the last two seasons, it seems likely Benning would have to include another forward, perhaps Jake Virtanen, in such a deal.
Walking the LTIR line
Finally, about the LTIR scenario that can be worked out at the end of the Canucks’ training camp.
It would be a complicated sequence played out at the end of camp, involving waiving Tim Schaller, demoting Quinn Hughes or Elias Pettersson to Utica for a day in a so-called paper transaction and then placing Antoine Roussel on LTIR, freeing up another $2.8 million or so in cap space to fit in Boeser’s new deal.
The Hughes/Pettersson move would likely have salary cap impacts on the following season, assuming they have as good a year as everyone hopes they will. Another roster move would have to happen when Roussel is healthy enough to play again, which could come as soon as November.
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