Photo Credit: © Dom Gagne-USA TODAY Sports

Pacific Review: The Canucks paid a big price to try to open their contention window

Welcome to OilersNation’s Pacific Review in which we take a team-by-team look at the other seven teams in the Pacific Division. Today, we have the Vancouver Canucks. 

Last season: 35-36-11 (81 points) – 5th in Pacific Division 

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Notable Additions: J.T. Miller, Tyler Myers, Michael Ferland, Jordie Benn, Oscar Fantenberg. 

Notable Subtractions: Ben Hutton, Markus Granlund, Luke Schenn, Derrick Pouliot, Ryan Spooner, Tom Pyatt. 

After back-to-back-to-back-to-back seasons on the outside looking in, the Vancouver Canucks decided they were ready.

Though their 81 points in the standings in 2018-19 marked a solid eight-point improvement on the previous season, the Canucks missed out on the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. This four-year drought is the longest the Canucks have had since the late 90s, which directly resulted in the beginning of the Sedin era.

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Over the past few years, the Canucks have done good work at the draft table. Though the jury is still out on 2016 No. 5 pick Olli Juolevi, the Canucks have put together a strong internally-developed core to build around with Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes. With everyone from their Stanley Cup Final run in 2011 now gone, this is the group the Canucks are going to roll with into what they hope is their next contention window.

Last season was all about Elias Pettersson. In the first year in the post-Sedin era, Pettersson quickly jumped on the opportunity to be the guy in Vancouver. He scored 28 goals and 66 points in 71 games, earning himself a nearly-unanimous vote for the Calder Memorial Trophy. Horvat also set a new career-high with 61 points and Boeser matched his excellent rookie campaign with a 26-goal season. Unfortunately for the Canucks, there wasn’t much else to write home about beyond that.

Leon Draisaitl is the 2019-20 Art Ross Trophy winner

Pettersson, Horvat, and Boeser were the only players on the team to eclipse the 50-point plateau. In fact, nobody else really came close. Alex Edler, the team’s top defenceman, put up 34 points in an injury-riddled season, but their next highest producer was Antone Roussel, who put up 31 points. Six-million-dollar boat anchor Loui Eriksson scored only 11 goals, while other big salary cap commitments in Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter combined for just seven goals thanks to injury-riddled seasons.

With what appears to be a strong core put together, general manager Jim Benning dove in this summer to add depth to the Canucks’ roster.

First of all, Vancouver acquired J.T. Miller as a cap dump from the Lightning in exchange for a first-round pick. The biggest signing, if you look at either the cash they threw at him or his physical stature, was Tyler Myers, who was given a five-year deal worth $6 million. The Canucks also added Jordie Benn to a two-year deal in order to shore up their blueline. Later on, the Canucks signed Michael Ferland, who seemingly fell through the cracks in free agency, to a reasonable four-year deal worth $3.5 million annually.

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It was a massive price to pay to add depth to the roster as Myers, Ferland, and Miller will combine for $14.75 million against the cap for the next two years. That’s a hefty amount of cash to pay for a team that already has roughly $13 million in ugly contracts tied up in Eriksson, Sutter, and Beagle.

How much better do these additions make the Canucks? Myers is probably best suited as a second-pairing defenceman on a good team, Benn is a fine third-pairing guy, and Miller and Ferland can both be 20-goal scorers if healthy. The Canucks have to hope that this wave of free agents works out better than their last one. Benning handed out big money in recent years to the likes of Eriksson, Sam Gagner, and Michael Del Zotto, which didn’t make the team any better.

NHL is Back, Baby... (hopefully)

The biggest addition for the Canucks, most likely, won’t be one of these off-season acquisitions. Instead, it’ll be Quinn Hughes, who Vancouver hopes will have as much of an impact as a rookie as Pettersson did last year and Boeser did the year before that. Another key rookie addition will be Thatcher Demko, who will split the net with Jakob Markstrom after a solid nine-game showing in the NHL last season.

Ultimately, the Canucks certainly overpaid to make their team better this summer. They overpaid in terms of salary for Myers and they overpaid in terms of giving up a first-round pick for Miller. Still, the Canucks badly want to do something while Pettersson is on his entry-level deal and this is the reality of trying to kick open your contention window quickly.

The Canucks’ off-season additions won’t turn them into a Stanley Cup contender, but they could be enough to get them back into the playoffs. Hopefully for them, the long-term ramifications aren’t overwhelming and this was all worthwhile.

Previously in this series…

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