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How the Canucks Can Acquire Dougie Hamilton & Build a Cup Contender

It is apparent to all that the Vancouver Canucks’ struggles during the 2019-20 campaign were on the blue line. A 34 year old Alex Edler still playing big minutes on the blue line along with the newly signed Tyler Myers carrying a 6 million dollar cap hit. The situation on the horizon does not look promising for the Canucks, with little hope outside of Calder nominee Quinn Hughes. July 2021 could be a potentially pivotal date for the franchise with a robust crop of potential free agents. One name in particular stands outs Carolina Hurricanes all star defensemen among the names in a potential 2021 free agency. This article will detail a roadmap of how the Canucks can make the necessary moves to sign Dougie Hamilton and bolster their ever plagued right side defence.

This will not be any sort of easy task, but with Jim Benning on the hot seat he’s playing with house money. A move like this could get Benning fired or put the Canucks in a spot to succeed deep into the playoffs. Something we haven’t seen since 2011.

With young talent such as Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Brock Boeser, this roster can be manipulated in one years time to pay a big-ticket player like Dougie Hamilton in free agency.

First, we must start with the salary cap. The NHL’s salary cap for the 2019-20 season was set at $81.5 million. On March 4th, 2020, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said at the NHL General Managers Meetings that the salary would increase next season, somewhere between $84 - $88.2 million. This statement was made before the NHL shut down on March 12th, 8 days later due to rising health concerns about the coronavirus. It was then reported as of June 26th, by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, that the salary cap could stay at $81.5 million for the next three seasons.

This would be a nightmare for the Canucks. The Canucks are facing a cap recapture penalty for front loading Roberto Luongo's contract for the next 3 years at $3 million annually . Vancouver also has less than $4 million in cap space this season with guys like Tyler Toffoli, Jacob Markstrom, Jake Virtanen, Chris Tanev, Josh Leivo, and Troy Stecher all with expiring deals. For the purpose of this exercise it will be assumed that the NHL salary cap will be set at $81.5 million by July 2021.

After the conclusion of the 2020-2021 Loui Eriksson will only be owed $4 million dollars in total $1 million of which will be payed out on July 1 2021. Leaving $3 million dollars in base salary to collect. The Canucks can then theoretically send Eriksson to the minors and threaten not to play him, Eriksson will walk away from the remaining $3 million after already collecting $33 million of it, hence Eriksson will not report to Utica thus leading to a mutual termination of the contract. Given that the Buffalo Sabres took a similar route with Zach Bogosian (#BogoforNorris), it is quite possible for the Canucks to follow suit.

As for the top line the team will keep team leading scorer J.T Miller, phenom Elias Pettersson, and stud Brock Boeser together. Petterson will sign for 8 years $10 million using Jack Eichel as a comparable and be the face of the organization for the next decade.

For the second line, the Canucks will retain captain Bo Horvat, re-sign Tyler Toffoli, and hopefully healthy Josh Leivo. Considering the Canucks gave up Tim Schaller, Tyler Madden, and a second-round pick, it would be a waste to not re-sign Toffoli following the 2019-20 campaign. Toffoli will sign for a 6 year 6 million annually (since the cap is flat it is assumed contracts are slightly deflated) Considering Leivo is also a restricted free agent this offseason, the Canucks will re-sign him for $2.1 million for the next 3 seasons (Contract Projection Courtesy Evolving Hockey)

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As for the third line pending RFA Adam Gaudette will be signed to a 2 year 1.3 million dollar contract to centre the third line (Contract Projection Courtesy Evolving Hockey). Flanking him for the 2021-2022 season will be a pair of rookie in Nils Hoglander and Vasili Podkolzin, 2019 10th overall draft pick.

The fourth line will be centred by then 36 year old Jay Beagle, with Antoine Rousell on his left wing. With Ferland on LTIR and walking away from Jake Virtanen due to his strong arbitration case and the organization's unwillingness to spend big money on the fourth line right wing spot. Enter Tyler Motte who will resign for 2 years at 900K per year who will round out the 4th line.

Between the pipes is where the hard decisions have to be made, the Canucks need to walk away from team MVP Jacob Markstrom to save money, goalies are often voodoo anyway and usually easily replaced. So the Canucks will re-sign Thatcher Demko for a 3 year deal for 3 million AAV. Backing up the young Demko will be the experienced Thomas Griess holding a matching 3x3 contract. Greiss brings a steady back up to mentor the young Demko and provides a safety net.

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Moving to where most of the problems lie, on defence. The Canucks are locked into Tyler Myers by a six by five deal in July 2019, but with the Seattle expansion draft coming up the Canucks would be wise to trade a draft pick and force Seattle to select Myers in the expansion draft (who the Canucks will be allowed to expose since he only has limited trade protection). Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher both on expiring contracts and Quinn Hughes going into the last year of his ELC, the Canucks have some tough phone calls to make this offseason. By 2021, long time defensemen Alexander Edler will be an Unrestricted Free Agent and will most likely retire. This will free up $6 million in cap space. The Canucks will also have had to choose between Stecher and Tanev. Tanev has been on the decline for the past two seasons so the Canucks decide to walk away from him unless he takes a huge hometown discount (which by all reports will not be happening). Stecher will sign a 4 year $2.5 million contract extension (Evolving Hockey projects Stecher at 1.9 million but the Canucks will offer slightly more to secure him for a longer term). The revamp of the D-core comes next. The Canucks will sign Dylan Demelo to play the bottom pair on the right side on $2.8 million for 3 years(Contract Projection Courtesy Evolving Hockey), Demelo is a very underrated player who can provide the Canucks with bang for their buck as he is a positive impact player on both ends of the ice and will be a match up nightmare on the bottom pair.

Data and Visualization Courtesy of Evolving Hockey

Image Courtesy of Getty Images

Next the Canucks will sign Surrey native Brendan Dillion to $3.75 million contact (Contract Projection Courtesy Evolving Hockey) another steady left side blue liner who can eat hard minutes.

Data and Visualization Courtesy of Evolving Hockey

Kevin Gravel will patrol the bottom pair as well on $750K contract, he is a big bodied player who has an edge to his game and is solid defensively and unspectacular offensively

Data and Visualization Courtesy of Evolving Hockey

Quinn Hughes this is where some fans may disagree with the approach taken, but Quinn Hughes like Adam Gaudette and Brock Boeser is a 10.2C RFA meaning he has no arbitration or offer sheet rights, so he has no options but to sit out a whole year if the Canucks contract offer does not meet his demands. The Canucks will offer him the Tory Krug contract 4 years at $5.5 million walking him to his last year of RFA eligibility with arbitration and offer sheets right. It works out for both parties in the long run as Hughes will be eligible to sign a massive extension. This is not ideal but for a cap strapped team looking to go on a deep cup run tough decisions must be made.

This leave space to sign the piece de resistance Dougie Hamiltion, the right shot unicorn that the Canucks have searched for, what feels like an eternity the 6 foot 6 blue liner skates like the wind and is a potential Norris candidate will give the team a dynamic it has never seen before.

The final team looks like this, although not perfect this version of the 2021-22 Canucks look poised to make a deep run in the postseason the likes of which have not been seen since 2011. The teams backend has improved drastically and although there are question marks about the ability of the 3rd line over the course of a full NHL season and the young tandem between the pipes, there is no doubt this would be the best roster since Jim Benning took over and dare we say since 2011. As you can see pulling this roster together with a flat cap proves to be quite the challenge, the Canucks would still hold $1.5 million in cap space, with the cap recapture coming off the books the season after and the likes of Beagle and Rousell freeing up money the year after this Canucks team looks far from cap purgatory, indeed cap space does win cups…

Courtesy of CapFriendly

Daniel Auld contributed to this report.

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