6. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks existence as a franchise has been an exercise in hard luck. They seem to go through multiple rebuilds which cultivate in a Cup finals appearance once a decade only to fall short and lose the series then fall off the map again. Seriously, check it out. They’ve made the finals three times – once in 1982, once in 1994, and once in 2011, only to lose to the Islanders dynasty, Rangers, and Bruins respectively. Buffalo is the only team that’s been around about the same amount of time they have and not won a Cup.
The current iteration of the Canucks can best be described as trying to clean up the mess that previous GM Jim Benning made. I don’t envy his successor in Patrik Allvin – Allvin has a LOT of work to do to bring this franchise back to relevancy. And Benning didn’t make it easy on him – the Canucks have the dubious distinction of being the NHL team utilizing their cap space in the worst possible way. They have the third-largest player payroll in the NHL but have nothing to show for it.
Nonetheless, Allvin has shown some smarts in his first season as GM of the Canucks. He bit the bullet and corrected a huge mistake Jim Benning made by buying out Oliver Ekman-Larsson despite the fact it will result in a dead cap hit of over $4.7 million at peak for the 2025-26 and 2026-27 seasons. What Jim Benning was thinking I’ll never know as before he made that trade he had a number of bottom-six forwards whose contracts were up after that season and whose cap hits added up to $10 million.
He dealt all of those forwards to Arizona in the OEL trade, so he saved himself $2 million in year one and then promptly cost the franchise $8 million or so after that. That math just doesn’t work.
After Bo Horvat revealed to the team that he wouldn’t sign an extension, Horvat was shipped to the New York Islanders in exchange for a prospect and Anthony Beauvillier. He matched his 9-11-20 boxcars in fewer games for the Canucks after the trade so that’s got to be a bit of a silver lining. Allvin inherited Conor Garland as well in the OEL trade with Arizona which I suppose also provides some hope for the future. They succeeded in convincing KHL star Andrei Kuzmenko to sign with them last year and he promptly went out and scored 39 goals and collected 74 points in year one.
So I’d say that turned out well for them. Allvin also signed Teddy Blueger, a useful bottom-six piece. He signed promising young free agent Sheldon Dries. They also have useful forwards Nils Hoglander and Pius Suter.
He traded for Filip Hronek from the Wings, who will replace OEL in the lineup and has a much higher ceiling as a player.
He made a bit of a risky move by signing Carson Soucy to play on the top pairing with superstar Quinn Hughes. Soucy was best known as a third-pairing d-man who did spot duty in the second pairing. IIRC he never really played top pairing minutes in Seattle, and not every NHL player can handle the higher minutes and tougher competition up there, so whether or not Soucy can handle it remains to be seen. I get the wisdom in grabbing a player who is on the upswing, but Soucy has no such track record of playing the top pairing. I’m assuming he used Cody Ceci as a comparative seeing as how they have identical $3.25 million cap hits, but Ceci had a year of top pairing work under his belt before coming to the Oilers. Soucy has no such track record.
Allvin better hopes it works out otherwise he has signed a guy for three seasons who has an NTC for the first two years. I’m sure Allvin would love to have Tyler Myers off the roster as well as he’s been underachieving for some time, but fortunately for him this contract is up after this season, so that should give Allvin a nice boost of $6 million in cap space.
And then of course there’s Thatcher Demko, a starter-caliber goalie who had an off-year last season. I would expect his stats to improve once the team in front of him gets better.
So, it’s a bit of a good news/bad news scenario in Vancouver. The bad news is Allvin has to rebuild the rebuild that Jim Benning was doing. The good news is a lot of the talent and pieces are already in place, so he won’t have to do a wholesale rebuild per se.
Don’t be surprised if the Canucks leapfrog over the Flames this season.