Ask it to Bulis is a semi-regular feature where I answer your Canucks and Canucks-adjacent questions. We’re in a bit of a lull in the Canucks’ world, as we’re still two months away from the NHL Entry Draft and even the World Hockey Championships is a couple weeks away.
That makes this a perfect time to pause and consider some Canucks questions. I put out the call on Twitter and got some captivating queries. Let’s dig in.
Do the rumours of Gillis and the Canucks speaking have any truth?
According to Ed Willes on the White Towel Podcast, the Canucks have reached out to Mike Gillis. Willes had previously speculated that Francesco Aquilini could bring back Gillis, with the Canucks looking for someone to fill the role of president of hockey operations. They haven’t had one since Trevor Linden and the Canucks “amicably” parted ways.
If the Canucks brought back Gillis, it would be a stunning move. Teams don’t often bring back general managers that they fired, particularly ones that left in such an acrimonious fashion.
Gillis is a divisive figure in Vancouver, with some fans praising how he took a team that was unable to break through and built them into arguably the best team in the NHL, winning two Presidents’ Trophies and coming within a game of the Stanley Cup. On the other hand, some fans criticize Gillis for his terrible drafting record, suggesting that he simply took a great core that was already in place and left the Canucks with nothing in the cupboard.
Whatever else you may think, Gillis is a smart, progressive hockey executive, who seems to have learned from his mistakes in his first go-around with the Canucks. But how seriously should we take this report?
I trust Willes’s report, which Aquilini hasn’t denied like certain other reports (see below), but all that means is that Aquilini reached out to Gillis via text message. Have they been in conversation since then? Would Aquilini actually bring Gillis back? Would Gillis want to come back? That’s still unknown, and I haven’t been able to find out anything more.
What does seem clear is that if Gillis does come back to the Canucks, it would have to be in a decision-making position, free from influence from ownership. Gillis wants another job in the NHL, but told Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, “I made up my mind when I left Vancouver that I would only go into a situation where I felt that there was going to be alignment from top to bottom where you could do a lot of interesting things and people weren’t going to criticize you because you weren’t doing it the old way.”
Keep in mind, there’s going to be another NHL franchise down the road from the Canucks in Seattle and they’ll be looking for a president and general manager as well. If Aquilini has some sort of advisory role in mind for Gillis, that seems like a non-starter.
Have you ever spoken to Dean Lombardi?
Dean Lombardi is a false flag operation. Fake news!
I want to correct erroneous media reports that I tried to hire Dean Lombardi. In fact, I've never spoken to Dean Lombardi in my life.— Francesco Aquilini (@fr_aquilini) April 23, 2019
Who is your favourite for the Stanley Cup now?
Okay, this is neither Canucks-related nor Canucks-adjacent, sadly. But it’s still a good question, considering the shocking number of upsets in the first round of the playoffs that knocked out seemingly all the favourites. The unpredictability of round one threw everyone for a loop and makes it even harder to predict the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Consider this: before the start of the playoffs, the five teams with the longest odds to win the Stanley Cup according to the Vegas sportsbooks were the Dallas Stars, Columbus Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, and New York Islanders. All five teams won in the first round, with the Blue Jackets and Islanders sweeping their opponents and the Avalanche winning in five games.
So, when those same sportsbooks have the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues as the favourites to win the Cup heading into round two, it’s fair to be a little bit skeptical.
My favourite to win the Cup was the Tampa Bay Lightning, so feel free to treat my own predictions with a grain of salt as well. Like, a big coarse grain of himalayan pink salt.
I am unabashedly rooting for the Carolina Hurricanes in the playoffs. While I think they have a strong chance to go all the way to the Stanley Cup and I do think they’ll get past the New York Islanders, I have to admit they’re not who I would name as favourites.
Personally, I’m leaning towards the Blues and Colorado Avalanche meeting in the Western Conference Finals and the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets in the East. From there, I’m predicting a blue Final, with the Blues beating the Blue Jackets in six games.
But I’ll probably be wrong! Predicting the results of the NHL playoffs — particularly this year’s NHL playoffs — is a fool’s errand!
Who’s on the top of your (realistic) UFA wish list?
Ooh, tough question. The two UFAs that should be on the top of everyone’s wish list, and perfectly fit the Canucks’ needs for a first-line winger and top-pairing right-side defenceman: Artemi Panarin and Erik Karlsson.
The question is whether either of Panarin or Karlsson are realistic for the Canucks, let alone both. First of all, there’s a chance that neither player will even reach free agency. A long playoff run for the Blue Jackets and Sharks could convince both to stay with their current teams.
If they do reach free agency, you have to ask why either would choose to sign with the Canucks, a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in four years. They’re arguably close, thanks to the emergence of Elias Pettersson and the possibility of Quinn Hughes excelling as a rookie next season, but is that a risk a player like Panarin or Karlsson would take? Keep in mind, they’re both in their late-20’s and have yet to win a Stanley Cup; they’ll get offers from contenders.
I’m just imagining dropping $22 million on both Panarin and Karlsson on long-term deals and trying to picture what that would do on the ice as well as off the ice with their salary cap for years to come.
My fear is that if the Canucks can’t get one of those two, they’ll overpay for Tyler Myers and/or Wayne Simmonds.
Honestly, my sense about this year’s free agency is that if you can’t get one of the big fish, you’re probably better off steering clear of who’s left. Anders Lee would be one of those big fish at forward, but it sounds like he’ll stay with the Islanders. Maybe the Canucks could target someone like Joonas Donskoi, who could be a cheaper option for the second line.
On defence, Jake Gardiner is a big fish: a legit top-four defenceman. But he plays on the left, which will be crowded with Alex Edler, Quinn Hughes, Ben Hutton, and Olli Juolevi. If the Canucks don’t re-sign Edler, Gardiner would make sense, but otherwise doesn’t fit unless the Canucks believe Hughes can play on the right.
Who else would make sense? Anton Stralman plays on the right, but is well past his prime. Patrik Nemeth? Jordie Benn? Ben Chiarot? Oh boy, the pickings are going to be very slim when it comes to UFA defencemen. One gets the feeling that Karlsson, Myers, and Gardiner are going to be very well paid this summer.
The Canucks are probably better off targeting someone like Julius Honka in a trade than trying to find a defenceman in free agency.
Is the Beagle contract the worst in the NHL?
Look, the Jay Beagle contract isn’t great. He’s getting paid too much for a fourth-line centre and it will only look worse over the next three years, but it’s not even close to the worst in the NHL.
You don’t have to look far to find a worse contract: Loui Eriksson undoubtedly has one of the worst contracts in the NHL at six years at $6 million per year, while he’s slid down to the fourth line this season. It gets even worse when you look at the particulars, as I did in a previous Ask it to Bulis, that make it pretty much impossible to buy out.
There are others that are arguably worse. James Neal, Bobby Ryan, Brent Seabrook, and Ryan Kesler are all pretty bad; Neal’s, in particular, is ugly, since he’s just in the first year of a five-year deal and was basically invisible all season for the Flames. He was even a healthy scratch in the deciding Game 5 in the first round of the playoffs.
Worst of them all, however, is Milan Lucic’s $6 million through 2023. It’s a year longer than Eriksson’s contract and Lucic had a paltry 20 points last season. Eriksson may be a disappointment, but at least he’s been moderately effective in a reduced role and had 11 goals and 29 points. It’s incredible to think that the Oilers have another four years of Lucic to look forward to.
Should the Canucks trade Tanev?
It feels like that particular ship has sailed. At this point, the Canucks would be unlikely to get much of value back in a Tanev trade given his injury troubles and declining play.
Tanev has one more year on his contract and a trade might make sense at the 2020 trade deadline if he has a bounceback year, stays healthy, and teams are willing to offer a decent deal.
If the Canucks acquire a legit top-six forward, can they bandaid their way to a legit top six?
It really depends on who they can acquire. If it’s Panarin, he’s a gamechanger. A first line of Panarin, Pettersson, and Boeser would be dangerous, allowing you to fill out the top six with Bo Horvat and some combination of Sven Baertschi, Antoine Roussel, Tanner Pearson, Jake Virtanen, Josh Leivo, and Nikolay Goldobin. That leaves you with some decent wingers to choose from for a third line centred by Brandon Sutter or Adam Gaudette.
If it’s someone less impactful than Panarin or someone like Anders Lee, it’s hard to see the top six taking a step forward apart from the development of their young players.
If the Canucks were a burger, what type would they be and what fixings would it have?
Earlier in Jim Benning’s tenure, I would have gone with an angus beef patty topped with french fries: meat and potatoes. Benning has since moved on to emphasizing speed and skill, though, so we’ll move on as well.
Instead, let’s start with a patty that acknowledges the Swedish influence on the Canucks: a Swedish meatball burger. Basically, follow the classic recipe for a Swedish meatball, but instead of forming meatballs, form patties instead.
The Canucks loved their aging veterans, so top it with some aged blue cheese. Take some younger toppings, like fresh leaves of lettuce and put them on the burger. Then take them off the burger and verbally berate them for a while, then put them back on, then remove them again just before eating the burger.
Grate a little fresh black pepper onto the burger for some added grit, but not too much. Add some onions, but injured those onions first: break them in half after slicing them. No fancy sauces: just plain mayonnaise, to represent all the very plain, middle-of-the-lineup forwards on the roster.
Put it all on a brioche bun in honour of the very French Antoine Roussel. Serve it with a can of cheap domestic beer. Shotgunned, of course. Don’t blame me if it tastes very disappointing.