There’s one re-signing eagerly awaited by Canucks fans and, no offence to Jim Benning, it wasn’t for the general manager. What Canucks fans really want to hear is that Brock Boeser, the golden-haired sniper, has a new contract.
Unsurprisingly, talk quickly turned to Boeser during the media scrum after Benning’s contract extension. While Benning has made plenty of moves this off-season, supplementing their forwards and defence with veterans J.T. Miller, Micheal Ferland, Tyler Myers, and Jordie Benn, he hasn’t gotten one of the Canucks’ key players to sign a new deal.
Boeser is vital to the Canucks’ hopes to make the playoffs, but that also represents his only leverage in contract negotiations. Since Boeser isn’t eligible for arbitration or even for an offer sheet, he has limited options as he and his agent negotiate a new deal. That makes holding out as long as possible one of the few moves he can make.
“I'm continuing to talk with [Boeser’s agent] Ben Hankinson,” said Benning. “We're trying to get to some common ground.”
That doesn’t sound particularly optimistic, but Benning believes, or at least hopes, that Boeser will be under contract before the start of training camp.
“None of the RFAs have signed yet,” he said, in reference to the big group of big-name restricted free agents that remain unsigned late into the summer. “So we're going to continue to work with them and I'm hopeful that we can get something done here before camp, so he's there to start at camp.”
Part of what gives Benning optimism in these negotiations is that he went through a similar experience with Bo Horvat.
“We have three more weeks to negotiate with Ben Hankinson,” he said. “I think the Bo Horvat thing happened like three days before camp. So I still feel like we have time to keep working on it.”
Horvat re-signed on September 8th, 2017, the same day that the Canucks’ Young Stars prospect tournament in Penticton began, so it was certainly cutting it a little close. Still, a deal got done in time for Horvat to fully participate in training camp and preseason.
Comparing Boeser’s situation to Horvat raises some interesting questions. Horvat signed a long-term deal that bought up some years of unrestricted free agency, as opposed to a short-term bridge deal that would leave him a restricted free agent when it expired.
Based on Horvat’s performance up until that point, his six-year, $33 million contract was arguably a little rich. It was paying for potential rather than previous performance, but it paid off. Now, after a 61-point season and improved two-way play, Horvat’s contract looks like a steal.
That should be the aim for Boeser as well: a long-term deal that buys up a few seasons of unrestricted free agency to get him at a reasonable cap hit for years to come. The Boeser camp, however, want to make sure that if he signs a long-term deal, that he doesn’t get shortchanged for the peak years of his career.
That’s where common ground can be difficult to find. Perhaps Boeser would even prefer a shorter-term bridge deal, allowing him to negotiate with more leverage in the near future.
There’s also the ongoing difficulty that other GMs around the league are having with their own RFAs. The latest development is that Mitch Marner has reportedly looked into at least training in Zurich, Switzerland, though it’s hard to imagine him holding out from the Toronto Maple Leafs and threatening to play in Europe.
It seems like the GMs and RFAs are just waiting for one domino to fall to set the market for everyone else. If that’s the case and all the RFAs hold out as long as possible, it could be tough to get a deal done before training camp.
Apart from Boeser, Benning has one more RFA to re-sign: Nikolay Goldobin.
“We talked to the Newport group a couple days ago,” said Benning, “and we're trying to get something figured out for Goldy. We want to try to get both of them done here in short order if we can, but understanding that sometimes we’ve got to be patient and these things take time.
“But we're working on getting both of them done.”