Jim Benning’s off-season work is almost done. Heading into this week, he had just two must-complete items on his checklist: sign the Canucks’ two remaining restricted free agents, Brock Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin.
Like me when I’m procrastinating, Benning did the easier task first, signing Goldobin to a one-year, $900,000 contract on Wednesday.
The contract is solid value for the Canucks and about right for a player many consider only a borderline NHLer. A one-year contract means that Goldobin will still be a restricted free agent when it expires, giving the Canucks an opportunity to re-sign him if he has a breakout season, while limiting their commitment if he once again struggles.
Goldobin is well aware of his tenuous grasp on staying in the NHL, but he went into the summer eager to prove his doubters wrong.
“It’s a huge summer for me, obviously,” he said at the end of the 2018-19 season. “Every summer is big, but I feel like this is the biggest summer for me because my rookie contract is over now and not a lot of guys maybe believe I can be NHL player, but that’s why it gives me more energy and confidence to show them that I can be.”
This coming season, Goldobin will have a more difficult time staying on the roster, let alone getting into the lineup, thanks to additions the Canucks have made on the wings over the past year. More on that in tomorrow’s PITB column in the Vancouver Courier paper, but suffice it to say, it will be a tough battle at training camp.
A lot will depend on what the Canucks decide to do with some of the players in the bottom six. Will Adam Gaudette start the season in the AHL with the Utica Comets? Does Tim Schaller have a shot at making the roster? Will Loui Eriksson get buried in the AHL? What about Tyler Motte?
If three of those four players start the season with the Comets — which is possible, maybe even likely — then Goldobin should be on the roster, particularly with such a cheap contract. At $900,000, Goldobin is now the lowest-paid forward on the Canucks, which might help him stay on the roster simply from a cap management perspective.
Perhaps that aspect led to Goldobin accepting the contract, rather than negotiating for something north of $1 million. $900,000 is just a pinch over his qualifying offer of $874,125 and lower than the projections from analytics site Evolving Hockey, which predicted closer to $1.1 million on a one-year deal.
Now that Goldobin has signed, that provides a clearer picture of the Canucks’ cap situation as they negotiate with Boeser.
According to CapFriendly, the Canucks currently have just $4,158,461 in cap space with Boeser still unsigned, but that’s with a 25-man roster, which will be pared down to 23 for the start of the season. There’s also the injured Antoine Roussel, who will start the season on Long-Term Injured Reserve, though the Canucks can get the most cap flexibility by including him on their opening roster before putting him on LTIR.
Let’s get hypothetical. The CapFriendly Canucks roster already has Gaudette in the AHL, so let’s assume that Tim Schaller and one of Loui Eriksson or Tyler Motte gets waived and sent down to the AHL as well. Only $1.075 million of each of Schaller and Eriksson’s contracts would come off the Canucks cap as that’s the maximum that can be buried in the AHL, but that could be enough.
With Schaller and Eriksson in the AHL and Quinn Hughes papered down to the AHL in anticipation of Roussel going on LTIR, that gives the Canucks $7,225,128 in cap space for re-signing Boeser. If Motte gets sent down instead of Eriksson, the Canucks would have $7,125,128 in cap space — a $100,000 difference.
That means a $7.2 million cap hit is likely the maximum range for Boeser unless the Canucks are able to create additional cap space with a more significant move or are willing to lose some flexibility by putting Roussel on LTIR before the start of the season.
What matters now for Boeser and the Canucks is term. A four-year contract would mean Boeser is still an RFA when it expires, but gives the Canucks less long-term cost certainty. Unfortunately, given the Canucks cap crunch, they might have trouble negotiating a long-term, seven or eight-year contract, as Boeser would likely ask for something north of $8 million.
Now that Goldobin is signed, Benning should be able to focus his attention on Boeser’s contract. The Canucks expect to have Boeser signed prior to the start of training camp, which is just over a week away.