5 affordable free agent defenders the Canucks could still sign

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The offseason has already been a busy one for the Vancouver Canucks.Some longtime Canucks have left, as Jacob Markstrom and Chris Tanev departed for Calgary in free agency, while Troy Stecher signed with Detroit. Meanwhile, frontline winger Tyler Toffoli has landed in Montreal.

It hasn’t been a total loss however, as Braden Holtby will share Canucks territory with Thatcher Demko, and defenseman Nate Schmidt was acquired in a volley from a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights.

There is still work to be done.

The Canucks have 21 contracts open, which means they need to add at least two more players, with just $ 1.998 million in cap space according to CapFriendly.com. It won’t be enough money to re-sign their two remaining restricted free agents, Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette, so another move will have to be made.

Money could be freed by burying a player like Loui Eriksson or Sven Baertschi in the minors, although that only has a very minor impact. Teams can save a maximum of $ 1.075 million on their cap when they send a player to the American Hockey League, but to complete this list they must spend at least $ 700,000, which is the current NHL minimum wage. .

So if the Canucks sent Loui Eriksson to minors and replaced him with a player with minimum league wage, they would only save $ 375,000.

Instead, expect some swap, to free up some money. Perhaps it will be in the form of Virtanen, who is in line for a raise and whose arbitration date is set for October 28, or Jordie Benn, who is in the final year of a $ 2million contract. dollars. The team could also move on from someone like Brandon Sutter, who carries a cap of $ 4.375 million for one more season, but they would likely have to part ways with a draft pick or keep their pay, or both, to achieve this.

Either way, the Canucks seem to need a defenseman. They have five blueliners locked into squad spots next season, down to Quinn Hughes, Alex Edler, Tyler Myers, Benn and Schmidt.

They have a few young defensemen who might warrant promotion to the NHL next season, including Olli Juolevi, Brogan Rafferty and Jake Rathbone.

But relying on two of those three defenders to fill places on the night’s opening list would be risky. What would make the most sense is for the Canucks to add at least one more defenseman with NHL experience, on an affordable contract.

The biggest names still there are Zdeno Chara, Travis Hamonic and Sami Vatanen, but unless the Canucks can free up significant space for them, that’s probably not a fit. The second tier of rearguard includes Ron Hainsey, Cody This, Dmitry Kkulikov, Andy Greene and Ben Hutton, although all of these players have flaws and may not be cheap enough anyway.

So let’s take a closer look at the culture of free agents, right down to the trash.

1 Jan Rutta (Tampa Bay Lightning)

Statistics: 33 GP, 1 G, 6 A, 7 PTS
Cut: 6 feet 3 inches, 204 pounds
Age: 30

Jan Rutta wouldn’t exactly qualify as a sexy off-season addition, but the Czech defender has size and experience. He’s been used sparingly in a deep Tampa Lightning team for the past two seasons and missed a lot of time with a playoff injury, but the right-shot defenseman trusted four games. in the Stanley Cup Final.

During the regular season, Rutta had Corsi-for’s third-best percentage (53.17%) of any Lightning defender, behind only Kevin Shattenkirk and Victor Hedman.

2. Deryk Engelland (Vegas Golden Knights)

Statistics: 49 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 PTS
Cut: 6 feet 2 inches, 212 pounds
Age: 38

If you’re looking for size, sturdiness and leadership, Deryk Engelland ticks all the boxes. The only question about the 38-year-old is how much gasoline is left in the tank.

Engelland fell out of favor with new head coach Peter DeBoer last season, not having made a single playoff game for the Golden Knights, despite the team lacking right-shot defenders. The team offered him a front office position, but have yet to decide if he will retire. Maybe there is still a season in him.

3. Slater Koekkoek (Blackhawks de Chicago)

Statistics: 42 GP, 1 G, 9 A, 10 PTS
Cut: 6 feet 2 inches, 193 pounds
Age: 26

Slater Koekkoek would represent a younger option in defense, after the Chicago Blackhawks chose not to label him a restricted free agent. The 10th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Koekkoek has clearly not lived up to expectations in his career.

A left-shooter defender, he played a regular quarterback for a Blackhawks team that won a play-in series against the Edmonton Oilers, making all nine playoff games for Chicago.

Looking at his underlying numbers, Koekkoek could be a bit of a diamond in the rough, as he produced a team-high 51.86 Corsi-for percentage, albeit in just 42 games.

4. Michael Stone (Flames de Calgary)

Statistics: 33 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 PTS
Cut: 6 feet 3 inches, 210 pounds
Age: 30

Michael Stone has never been able to replicate his career-high 36 point season he accomplished with the Arizona Coyotes in 2015-16. Perhaps a change of scenery would do the right-handed defenseman some good, as it’s been four years less than stellar with the Flames.

5. Oscar Fantenberg (Vancouver Canucks)

Statistics: 36 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 PTS
Cut: 6 feet 0, 206 pounds
Age: 29

What do they say about the devil you know?

In many ways, Oscar Fantenberg delivered everything the Canucks asked for last season. After waiting until December to make his debut, he quickly supplanted Jordie Benn for the position of sixth defenseman, with a lackluster style and full of courage.

If that puts Fantenberg in line for a raise, maybe he’s kicked out of Vancouver. But with a fixed cap and each team losing money due to the pandemic, it may have to settle for a minimum wage for the league. If so, why not Vancouver?

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