Photo credit: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images
By Scott Rosenhek
With all the excitement from the NHL Entry Draft weekend completed, we got to move to a fun part of the offseason today. All teams had until 2 pm Pacific Time to tender a qualifying offer to their players who were about to be restricted free agents. Just to be clear, players who received an offer are not automatically signed to a contract. The player has until July 15th to accept or reject the offer and in the case of the latter, further negotiation will take place.
As we can see, a few obvious players were qualified like Bo Horvat. His contract negotiation will likely occur after July 15th when all the business around free agency begins to cool off. One thing to note is the type of contract that is rumored for Bo Horvat. The Canucks are looking for a two-year bridge deal while Horvat’s camp would prefer a longer-term deal. Either way, Bo Horvat is going to get paid this summer.
I was happy to learn Reid Boucher was given one of these offers. Boucher took a bit of time to get going this year as the Canucks were his third team during the season. After bouncing around the waiver wire and deemed in “game shape,” Boucher showed us late in the season that his heavy shot is his best asset. He could become a good scoring option if placed on a line with other skilled forwards.
Brendan Gaunce was also qualified, avoiding being selected by the Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft. I know Gaunce had zero goals last year, but his 4th line with Michael Chaput and Jack Skille controlled 50.8% of shot attempts, leading Canucks forwards.
Speaking of Michael Chaput, he received an offer as well. Chaput was asked to play well above his pay grade as he was originally brought in as an important piece for the Utica Comets. If the Canucks manage to sign a lot of depth forwards this year, Chaput would look great feeding pucks to Jake Virtanen. He would finally be the playmaking center that Utica desperately needs.
Emergency call-ups Joseph LaBate and Evan McEneny also received qualifying offers. LaBate showed Canucks fans that he isn’t afraid to mix it up physically and can play the role of an energy guy. He did make an impression this year, being one of the final cuts at training camp. McEneny has improved a lot since last year, as he was in the ECHL. He had a bit of a timid debut in Vancouver, but was one of Utica’s best defensemen down the stretch.
Finally, Nikita Tryamkin received an offer as well. On the surface, it may not make sense to qualify Tryamkin since he already signed in the KHL. However, the Canucks now hold the rights to Nikita Tryamkin until July 1st, 2022 by qualifying him. I know people are disappointed that Tryamkin has made the choice to leave, but there is a lot of time for him to return.
This means that Michael Garteig (G), Joseph Cramarossa (C) and Mike Zalewski (LW) were left unqualified. For them, they become unrestricted free agents on July 1st. It’s a shame that Garteig, who is from Prince George, did not receive an offer, but he did have a rough season between the ECHL and Utica. We aren’t fully certain that Ryan Miller returns, but even if he does, having Garteig would be nice when the eventual injuries set in.
As for Cramarossa, 4th line players like him are easily replaceable and the Canucks may want to spare a few contract slots for any standouts at their prospect camp. Mike Zalewski did have a down year, but the Canucks may bring him back on an AHL contract. I’m not sure how likely that is, but anything could happen.
From this point, we wait. Free Agent Frenzy is coming up fast and the Canucks have been talking to a few free agents outside of the team. We will have to wait until July 1st to see the new additions to the Canucks.