Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Boeser Goes Back To School

With NHL training camps getting underway, there are a handful of players whose attendance will be in question as these restricted free agents are still without valid contracts. Players like Mitch Marner, Patrik Laine, Matthew Tkachuk, and Brock Boeser have opted to skate elsewhere - for now - while their agents and their respective teams work out new deals. For Boeser, pictured to the left as a member of the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, he's decided to take his workouts up a notch by heading back to his alma mater in preparation for camp if and when he signs a new deal with the Vancouver Canucks.

According to Cap Friendly's site, the Canucks have a total of just over $4 million still to spend before they hit the salary cap ceiling, and I doubt that's the total amount of money that Boeser is seeking from his employer after seasons of 29 goals and 55 points followed by 26 goals and 56 points. While Elias Petterson generated a lot of talk through some of his highlight-reel plays, Brock Boeser has been a model of consistency with the Canucks since jumping to the NHL from the NCAA ranks.

With Boeser returning to the University of North Dakota to step up his workouts with former coach Dane Jackson, the problem in signing Boeser seems to lie almost entirely on the Canucks' side as the amount of money left under their cap isn't close to the value that Boeser believes he's worth nor does it come close to what this off-season's market value seems to project Boeser getting. This gap in Boeser's ask and the Canucks' cap space seems to be the issue at the moment, and it sounds like neither is willing to move at this time.

The Canucks are likely overpaying on a handful of contracts - Loui Eriksson, TJ Miller, Brandon Sutter, Alex Edler, and Tyler Myers as examples - and this has caused their cap crunch as it stands with Boeser. While there may be some relief once LTIR contracts kick in, it's hard to imagine that the Canucks are in any shape to hand out long-term, high-value deals to players like Boeser when one considers that they already have nearly $59 million tied up for next season that doesn't see players like Jacob Markstrom, Troy Stecher, or Jake Virtanen signed beyond this season. Boeser's cap hit will eat into that $22 million of spendable cap space next season and beyond if the Canucks do sign him, so it's not like Jim Benning is out of the woods just yet when it comes to his cap crunch.

Perhaps Benning needs to convince Boeser that his pay day is upcoming, and ask the player to take less now for a bigger pay day later on. It's likely that a short-term, bridge deal will have to be signed for at least a season or two by Boeser with the cap problems that Vancouver currently has, but a promise of a bigger pay day down the road could convince the sniper to remain in Vancouver.

Of course, a GM is only as good as his word, and there's a chance that Benning may not be in Vancouver when Boeser's next contract negotiation hits, so this is a risk and a bit of a gamble that Boeser will need to weigh. I have full confidence in his abilities that the consistent goal-scoring and play-making will continue, and deferring the big pay out for some short-term small pay cheques might be a better idea anyway if the monies pouring into hockey-related revenue continue to grow.

Again, it's a risk, and it's now one that Boeser needs to weigh. The Canucks want him in their lineup on opening night, and every day that bleeds into the regular season only makes the cap crunch for the Canucks harder to stomach without moving a current player out. Ultimately, if Boeser's camp doesn't budge in its demands, that might be the only option for the Canucks, and who gets waived or traded for pennies on the dollar will be entirely based on Boeser's demands. That loss in talent could affect a number of things, so Boeser's camp needs to look at the bigger picture here before trying to force Vancouver's hand.

In the end, this is the same battle that Calgary is facing with Tkachuk, Toronto is facing with Marner, and Winnipeg is facing with Laine. Those teams have made it clear that they will, at some point, sign their superstars, but it's going to take some creativity from the teams to meet the asks of their players. For the Canucks, the little room they have below their cap ceiling will present challenges, but those challenges can be overcome with some honest and frank discussions with both the player and his agent.

For now, Boeser is a welcomed alumnus on the campus of the University of North Dakota. When he will arrive in Vancouver is an unanswered question for now, but the Canucks won't be as successful as they would be with him in the lineup. It's entirely on Jim Benning to find a way to get Boeser under contract over the next couple of weeks.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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