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State Of The Pacific: Sizing Up Canucks' Competition For Next Season Pt. 3

July 26, 2022, 2:58 PM ET [412 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Another sign that Mikey DiPietro might not be part of the Canucks' organization much longer: Ilya Mikheyev will apparently be keeping his jersey number, 65, which DiPietro has been wearing in both Vancouver and Abbotsford.

If you can scroll right on the images in the tweet above, you'll also see that Curtis Lazar will be wearing No. 20, Andrei Kuzmenko gets No. 96, Dakota Joshua will slide into No. 81 and Collin Delia gets No. 60.

Lazar has bounced back and forth between 20 and 27 in his career, wearing the former during his time in Calgary and Boston and the latter in Ottawa and Buffalo. He'll slide into the number that Brandon Sutter wore for five years. He started in No. 21 in 2015-16, then switched to 20 when Loui Eriksson rode into town. And I'm not counting last season since, even though Sutter was under contract, he never got to suit up as he dealt with long-term effects of his Covid-19 infection.

Sutter's now 33 β€” old in hockey years, but a young man by any other measure, and with young children. According to CapFriendly, he signed contracts worth just under $40 million over the course of his career, so hopefully there's enough left after taxes, escrow, agent fees and so on that he and his family will be able to live comfortably.

It still seems unbelievable to me that Sutter's entire tenure with the Canucks was defined by injuries and health issues, when he had been consistently durable through the first part of his career. And I hadn't really thought about the fact that Jim Rutherford was his GM for most of those early years. Rutherford drafted him 11th overall to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2007, then traded him to Pittsburgh in exchange for Jordan Staal in 2012 β€” with Brian Dumoulin and a first-round pick also going to Pittsburgh, which the Penguins used to select Derrick Pouliot.

Rutherford moved from Carolina to Pittsburgh in 2014, and inked Sutter to a two-year extension that summer. A year later, he pulled the trigger on the deal that sent Sutter to Vancouver. And the Canucks do still have an asset from that trade in their organization β€” they took Will Lockwood with the third-round pick they received from the Pens.

As for Andrei Kuzmenko, we had heard previously that he'd be wearing No. 96. For Canucks fans, it's an interesting throwback to Pavel Bure β€” although Bure wore No. 10 during his prime years in Vancouver, and that's the number that hangs in the rafters at Rogers Arena. Kuzmenko was born in 1996, and that's the number that he wore with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL.

Dakota Joshua is making a change, to No. 81. He wore 54 during his time with the St. Louis Blues β€” a number that has only been worn by Aaron Volpatti and Kellan Lain in Vancouver. The only Canuck ever to have worn 81 is Fedor Fedorov, in 2003.

Finally, Collin Delia sticks with the No. 60 that he wore in Chicago. The only Canuck to have previously worn that number was Markus Granlund, from 2016 to 2019.

Now, let's return to our regularly schedule programming, and take a look at the offseason moves from the bottom two teams in last year's Pacific Division standings.

7. Anaheim Ducks (76 points)

The Ducks got off to a promising start last season β€” seven games over .500 at the end of the 2021 calendar year, with a record of 17-10-7. But they went 14-27-7 in 2022 and fell out of the Pacific Division playoff race before the trade deadline, which allowed new GM Pat Verbeek to aggressively tear down his roster in preparation for a fresh start.

Despite their struggles, the Ducks were a tough team for Vancouver to play against last year. They went 3-0-1 against Vancouver, most memorably delivering that 7-4 beatdown at Rogers Arena in mid-February, as the Canucks were in the midst of their playoff push.

Though he hasn't gotten Anaheim into the playoffs in his three years behind the bench, Dallas Eakins is returning as head coach. And in addition to Ryan Getzlaf's retirement and the trade-deadline departures of Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Rickard Rakell and Nic Deslauriers, the Ducks also elected not to issue qualifying offers to Sonny Milano or Sam Steel.

Both remain unsigned, as does Zach Aston-Reese, who became a UFA after finishing the season with Anaheim as part of the return when Rakell was traded to Pittsburgh.

With plenty of cap space at his disposal, Verbeek shored up his forward group by signing Ryan Strome to a five-year deal with a $5 million cap hit and adding Frank Vatrano for three years at $3.25 million. Mason McTavish, who doesn't turn 20 till January, should also make the jump to the NHL this year.

The back end is looking thin, with only Cam Fowler and Kevin Shattenkirk earning more than $1 million, while 20-year-old Jamie Drysdale is on the last year of his entry-level contract.

Could the Ducks make a move on a UFA defenseman like John Klingberg or perhaps a Calvin De Haan? Beyond that, the pickings get thin pretty quickly, especially if you're looking for a player under 30 β€” Klingberg is 29 and De Haan is 31.

Anaheim took three defensemen in the first two rounds of this year's draft, and have Olen Zellweger coming from 2021. But he turns 19 in September, so he'd need to stick with the big club out of training camp or else go back for one last year of junior hockey with Everett of the WHL. So, there are blueline prospects in the pipeline β€”Β just maybe not this year.

Now that the rebuild is on, there's talk that John Gibson could be looking for a trade to a contender. But with five years left on his contract with a cap hit of $6.4 million, and a 3.19 goals-against average last season, his deal is not easily moveable β€” even as contenders scramble for quality netminding.

I don't think the Ducks are done with their offseason roster remake quite yet. But based on what we can see right now, it looks like it'll be at least one more year before Anaheim can challenge for a playoff spot.

8. Seattle Kraken (60 points)

Finishing 30th overall and 37 points out of a playoff spot, the Kraken have a long climb ahead before they can challenge for the postseason. And the Canucks handled their Pacific Northwest rivals easily last year, going 4-0 while outscoring Seattle 19-8 in total.

The Kraken had a tough go of things on both sides of the puck β€” tied with Chicago for 28th overall with 2.60 goals scored per game, and 24th with 3.46 goals allowed. In net, Philipp Grubauer was a major disappointment, finishing with an .889 save percentage, and must be kicking himself for choosing to leave Colorado. And he'll have to carry the load to start the year, as Chris Driedger is rehabbing after tearing his ACL badly at the World Championship in Finland.

For insurance in net, the Kraken have signed Martin Jones to a one-year deal with a cap hit of $2 million.

Seattle should also have a bit more zip up front next season. They've got high-end draft picks Matty Beniers and Shane Wright looking to step into the middle, mentored by Yanni Gourde and Alexander Wennberg. And they've added some offensive firepower by signing Andre Burakovsky as a free agent and trading for Oliver Bjorkstrand in a cap dump out of Columbus.

On defense, the Kraken brought in Justin Schultz on a two-year free-agent deal with a $3 million cap hit. After playing behind Kris Letang in Pittsburgh and John Carlson in Washington, he could get a crack at quarterbacking the power play, which was 29th in the league last season.

Seattle's changes should make the team better next season β€” and in the short term, they could improve more than Anaheim or San Jose. But I think a playoff spot will still be out of reach.
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