The Vancouver Canucks officially missed the playoffs for the eighth time in the last ten seasons when they lost to the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 at Rogers Arena on Sunday evening.
“It sucks,” Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet said postgame in reference to this season. “I feel bad for the guys. Obviously four months off sucks, but use it to your advantage. The other teams are going to play late, we’re not. So what are you going to do with these next four months … yeah it sucks, four months off, but we’ve got some really good players here that want to win and they’re going to lead the charge for us this summer.”
Over the course of the ten seasons the Canucks have overlapped three different fulltime general managers, five different head coaches, two captains and one owner.
The relatively new management has plenty of work to do and future contracts to consider. Aside from lesser restricted free agent (RFA) wheelings and dealings this summer, the attention in the market will ultimately turn to a new contract for star centre Elias Pettersson, who’s eligible for a new deal starting in July.
It’ll be a long term deal starting in the millions per season with an annual cap hit beginning with a 9 or a 10. The final season of ‘Petey’s’ bridge deal will pay him $10.25-million with a cap hit of $7.35-million in 2023-’24. The three-year deal was backloaded.
Buy-outs will also be on the topic list. Too soon for defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, with four seasons remaining on a whopper deal? Will the Canucks pay Tyler Myers the $6-million for the final year of the right-shot D-man’s contract or try to move him?
What will the health status be for recently acquired righty defenceman Filip Hronek?
As for depth, the club is evaluating that now in each and every game. Injuries have allowed for more opportunities, as seen in the loss to the Kings. Recently signed college player Akito Hirose played in his first NHL game, the former Minnesota State (Mankato) skater picking up 14:01 in ice time, delivering a hit and blocking two shots.
“I think it went pretty well,” the 23-year-old Calgary native said of his first experience. “I thought I was just trying to play a mistake-free game and help positively as I could.”
“It is what it is, we have guys trying to make our team,” Tocchet said. “Guys are in and out of the line-up. Guys played hard.”
While there’s talk of naming a new captain to replace now New York Islander Bo Horvat, the coaching staff is more concerned with the big picture.
“It’s a hungriness, I want to be part of the solution,” Tocchet said. “What am I going to do this summer, for myself and the coaching staff, where we can really help the players out. That’s our job, to help the players.
“I’m looking forward to these four months, to get ready for October.”