For Vancouver Canucks fans, July 1 is a day of infamy.
In years past, the Canucks would sign players to lucrative contracts. Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle and Tyler Myers come to mind. Vancouver had some cap space freed up thanks to the Oliver Ekman-Larsson buyout.
So Canucks fans were like Michael Scott: Ready to get hurt again.
But this year felt different. Instead of long-term contracts with big money, the Canucks decided to sign deals no longer than three years and addressed needs.
Carson Soucy travels up the I-5
The biggest signing of the day is Carson Soucy. The 29-year-old is a guy who thrives on the penalty kill. He was one of the best defencemen in the NHL when it comes to being shorthanded.
The Canucks penalty kill last season was bad. It was downright awful. It was the worst in the league and almost became the worst in NHL history. They were shorthanded 243 times and gave up 69 goals (not nice) for a pitiful 71.6%.
Soucy was signed to a three-year 3.25 million dollar contract which is reasonable. There is a no-trade clause for Soucy which becomes a 12-team no-trade clause in the final year. It’s eyebrow-raising but it seems the Canucks are really betting on Soucy to be good.
He mainly played on the third pair in Seattle. Soucy is also known to be very reliable defensively and can be aggressive.
Soucy isn’t afraid to drop the gloves too. Below is a clip of him fighting JT Miller last season. Well, now they are teammates and they can laugh about that fight together during training camp.
Soucy will likely get elevated minutes with the Canucks in a top-four role. It is up to him to prove it. He is a defenceman who plays both sides but with the Kraken, he mainly played on the left.
I admit I was skeptical about the Canucks being linked to Ian Cole. But they decided to give the 34-year-old a one-year deal worth three million dollars. Like Soucy, Cole can play both sides, is an effective penalty killer and is reliable in the defensive zone.
Cole has a connection with Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin as the two of them won the Stanley Cup together with the Penguins in 2016-17.
The Lighting’s PK was 15th in the NHL last season at 79.69%. Cole did a lot of heavy lifting on the Bolts’ PK.
Teddy Blueger was the centre that was signed to a one-year 1.9 million dollar contract. He also has connections with Allvin as he was in the Penguins organization from 2016 to last March. Blueger is a defensive centre who, you guessed it, can kill penalties. Just don’t expect him to provide a ton of offence but his career high in points is 28, which he set during the 2021-22 season.
He only played six games in the playoffs but he was part of the Vegas Golden Knights Stanley Cup winning team.
Depth, the PK and defence were addressed
The Canucks did good business in free agency this year. Yes, they have no more cap space left but they addressed depth, the penalty kill and the back end.
In years past, the Canucks would make signings that wouldn’t make sense. This time around, signing Soucy, Cole and Blueger makes sense.
The Canucks have improved. They needed to improve the back end and the penalty kill because those areas have been bad for a long time. Are the Canucks significantly better to the point where they can compete for the Stanley Cup? No, but the playoffs are possible.
Soucy at three years and 3.25 million dollars does provide risk, especially given his no-trade clause. What if he can’t handle the top four minutes and doesn’t work out? But this is a player that ticks off the boxes for the Canucks.
As for Cole and Bluegar, they are one-year deals and pretty much the definition of low-risk, high-reward.
Cole and Soucy take a bit of pressure off Quinn Hughes. One of them could be the partner Hughes needs. With Filip Hronek also in the fold, the Canucks top four is better than it was at the beginning of last season.
We also can’t forget the other signings of Matt Irwin, Zack Sawchenko, Tristan Nielsen and the re-signing of Akito Hirose.
Irwin, the man from Victoria is a great addition for defensive depth and Sawchenko will fight for the backup spot with Silovs and Spencer Martin. Nielsen will provide forward depth and after putting up 41 points last season with Abbotsford, he deserves a pro contract. Expect him to be going up and down the big club and the farm team next season.
Hirose is an interesting player. I honestly didn’t think much of him when they initially signed him out of college last spring. But in seven games, he impressed with three points and his smart defensive decision-making.
The Canucks didn’t need to spend lavishly (they couldn’t have anyway) but on paper, it looks like money well spent but there is still lots to work to be done.