I didn’t expect to be bringing this style of article back during the summer, but there’s been a lot of news to go over.
When I heard that Trevor Linden was leaving his role as President of Hockey Ops, I had the same reaction as a lot of other people; shocked and confused. The Canucks were, more or less, headed in the right direction thanks to a flood of youth, and there hadn’t been any rumblings that a departure was coming.
But then, on the same day the club signed the final RFA, Jake Virtanen, to a two-year, $2.5 million deal, the hammer dropped.
Let’s be honest; Linden’s tenure as president was far from perfect. While his first season in 2014-15 saw the Canucks return to form with a 101-point season, it also ended up being the peak of Trevor’s reign. The last three seasons have seen the club drive over the cliff into the bottom of the standings, and even though there’s a lot of hope for the future, the game results are likely going to get worse before they get better.
What Linden does leave behind is the foundations of a strong, young core with the likes of Horvat, Boeser and Pettersson, and a general manager in Jim Benning who’ll be required to step up in all aspects of team business, especially in media relations.
When it comes to interviews and discussions with the media, Benning has never been a wordsmith, and Linden worked as a well spoken, built-in buffer for the PR department. But when the mic has been handed to Benning in the past…the results have been less than optimal.
For me, the departure of Linden raises more questions than it answers. Why now, in the middle of the offseason? What issue between Linden and ownership led to this “amicable” split? Did Francesco Aquilini decide to join a Club 16 rival for his fitness needs?
This is clearly the type of story that we’ll find out more about as the months go by. But until then, we’ll have to settle for Aquilini’s Twitter page.
Jake Doubles Up
One announcement we did see coming was the return of Jake Virtanen, and it comes on short term deal that benefits both the player and the Canucks.
It’s no secret that Virtanen hasn’t lived up to the hype that made him the fifth overall pick in 2014, but he hasn’t been the total bust that many people have labeled him either. Under the watchful eye of Travis Green, Virtanen has slowly developed into a reliable mid-six forward and finished 2017-18 with a career high 20 points and playing the best hockey of his professional career.
This “show me” contract gives Virtanen more time to prove his value to the Canucks, and the team gets to retain him as an RFA when the deal expires in 2020. By that point Jake will nearing 24 years old and have a five years of pro experience under his belt, making it a great checkpoint to reassess his future.
While I don’t think Virtanen is destined to become the grinding offensive leader that he was projected to be, I also think he hasn’t hit his full potential yet. What I saw from him in the last quarter of the year showed that with the right opportunities, Jake can certainly reach that next level before his two years are up.
Odds and Ends
Virtanen’s deal marked the end of a busy resigning season for Jim Benning and…oh yeah, Trev’s gone…um…John Weisbrod, I guess? So let’s do a lightning round look at all the players who resigned last month.
While the headlines on July 1 surrounded the Canucks’ three free agent additions, the club also celebrated Canada Day by locking up Sven Baertschi to a 3 year contract worth $10.1 million. In the last two seasons Baertschi has solidified his role on Bo Horvat’s left wing, and while some younger players like Nikolay Goldobin and Jonathan Dahlen might be nipping at his heels I think this is the Swissly Bear’s job to lose. Assuming he stays healthy this year, of course.
Darren Archibald not only became a fan favourite in Vancouver this season, but his hard nosed play also earned him another one year, $650,000 deal from the Canucks. Archibald likely won’t crack the lineup again this year, thanks to the flood of grit coming to Vancouver, but keeping him in the organization as a leader for the Comets could prove beneficial in the future.
The Canucks were able to avoid arbitration with “The Legend of Troy” Stecher, inking him to a two year contract worth $4.65 million. Troy has quickly become one of the team’s best defenders through his excellent hockey IQ and work ethic, and has the capability to take on a greater role both on the ice and in the locker room before this contract runs out.
Ending with the Future
Quinn Hughes might not be suiting up in a Canucks uniform this calendar year, but if there’s one reason to start dreaming of what’s on the horizon for this team, it’s this video of him casually dominating in a summer World Juniors exhibition.
Wow. Hockey season can’t come soon enough.
Thanks for reading! How do you feel about Trevor Linden’s departure? Leave a comment below!