The Vancouver Canucks aren’t likely to see big swings in free agency this summer, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to add value on July 13.
Each year, deep players are signed to low-cap hit short-term contracts that ultimately make a big difference to a team’s bottom six. Whether it’s through depth scoring, solid defensive play, or adding value to special team units, some low-end free agents have value.
Here are four cheaper options for free agents to explore the Canucks.
After being part of the Rickard Rakell trade, Dominik Simon ended his season in Anaheim after playing 55 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Simon is a defensively responsible winger who can bring depth to an organization. He has scored three goals and provided 13 assists in his 72 appearances this season. Simon is 27 years old and recorded a career high 28 points with the Penguins under Jim Rutherford’s tutelage in 2018-19.
After signing a $750,000 one-year contract last summer, Simon is unlikely to be expensive and with the connection to Rutherford and general manager Patrik Allvin, he could be an option to be an in-depth piece on the Canucks or top talent. to join the AHL team in Abbotsford. Although he has only played one AHL game in the past four seasons, he could become a player who will soon begin to experience the waiver life.
Simon averaged less than 10 minutes of ice time in his 55 games with the Penguins, but saw his ice time rise to over 12 minutes a night when he was part of the Ducks. Adding penalties would be a big boost to his career path as an NHLer and may need to be done if he wants to stay out of the AHL. Simon played a bit on the penalty kill during the 2019-20 season, but has more experience with an NHL power play than shorthanded.
His year with 25 points of tie during the 2018-19 season is the glimmer of hope for him to bounce back and make a notable contribution to the Canucks’ lineup next season.
Expect the cap hit to be low but have an NHL quality player hungry to keep his career going.
BC native Curtis Lazar is currently in his eighth NHL season with his third NHL team. He is coming off a career year in which he finished the season with eight goals and eight assists in 70 games with the Boston Bruins.
As a penalty killer, Lazar was the Bruins’ fifth most used striker this season, shorthanded for 112 minutes. He has developed his game to be strong in the defensive zone and has a good impact on expected goals against five-on-five numbers and penalty kill.
Lazar is a center that signed a two-year deal where he had an average annual cap hit of $800,000. He values a bottom six and can be an effective penalty killer.
With the local connection, Lazar seems like a solid option to help the fourth line.
After a stellar collegiate career, Zach Aston-Reese has begun to change his game into a defensive winger who is a good fit for a bottom six role. He played in 69 games this season and was also part of the Rickard Rakell trade. In those 69 games, Aston-Reese had five goals and ten assists in the season.
He was a consistent force on the penalty kill, finishing fourth on the Penguins in penalty kill time per game before being traded to Anaheim. Aston-Reese has had positively anticipated goals in each of his five seasons with the Penguins and has good hands to finish in the bottom six.
Aston-Reese shows himself very well when it comes to defensive numbers at five-on-five, and his ability to kill on penalties will keep him in the NHL for years to come.
The connection between Aston-Reese and the senior management of the Canucks could be a key factor in getting Aston-Reese to sign in Vancouver.
After a six-year $24 million contract, Victor Rask is likely to see a major pay cut in his next contract. He will likely make a bigger deal than the three strikers mentioned earlier, but he showed more potential early in his career before landing in Minnesota and being traded to the Seattle Kraken this season.
Rask has been used more as a winger than a center this season, but he still has the ability to play the middle. He doesn’t kill penalties, but brings a great body to the fore and is likely to revive his career with the next contract he signs.
to the task is victorious race! pic.twitter.com/x8e09ZbJ2f
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) March 29, 2022
A lot of potential was shown early in his NHL career when he was part of the Carolina Hurricanes, but he struggled to live up to the hype of his six-year contract when he was traded to the Wild. There’s still some skill in his game and he’s likely to get a pretty cheap deal after failing to live up to his $4,000,000 cap hit in the past six seasons.
The Canucks will have to get creative with their cap space this summer, and these forwards each have something to prove at crucial points in their NHL careers. We’ve seen a new environment work wonders for many NHL players, and the hope is that the Canucks will find one or two stories like this this summer to add to their bottom six.