I’m pretty sure that Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning might have done things differently, but perhaps it’ll turn out for the best in the end. I was surprised as anyone that the team wasn’t able to re-sign either goalie Jacob Markstrom or long-time Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev.
From the outside, Markstrom seemed like a great guy and a good teammate. At the same time, Tanev was a tough player who was more than capable of riding shotgun to the young star defenseman Quinn Hughes.
On Defense, Tanev Was Great But Not Worth the Money Calgary Paid
I was a Tanev fan – how can one not be – and I was sad to see him go to the Calgary Flames. However, I simply cannot blame Benning for not offering Tanev the $4.5 million for four years salary the Calgary Flames signed him for. That’s too much money and too many years.
Good for Tanev to get this kind of a contract, and good for him to take care of his financial situation. I can see why he jumped to the Flames. At the same time, good for Benning for wishing Tanev well one his way out the door to Calgary.
Trade Nate Schmidt for Chris Tanev? Yes!
To take Tanev’s place, Benning picked up Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt. It was a Golden Knights’ salary-cap dump – plain and simple. Vegas had a chance to sign star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and took it. But from the Canucks’ perspective, I would’ve traded Tanev for Schmidt straight up. And, basically that’s what happened.
Rising from the Shadows – Olli Juolevi
Sort of lost in the offseason has been the emergence of young defenseman Olli Juolevi, who made his NHL debut during the postseason. It was a huge opportunity for a debut, and Juolevi skated for 6:16 time on ice during a Cancuks’ victory. (from Canucks 5, Wild 4 (OT), Ed Willes, The Province, 08/08/20)
Juolevi was the fifth-overall pick during the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Other than a postseason debut, he played the 2019-20 season with the AHL’s Utica Comets. There he scored two goals and 25 points in 45 games.
Juolevi Can Score, But Will He?
Although that doesn’t sound like much scoring, during January he went on a bit of a scoring streak with 12 points in 11 games. That kind of play suggests that one day Juolevi might just provide some offense playing with the Canucks. He’s likely going to become a fixture with the team, and until recently most people thought it might not be during the 2020-21 season.
However, if you ask general manager Benning, he’ll give you a different story. Benning has stated more than once that he believes Juolevi is ready to make the jump to the NHL in 2020-21. The difference for Juolevi might be his injury situation. He finally feels healthy after being plagued by injuries, which included a back problem, a significant knee injury, and a hip issue.
With the Injuries Behind Him, Juolevi Could Make the Canucks Roster
Juolevi noted himself that, “It’s difficult times when you’re injured. But I feel every time I’ve played and I’ve been healthy, I’ve played good hockey. That gives you confidence. Even this past year in Utica, the team and how we played, it was really good for me. It’s always been more rehabbing and trying to get healthy than actually working out and getting better. Now, when you’re healthy, it feels great that you can focus on getting better. It’s a huge thing for me right now.”
The 22-year-old defenseman is confident in what he can do. During an interview from Finland this week, he noted:
“Just the way I can play a defensive game now, it’s a huge difference (from four years ago). I’m definitely a better player overall. I think I’m really close to the player I always thought I could be. I think my pucks skills and my hockey IQ has always been there, and now you add that defensive side of the game, it’s going to be really good.”
Good luck to him as he fights for a top-six spot on the Canucks defense for the 2020-21 season.
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