Why the Vancouver Canucks Can Learn From the Mark Scheifele Signing

On Friday evening, the Mark Scheifele signing was announced. Scheifele will receive $49 million over the next eight years from the Winnipeg Jets.

While Scheifele, 23, isn’t yet a household name like a Nathan MacKinnon (who also signed a big extension), he is among the most dynamic young centres the NHL has to offer – maybe even the best not named Connor McDavid.

But why does this signing matter to Vancouver Canucks fans?

Why the Vancouver Canucks Can Learn From the Mark Scheifele Signing

The Scheifele signing is a classic case of smart drafting and patient development paying off, rather than splurging in free agency.

After failing to lure hometown hero Milan Lucic, Vancouver landed winger Loui Eriksson – who Vancouver General Manager Jim Benning is familiar with from his time with the Boston Bruins – on a six-year pact worth $36 million. That’s not a bad price to pay for an excellent two-way forward who should fit nicely with the Sedin twins on the top line. However, Eriksson is 30 years old. He’s getting paid on balance for what he’s done in the past, whereas a guy like Scheifele is getting paid for what Winnipeg is hoping he can do in the future; Scheifele has only began to scratch the surface of his true potential.

Patience is the Key

There has certainly been some growing pains for some of the Canucks’ top prospects as they’ve entered the pros in recent years, namely Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen, but they’ve shown flashes of brilliance. And there likely will be struggles for eventual newcomers such as Brock Boeser, Thatcher Demko and Olli Juolevi. That’s not concerning as long as they continue on an upward trajectory; Scheifele had his struggles too.

Scheifele needed two full years of junior hockey following his draft year. He also struggled offensively early on in his career, registering just 34 points in his rookie season and was often stuck in his own end, which led to a 48.3% Corsi rating. In his sophomore season, Scheifele played all 82 games after earning the coaching staff’s trust, but was still searching for the offensive touch that he had in junior. Finally, in his third season, Scheifele broke out in a big way, finishing the season with 61 points in 71 games and just outside the top 10 percentile for individual Corsi rating.

While not as gifted as Scheifele, Horvat should see a big jump in year three as well; he had 40 points in 82 games last season.

Beware of the Free Agency Frenzy

For all Benning can be faulted for during his time with the Canucks, he has done a good job of maneuvering the the dark waters of NHL free agency. The Eriksson signing aside, he hasn’t handed out any lengthy contracts, which is why hopefully any reports that Vancouver is in on free agent defenceman Kris Russell are false.

The majority of contenders have surprisingly few big-time contributors that arrive through free agency, as it is usually the bad teams that have a penchant for bidding up on average players.

Stay the Course

The Canucks’ future is promising, but they need to make sure they stay the course in their rebuild. The Eriksson signing is fine, as they need a placeholder for their young guns up front, but Benning – heralded as a scouting savant – would be wise to continue and build through the draft. The Scheifele signing should serve as a reminder to the Canucks, and the rest of the league, that it is, and always will be, cheaper and more effective to patiently build through the draft.

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