The Recent Vancouver Moves
Fans expressed some disappointment and some surprise over the last three players to hit waivers for Vancouver this year.
Long-time Canuck Alex Biega was passed over for new signing Oscar Fantenberg. Fantenberg is a bit younger, a bit bigger, and slightly better on defence, but has little in the way of offence. Expect Biega to take on a leadership role with young defenders in Utica while his replacement remains the seventh defenceman with Vancouver.
Nikolay Goldobin had his contract was renewed for just a single year but clearly didn’t get the message. A mostly invisible pre-season plus extra wingers brought in this off-season pushed him from a top-six spot. He doesn’t have the skills to play lower, so he starts the year in the minors. That he made it through waivers despite his very good passing skills speaks volumes about his reputation.
The most surprising move was the often-injured Sven Baertschi not making the team. His $3.37 million contract kept other teams from selecting him, though he seems to have recovered from earlier concussion problems. He has a good history of play with centre Bo Horvat, but so does Tanner Pearson who won the spot. It’s evident that Baertschi’s injury history came into play on the decision.
So now what happens to them?
The AHL is devoted to being a development league and as such limits the number of “veteran” players per team. It’s how they won their battle with the IHL and other lower-level leagues to be the primary affiliate for the NHL, and they are not going to risk losing that status.
The Comets now have seven players who qualify for veteran status, but they can only dress five on any given night. This follows strict rules set by the league to help maintain that developmental status.
Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a game, at least 13 must be qualified as “development players.” Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season.
The Comets are loaded with vets, but anyone worried about younger players not getting ice time can relax. They’ll get their ice time under coach Trent Cull, despite the Vancouver Canucks moves.
Now a quick look at who’s left at the NHL level.
Building the Team
Coach Green made a headache for Cull because he has a vision for how a team should be composed. Clearly he has a “top-six, bottom-six” configuration in mind for the Canucks. Tonight’s lineup shows it:
While Levio is a decent all-around player, and Sutter has a good shot, that third line is hardly a frightening one. Both Tyler Motte and Antoine Roussel are starting the year injured, so the Vancouver Canucks moves aren’t finished yet. Motte may be a press box option, but when Roussel becomes healthy he’ll take someone’s place. The bottom six are playing for their jobs, and the first month of the year is their audition.
The players on defence are much more secure, with little threat of anyone getting bumped out by Fantenberg.
One change will be the Canucks using two defencemen on one of the power play configurations, with Hughes sharing the blue line with Myers on unit two. The Vancouver Canucks moves here were done in the Summer, and the players have been set for months.
As has been expected since the trade of Anders Nilsson, this season is a trial run for Thatcher Demko. Should Demko falter, Markstrom will be kept on and paid as a starter for at least two years. Markstrom may also choose to leave if Demko unambiguously shows he can be a starter as early as next year. Markstrom has earned a starter’s role, or as a “1B” at the very least. He likely won’t accept any demotion from that.
Odd Man In
While big changes happened on the wings, but a bigger one happened at centre. Adam Gaudette used the pre-season to show he belonged, getting four goals and six points in six games. However, he was used as a top-two centre . It’s unlikely he will be able to take either of those spots, and he has never played at wing. It’s easier for a centre to play wing than the reverse, but it is still a different array of skills.
Keeping the young, waiver-exempt player in the press box is a strange choice, but where does he fit? Though he had just 12 points in 56 games last year, he is much more suited to offence than defence. He played well enough in the pre-season to earn a place on the team, that’s certain: he also racked up 11 points in his 14 games in Utica last year. Is playing eleven minutes or less in the NHL – whenever he does play – a better decision for him than being a first-line player in the AHL?
Yes and no.
What it Means
Unless he blows the doors off, expect Gaudette to return to the AHL before the New Year. Being waiver exempt, he can be sent down without risk later in the year when he won’t be camouflaged by dozens of other waiver moves, as happens in the days before the league opens. Waivers get looked at a whole lot closer later in the year when injuries start to mount or players aren’t quite as good as teams thought…
In the meantime, he will be getting NHL coaching with NHL players. And that won’t be a bad thing at all.
DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 11: Adam Larsson #6 of the Edmonton Oilers fires a shot on goal against the Colorado Avalanche in the first period at the Pepsi Center on December 11, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)