Vancouver Canucks Player Loans to Winnipeg
In difficult times, many people look to the past for comfort. For the Vancouver Canucks, that includes their former AHL city, Winnipeg. Three players, Tyler Graovac, Ashton Sautner, and Arturs Silovs, are moving in with the Winnipeg Jets for the season. The Canucks player loans leave them available more easily in the event the team needs reinforcements. It still won’t be quick, but it shaves a week off of their recall time compared to the Utica Comets. Without crossing a national border, they only have to follow the NHL quarantine of seven days rather than the federal one of two weeks.
Let’s look at the players selected and discuss why they were chosen.
The Canucks are, as ever, right up against it for cap space. Yes, they have the extra space afforded by Micheal Ferland and Jayce Hawryluk going on injured reserve. But that is a work-around always best avoided – and they can’t. So. One of the considerations is who is available at the best cost. Of the three, Silovs is the most expensive with a $789,000 NHL salary. This doesn’t mean they are on the taxi squad, either. What it does mean is that the team now has four “layers” to filter their non-playing players through.
So far, Loui Eriksson, Jalen Chatfield, and Justin Bailey have been in the press box – figuratively speaking – as regulars. Bailey moved to the taxi squad once J.T. Miller was made available, and Zack MacEwen is now chewing popcorn. There’s no saving money on someone listed here, but in return, they are immediately available.
This is the strange No Man’s Land of the 2020-21 season. Officially, being a cabbie means you’re in the minors. Salaries are AHL and you have to go through waivers to move onto or off of it. On the other hand, you can practice with the NHL team and their coaches. Since these players are tested every day alongside their NHL counterparts, they can join the team with no waiting period. Right now, there are several cabbies who would otherwise be in the AHL. Expect some more movement when the AHL starts up again in (fingers crossed) February.
Teams need to have three goaltenders available for NHL games, so currently that’s Michael DiPietro on the taxi squad. We expect he’ll go to Utica, certainly with Jack Rathbone and probably with Guillaume Brisebois, to get game time rather than endless practice. The other three players on the squad – Bailey, Marc Michaelis, and Brogan Rafferty – are all 25 years old and unlikely to develop physically much more. Practice with the Canucks isn’t the same as playing, but in the event of injuries or a coronavirus outbreak, they’ll be able to step in with minimal disruption.
Yeah, rivalries are a big deal this season, but survival more so. The NHL has done what it can, but even in Canada they don’t hold enough sway to supersede federal laws. As such, the Vancouver Canucks player loans to Winnipeg are a bit of enlightened self-interest for the Jets. If something disastrous does happen to the Canucks’ lineup, they are more likely to be able to play instead of rescheduling.
Speaking of schedules, this move almost certainly preempts an announcement that the AHL schedule will include the same restrictions as the NHL does. Most importantly, not crossing the border for games. The three players in Winnipeg can still come to Vancouver as cabbies without going through the waiver wire, which is handy. They will still have a seven-day quarantine to get through, though.
That explains the players assigned here, or two of them anyway. The skaters, Sautner and Graovac, are long-time veterans who will better handle the disruption in their schedules. Both have at least some time in the NHL and can take a small role adequately. Play well enough and they might bump the regular cabbies to Winnipeg, but given the seven-day wait for such a modest gain that’s unlikely. Silovs, on the other hand, bears watching.
Expect it to get young this season! The three cross-border Canadian squads (Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, and Canucks) have some juggling to do. In Vancouver’s case, they are filling the AHL roster with players from the St. Louis Blues organization. The Canucks’ player loans to Winnipeg aren’t being directly reciprocated, but they are “passing it on” to St. Louis. It’s not pure altruism, however.
This helps them keep players in their taxi squad and with Winnipeg without needing to fill ranks in the minors. Players sent here are extremely unlikely to get called up this year for obvious reasons. But they will get game play and are not going to have to endure a major disruption in a development year. With the exception of Sven Baertschi, who seems to have priced himself out of Vancouver’s plans, don’t expect a lot of veterans on the Comets.
Last Line, Bottom Line
The goalies, on the other hand, don’t seem very well set up for the transition. One of the youngest ones in the Canucks’ system is preparing for Winnipeg where he’ll split time with Anton Forsberg and/or Mikhail Berdin. Utica has Jake Kielly from Vancouver with Jon Gillies and/or Evan Fitzpatrick from the Blues’ system. If that continues, it leaves current goalie of the future DiPietro as a cabbie in Vancouver. This seems unlikely, as the 21-year-old needs game time right now. The AHL isn’t going to get a whole lot of games in, but any kind of schedule is still better than a season lost to being a practice dummy in the NHL.
Someone’s getting moved somewhere before the AHL season starts, and who goes where will speak volumes. Just going by ages, expect Kielly to move up to the taxi squad as DiPietro goes to Utica to play with more of his teammates, coaches, and system. It is going to be interesting to see how Silovs does in his first professional season in North America. He did very well in Latvia in international and league play this year, but the AHL? Just like this year, that’s a different thing altogether.