Vancouver Canucks Counting on Tucker Poolman to Return

Concussion issues are never predictable, as Tucker Poolman well knows. While Vancouver Canucks General Manager Patrik Allvin sounds confident he will return in full health, there should be a contingency plan in place.

The Return of Tucker Poolman, Hopefully

A casual glance at the Vancouver Canucks right-side defence raises obvious questions. Even if Poolman returns to the squad in full health, there’s a lot of money that just isn’t doing enough work there. It’s obviously not his fault. There are an awful lot of jobs we’d take for $10 million, but he needs to be looked at. Assuming he does make it back.

No team is going to rely on Poolman for scoring. He did reasonably well in university and contributed at the AHL level, but that would never be his NHL career. Not that this is an issue. Teams need defensive players, too. It’s nicer to have ones who can threaten double-digit scoring over a season, but that’s just not his game.

He showed some promise in 2019-20 with four goals and 16 points in 57 games. But the next season he got a single assist in 39 games. He topped that with one goal and one assist in his eight playoff games that year. The Winnipeg Jets decided they had seen enough and let him go to free agency rather than extend him.

Vancouver Comes Knocking

Tucker Poolman signed on with the Vancouver Canucks last offseason to a surprising deal. Four years a$2.5 million per isn’t the expected amount for a primarily defensive defenceman. Especially not one who is 28 years old and has just 120 games of NHL experience. But this was then-general manager Jim Benning‘s eighth year at the helm, and he was desperate. Years of looking for a big contributor on the defence through the draft or free agency had come up empty. It was a contract signed in flop-sweat.

Then it was up to Travis Green to figure out how to best use him. The first choice was to move him beside Quinn Hughes. Because of course, you do. They played 270 minutes together to see if they clicked, but not really. Hughes was moved back into a pairing with Luke Schenn, and Poolman teamed up with Oliver Ekman-Larsson. They neither stopped opponents well nor scored, so Poolman was moved again.

A third-pair spot worked well for him and his new partner, Kyle Burroughs.

But What Does He DO?

As bizarre as it sounds about a 28-year-old player, Tucker Poolman still hasn’t really found his NHL game yet. He hasn’t even played 20 games under coach Bruce Boudreau, so who knows how, or even if, Boudreau wants to use him. Judging by his previous play, he’s trying to add a more physical aspect to his game. That would put him in good stead in Vancouver.

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He skates well. It would be interesting to see if he worked with Travis Dermott or rookie Jack Rathbone. They both rely on skating for their defence, so if Poolman can give them some muscle that could certainly work. Or work well enough to make a consistent pairing in any case. Can it be a pair that makes his $2.5 million price tag worth it? That’s a bit of a stretch. And the cost of trying to shore up a position through free agency.

The right side on the blues line is an obvious spot to improve, and the team knows it. There are few free agents around that would be an improvement on Poolman, and didn’t we just mention the cost of shoring up positions through free agency?

Does Tucker Poolman Stay or Go

He’s not getting traded, that much is certain. There are three years remaining on his contract, and given his health concerns, it seems very unlikely any team would be interested. Not without a sweetener which the Canucks simply don’t have. A buyout would save the team a million dollars on the salary cap in the first year, and two million in the next two years. Sounds great until years four through six add almost a million dollars cap hit each.

So, realistically, Tucker Poolman stays not just in the system but on the Canucks. That’s not a bad thing, just an overpaid one. The mystery to start the year is what Boudreau expects from him. Well, that and his health which is actually a bigger question but we’re going t go ahead and assume everything is fine there.

Hughes can drag him along to reasonable numbers, but that’s hardly the best use of Hughes. Myers and Ekman-Larsson seem to have fallen into the role of Team Shut-down. Leaving Poolman and… what? Rathbone’s contract suggests the team wants him in the lineup ASAP. Dermott has mobility and can play either side of the ice, which isn’t a question for his playing with Poolman but is if he pairs with Rathbone.

It’s hard to picture Poolman losing his spot just because of the cost, sure. But it’s harder to picture him staying without someone else moving. Even when you can blame the previous GM, team owners do not like to see millions of dollars in the pressbox or placed in the minors.

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