Canucks are wary of Timo Meier's four-year, backloaded deal that expires with a big qualifying offer
There’s reason to believe a Brock Boeser contract extension should be reached before the Vancouver Canucks open training camp Sept. 13 in Victoria.
Not only are there favourable comparables and continuing dialogue to establish parameters where the Canucks’ right-winger slots in amid a sea of superlative NHL restricted free agents, there’s motivation for a healthy Boeser to take his game to another level with a strong start this fall.
While other RFAs await the big domino to fall to set the negotiation bar — Mitch Marner is pushing for US$11 million annually and considering practice options with Zurich of the National League in Switzerland if the Toronto Maple Leafs can’t come to terms with their 94-point winger before camp — there has been little to suggest Boeser’s agent is trying to hit a home run.
Ben Hankinson obviously believes his client ranks with many RFA peers, especially if you pro-rate Boeser’s 56 points in 69 games last season over a full campaign. That would amount to 66 points and aligns him with Timo Meier of the San Jose Sharks, who on July 1 agreed to a four-year, $24 million extension with the San Jose Sharks.
It’s also the same pro-rated point total to match RFA winger Kyle Connor, who like RFA teammate Patrik Laine, hasn’t reached terms with the Winnipeg Jets.
“Those are some of the names we’ve used,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said of Meier and Connor comparisons. “They (Boeser’s camp) have been reasonable and we’re continuing to talk to get to some common ground. I’m hopeful to get something done before camp, but we’re not there yet.”
The only devil might be in the details.
Hankinson has an appetite for a four-year extension at $7 million annually because today’s elite players are outperforming longer commitments. Meier’s contract is backloaded to give the Sharks an initial break on actual annual salary, but not later.
The deal calls for $4 million in each of the first two years, then $6 million and a whopping $10 million in the final season. And because Meier would still be a RFA when the contract expires, the qualifying offer would be that $10 million.
That obviously works in the player’s favour, whether he’s having a good, bad or injury-plagued season, and the only clawback for the Sharks would be team-requested arbitration in an attempt to reduce the QO by 20 per cent.
“That scares me a bit,” said Benning because Boeser would also be a RFA after a four-year deal.
Benning prefers the salary structure of Bo Horvat’s six-year, $33 million extension — $6.5 million in the first year followed by $7M, $5.7M, $3.5M, $5.7M and $4.4M — that the centre signed just before training camp on Sept. 8, 2017.
In four years, Benning will also have big-ticket salaries on the books in Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes and it will also be the last year of Horvat’s extension.
“We’re looking at all of our options and are talking what long and short deals look like,” said Benning, knowing a longer deal would buy free-agency years on Boeser.
Benning also needs to take a hard look at the salary cap. With only $5 million in available space, he could sign Boeser and go over the $81.5 million cap ceiling and then get creative to be cap compliant by opening day of the regular season.
At least there are no lingering health concerns with Boeser. He competed again in the annual Da Beauty League in Edina, Minn. this summer — playmaking takes a premium over hitting — and posted 17 points (9-8) in seven games.
A year ago, Boeser played in that league after being limited in off-season training because of a back injury that shut down his 2017-18 season and nagging wrist ailment. The former Calder Trophy finalist added weight and a slow start last fall produced a nagging groin strain that morphed into an adductor inflammation and hernia scare by early November.
After missing 11 games, the winger returned and in the next six games responded with two-goal and three-goal efforts. It would be the catalyst for optimism. His six power-play goals were also a tease of what could happen in a special-teams alignment with Pettersson and possibly Hughes.
Boeser’s shooting accuracy was second best on the club at 12.4 per cent — Pettersson led with an impressive 19.4 — but the winger’s mark dropped from 16.2 the previous season.
Benning also expects to sign RFA winger Nikolay Goldobin to add to the cap conundrum. The mercurial Russian was a frequent scratch last season — four consecutive games and six out of 10 — before getting a longer look in February.
But Goldobin would sit out 19 times and didn’t play in the final six games. He finished seventh in team scoring with 27 points (7-20) in 63 games and many wondered if his career was finished.
Goldobin has little contract leverage but he would create a big logjam of wingers at camp.
“Guys who deserve to be here will be here and we’ll probably have to make some tough decisions,” Benning said when asked if the club would be willing to demote veterans.
“That could happen but we have options and LTIR (long-term injury relief for Antoine Roussel) and different options. A lot depends on camp.”
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