Last season and nearly the entire offseason all the talk in Vancouver amongst Vancouver Canucks fans surrounded star forward JT Miller and his pending free agent status. President Jim Rutherford said all the right things in the media and looked to be playing a bit of hard ball with Miller's agent. Then... Miller signed a monster deal for eight years.
Now, Bo Horvat is the man under the microscope. The Canucks captain is having a career season and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent following this season. Talks between Horvat's camp and Canucks GM Patrik Allvin have reportedly been pretty slow, leaving fans to wonder if Horvat may actually become trade bait ahead of the league's March trade deadline. The thing is... Horvat isn't the only pending free agent that Rutherford and Allvin need to retain. Former KHL superstar Andrei Kuzmenko is also slated to become a UFA after signing a one year deal with the Canucks and he has been absolutely excellent thus far.
The 26 year old winger has 11 goals and 21 points in 22 games so far this season and has looked like a match made in heaven with centerman Elias Pettersson. Despite the Canucks' struggles this season, the Pettersson, Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikheyev line has been tremendous and Kuzmenko is a big part of that. If he keeps up his current rate of production, it's not crazy to think that he could be looking at a deal that pays him anywhere from $5 million to $7 million. The problem for the Canucks is two-fold though: 1. They don't have the cap space for a deal in that range. 2. Kuzmenko doesn't want to negotiate until the offseason.
From Kuzmenko's agent Dan Milstein via Canucks insider Rick Dhaliwal:
Honestly... something's got to give in Vancouver. With the likes of Miller, Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes, Tyler Myers and Oliver Ekman-Larsson signed to big money deals there's simply no room for guys like Horvat and Kuzmenko to earn raises over their current contracts. Now, obviously the elephant in the room is Ekman-Larsson and his ridiculous $7.26 million salary through 2027... but I suspect the team will have a tough time moving that deal. Much more likely I think is that the team says 'goodbye' to one of Horvat or Kuzmenko and then is forced to ship out a guy like Myers or Boeser to make salary cap space.