With only two expiring unrestricted free agent (UFA) contracts on his roster, Jim Benning can afford to take a slight breather this offseason. There’s no imminent risk of losing a core player, unless you include 36 year-old Ryan Miller in that category, given that the bulk of his work will come from re-signing restricted free agents (RFAs).
With those RFAs though, Benning has his work cut out for him. At the top of his list should be a new contract for 22 year-old Bo Horvat. Hornet was inarguably the team’s best player last season with 20 goals and 52 points in 81 games. He stands to received an enormous raise over the $894, 167 he earned annually under his expiring contract.
Benning secondary concern has to be defenseman Erik Gudbranson. The rugged, 25 year-old defensman was acquired last offseason in a trade from the Florida Panthers in a move to add more size, grit and toughness to the Canucks back end. Unfortunately, Gudbranson only managed 30 games with the team after suffering a devastating injury. His expiring one-year contract paid him $3.5 million last season, but might he receive a slight decrease for 2017-18? Another short-term “show me” deal may be the route to go with Gudbranson given his age and lack of upward trajectory.
Other RFA deal to get done in Vancouver this offseason include Brendan Gaunce, Reid Boucher, Joseph Cramarossa and Michael Chaput. None of these players are exactly game breakers, but each slot into the Canucks lineup accordingly. With free-agency looming nearer and nearer look for Benning and the Canucks to lock up some of these contracts by the end of June.