Canucks’ Jim Rutherford on what’s next. Retool vs. rebuild, Bo Horvat’s future, more

Jim Rutherford didn’t duck questions, lean into pointless falsehoods, or talk in circles. On Monday morning, he addressed the media and fielded questions in a difficult press conference for nearly an hour with complete honesty and transparency about the Canucks’ future. He gave tons of practical insight into what the next steps are for the franchise.

We’ll have a deeper, more exhaustive analysis of what was said soon, but in the meantime, here are five important things we learned from Rutherford’s press conference.

Rutherford on Horvath’s future, impact of Miller extension

Rutherford admitted the Canucks have been in contact with senior and pending free agent Bo Horvath.

“We think we’ve done our best and the contract we have on the table right now with Bo, I think is a fair contract for what he’s done so far this year,” Rutherford said. “But it’s certainly below market value for what he’s done this year. We’re in a pickle here. He’s had a career year, a career run, and he’s getting a run for his money and he deserves it, I don’t blame him.

“But even with what we have on the table for him now, barring any changes that will be changes next year, we’re ahead of the forecast. In that projection, do you have (Tucker) Poolman on LTIR, I don’t know. There are ways to move money, there are creative ways. But the thing is, it’s always solid.”

Rutherford’s assessment of Horvath and the Canucks’ cap picture perfectly sums up the sheer scale and magnitude of the challenges facing the club. Vancouver could either overpay for him on an extension and end up essentially out of contention, lacking the financial wherewithal to overhaul the blue line and upgrade the NHL’s 26-ranked roster. Or he could trade his senior, gain a little more cap space, but then face the challenge of addressing the roster’s weaknesses. and: replacing a top-six center who is in the league’s top 10 in scoring.

Both of the scenarios do not inspire much hope. The bleak reality also shines through and directly contradicts Rutherford’s words about the risk associated with JT Miller’s extension starting next season.

“The cap will keep going up and up. The amount will be $90 or $95 million. That (Miller) contract won’t affect the Canucks make way,” Rutherford said.

Except Miller’s contract has already affected what the Canucks are doing. That’s probably why Horvat’s extension didn’t materialize in the summer, when the asking price might actually have been reasonable before this year’s scoring bust.

Canucks aiming to rebuild, not rebuild

From the very first hockey question, Rutherford took responsibility for the state of the Canucks.

“I’m disappointed with the job I’ve done at this point,” Rutherford said. “When I first got here, I was talking about controlling the cap … getting rid of some of the contracts, and we couldn’t do that. Now the opportunity hasn’t come, but it’s still my job to do it. Until we do that, we won’t be able to make the changes we need to make.”

“We’re stuck with contracts we can’t move,” Rutherford later added. “Until we get them out, or until they expire, it’s going to be difficult to make those changes.”

Okay, let’s recap.

  • Rutherford essentially says he and his group can’t fix the Canucks until the cap situation is resolved.
  • Rutherford admitted to not being able to fix the cap situation last summer and admitted to inheriting some untradeable contracts.
  • He has already confirmed that the cap situation will be problematic this summer, that they are already limited for next season based on their internal projections, and if they gain flexibility, the cost could include losing Horvath.

Based on all of these points, how can anyone be sure that management can address the cap this offseason, given that it has been tightened by the recent signings of Miller, Brock Boeser and Ilya Mikheev? And if Vancouver’s cap picture is really hard to clean up, how can management make the toolset that Rutherford said they’d like to pursue rather than rebuild?

“The changes we need to make are not about the core players,” Rutherford said. “The changes we have to make are the other players in the team. It can become major players. When I came here, I knew it was going to be a big challenge, and I thought we should do a little surgery. Okay, let me answer your question: have I changed my position? Yes, we have to do a major operation.”

What does that look like in practical, practical terms?

“I thought it was what it looked like the whole time,” Rutherford said. “The trade we’re making is trying to get players 26, 25 years younger and put this team together over the next year or two. This was never going to be a quick fix. There is a long game here. But I don’t want to sit here and preach patience, patience, because I know the frustration of the fans and the media, and everyone wants it done sooner rather than later, as I do. But it is not so easy to do in the hat world.’

This is where it gets a bit confusing. On the one hand, Rutherford’s words that they don’t need to change the starting line-up, that the strategy is to prioritize adding young players, the same as when he first took over, and that they just need a quick reshuffle: instead. rebuild. On the other hand, he says it will take major surgery to fix the Canuck, who has changed his position, and this is a bigger challenge than he thought he first took on.

Rutherford is also misguided in his belief that fans and the media want this resolved quickly instead of preaching patience. No, it’s actually the opposite. A recycling tool is exactly what Jim Benning sold this market when he took over. Fans actually want patience and a long-term view for once. Partner Thomas Drance relayed that sentiment to Rutherford, who reiterated his confidence that this franchise can be turned around within three years and possibly sooner.

It is hard to believe how they will successfully accomplish this.

The Canucks will consider a buyout this summer

Cap space and blue-chip prospects are the most important tools for quick acceleration when you’re a bad team. The move the Canucks made in 2019-20, returning to the playoffs, serves as an example. Vancouver’s moves that offseason were aided by the arrival of Quinn Hughes as the immediate No. 1 quarterback, the cap space needed to sign Tyler Myers as a top-four addition, and the trade of Miller from Tampa Bay.

I asked Rutherford why he believes the club can make a quicker fix when the club lacks the aforementioned cap space and elite prospects.

Rutherford reiterated the importance of resolving the border situation and said they would consider a buyout if they could not move the money. Acquisitions may create short-term flexibility for this club, but it comes at a future cost. For example, buying Oliver Ekman-Larsson would create a dead cap on the books through 2031.

Buying contracts can help in certain situations, but it won’t be a silver bullet to get out of cap hell.

The Canucks prioritize acquiring young players over the draft

This line of thinking sounds familiar.

“My preference when we make these deals is not necessarily draft picks that can come in and help the team 4-5 years from now,” Rutherford said. “I’d rather get some younger NHL players that maybe didn’t pan out on their original contract and bring them in and give them a second chance.”

The Ethan Bear trade is a good template for how this strategy can pan out. But let’s be honest, as a group, how much have draft picks like Bear, Travis Dermott, Jack Studnicka and Riley Stillman really moved the needle? While rebuilding projects can help you find additional talent, they are unlikely to bring you the type of building blocks, core players, that this franchise needs.

In Horvath and Luke Shanner, the Canucks would have valuable trade chips to test this theory. Here’s your shot at landing more compelling pieces.

The problem is that contending teams want to keep young talent that could be in the NHL very soon because they need to accommodate ELCs on the roster; – Six strikers on loan next season? These are the premium pieces that help solve the contender’s hood creasing. The Canucks should have learned this lesson when they went to J.T. Miller, who was coming off a 99-point campaign, and weren’t happy with offers that lacked the impact of young players who could help right away.

Prospective teams prefer to give up draft picks or prospects who are 18 or 19 years old that are not part of their immediate plans. If you’re looking for something else, you’ll probably sacrifice potential and vice versa.

Rutherford on Kuzmenko’s future, coaching situation

Two more quick notes.

  • Rutherford said they have begun discussions with Andriy Kuzmenko’s camp about a possible extension.
  • “All I can say is that Bruce is our coach right now,” Rutherford said when asked about the coaching situation. He admitted to talking to potential coaching candidates several months ago. The fact that he didn’t give Boudreau a resounding vote of confidence or flatly deny Elliot Friedman’s report that Rick Tocchet might be hired as the Canucks’ next head coach is telling.

(Photo of Canucks GM Patrick Alvin and Hockey President Jim Rutherford: Jeff Winnick / NHLI via Getty Images)


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