Micheal Ferland has likely been on the Vancouver Canucks' radar since he was pissing off Kevin Bieksa in the 2015 playoffs. Vancouver fans will remember that series well: it was the last time the Canucks were in the postseason, and the squad, which was favoured against Calgary, dropped the series in six games.
Ferland had four points against Vancouver in the playoffs, as it essentially served as his “Welcome to the NHL” moment. A little less than four years later and Ferland is on the Carolina Hurricanes, destined to hit unrestricted free agency at the end of the season.
And, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and his 31 Thoughts column, Ferland and the Hurricanes aren’t close on a contract. That makes sense. Ferland is currently making $1.75 million and likely wants a big raise.
Also according to Friedman, the Canucks are interested in his services. So it was that the presence of a Carolina Hurricanes scout at Rogers Arena on Wednesday night as the Canucks played the Oilers raised some eyebrows.
But the question of whether the Canucks should inquire about Ferland’s availability of course comes with a bigger question at play: Are the Canucks going to be buyers at the deadline?
Most teams in the league could use Ferland’s unique mix of physicality and scoring touch. And that goes double for a squad in the Western Conference that has had a problem with their star forwards getting injured without any retribution.
The Canucks, though they are currently (and incredibly) right on the fringes of a playoff spot, are still very much a work in progress. The defence is the same as it was last season (minus Michael Del Zotto), and despite Ben Hutton’s progress and Alex Edler’s strong play, the position is still an immense weak spot. As is, frankly, any line which doesn’t feature Elias Pettersson (and to a lesser extent, Bo Horvat, if only because he's often out there with inferior linemates).
With the rookie’s tremendous success has come a certain about of ignorance toward how ridiculous the splits are when Pettersson is on the ice versus when he’s not.
So the chatter of acquiring Ferland (or any other trade deadline rental) seems like a bit of a stretch. The idea of the team even entertaining throwing futures to the Hurricanes for a rental forward should be enough to send shivers down the spines of Canucks fans.
But, if Friedman is correct, there is real interest from the Canucks side (not hard to believe, given that the team has coveted toughness in the Jim Benning era). That means they could be inclined to take a run at the forward, should he decide to test free agency.
First, though, it makes sense to point out that there could be a reason the Carolina Hurricanes don’t want to pay top dollar for the forward.
It must be noted that the Hurricanes are considering not re-signing Ferland even though letting him walk would make the trade that brought him to Carolina—along with Dougie Hamilton and prospect Adam Fox, for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin—look even worse than it does right now with Lindholm at a remarkable 57 points in 50 games. Meanwhile, Hamilton has struggled.
And yes, they have a new owner who is rumoured to be tightening the purse strings.
But the point is that NHL front offices hate losing trades (and how doing that makes them look), so the fact that they’re still apparently edging towards letting him walk says something.
After scoring 41 points in 77 games last year playing primarily with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan in Calgary, Ferland has 25 in 40 games this season. That’s about a 50-point pace, which is better than Tom Wilson had last season (though Wilson did have a crazy playoffs), and the Washington Capitals forward was given a massive, six-year contract worth $5.16 million a season against the cap.
It stands to reason that Ferland will be looking for something in that neighbourhood, and probably more.
But much of Ferland’s success this season came in the first quarter of the season when, not coincidentally, he was mostly playing alongside the skilled Teuvo Teravainen and the superb Sebastian Aho. Indeed, Ferland had 14 points in his first 20 games. As Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour shuffled his lines and Ferland skated on other units, he struggled, scoring five points in his next 14 games.
Recently, he’s once again seen time with the top line and has six points in his last six games. So Ferland is very effective with good players, but he’s not necessarily going to drive a line by himself.
Vancouver needs to be careful here. Giving Ferland upwards of $5 million a year on a long term contract (and he will want a lengthy one) will set the bar somewhat. Loui Eriksson is making $6 million a year to play on the team’s bottom six. They can’t afford another misstep like that; cap space won’t be an issue until Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes come calling in a few years, but there won't be room for waste then.
The point is that paying a forward more than $5 million a season means that you expect (need, really) a certain amount of offensive production from them. Of course, if Ferland could put up solid numbers with Elias Pettersson or Bo Horvat, the Canucks would undoubtedly take that. They just have to keep in mind what it would mean for signing players down the line. There’s also the reality that Ferland is turning 27 in April. Power forwards tend to start declining rather rapidly when they reach their late twenties.
Micheal Ferland would be a fun player to watch on the Canucks, especially for the first couple of years of his theoretical contract. Whether it would be a sound investment for the Canucks when they are ready to seriously contend is another question.
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