Over the next six days the Straight will analyze what might be done with each of the Vancouver Canucks’ six major restricted free agents. In the first instalment, we look at Nikolay Goldobin’s fate.
While it’s true that the Canucks have more than five players slated for restricted free agency on July 1, some of those decisions are already made, whereas a couple others don’t require dissecting.
For instance, info has already leaked that the team plans to let Derrick Pouliot and Brendan Gaunce become unrestricted free agents by not tendering them a qualifying offer before the deadline. The same could happen to Utica Comets stalwart Reid Boucher. As for college free agent signings like Brogan Rafferty and Josh Teves, they figure to be signed for close to the league minimum on entry-level deals.
So, let’s get to the interesting ones. And there aren’t many more interesting than Nikolay Goldobin.
Goldobin started off the season well, producing points on a line with Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson and generally looking dangerous. In the fall months, he was close to a point-per-game player.
Then, the wheels fell off.
Routinely criticized for poor defensive play and not being responsible in his own zone, Goldy turned into a lightning rod for criticism and eventually found his way to coach Travis Green’s doghouse near the end of the year.
In all, he was healthy scratched 19 times and didn’t play in the final six contests. Which, of course, doesn’t inspire much confidence for his role going forward. If there even is one at this point.
Tanner Pearson came into the lineup at the trade deadline and performed well with Bo Horvat, while Josh Leivo more or less took over Goldobin’s spot with Boeser and Pettersson. Canucks general manager has also made some noise about adding a top-six forward in free agency or by trade.
And we know that the Canucks aren’t going to put Goldy in the lineup if it’s not in a top-six role. It’s hard to even imagine him playing with Brandon Sutter or Jay Beagle, the team’s defacto third- and fourth-line centres.
However, when asked about Goldobin, Benning did hint at bringing him back.
At this point in the 23-year-old’s development, cutting bait wouldn’t make a ton of sense. There is room to improve there, and Goldobin was one of the more offensively skilled players on the team last season (though that’s not saying too much).
He was the centre of much hand wringing this season by members of the media as his place on the team was debated constantly, even being dubbed the Goldy Wars. Some rallied against Green for benching the skilled forward, while others maintained the coach was doing the right thing.
So how might this negotiation go?
What the player will want:
Well, Goldy’s hands are a little tied here. He’s not really in a position to negotiate for much more than a qualifying offer, which would require $875,000 on a one-year deal. Can he and his agent reasonably reject the offer and try to get a longer term for the Canucks with a higher salary?
That seems somewhat doubtful, and obviously wouldn’t endear him to the Canucks’ brass, which he doesn’t have the best relationship with right now.
If things go sour again this season, expect Goldy to either demand a trade or explore his KHL options. But right now, it feels like the best option for him is to put his head down and earn a spot on the team.
What the team will offer:
After some hemming and hawing, Benning and Canucks management will likely come to the conclusion that they can’t lose an asset like Goldobin for nothing and might as well bring him back for another season. They’ll qualify him.
The player signs a qualifying offer and we have another year of the Goldy Wars, which, while extremely frustrating, at least gives the two sports-centred radio stations something to talk about (yes, that’s dripping with sarcasm).
Maybe Goldobin actually becomes a more defensively responsible player and mends the fences with Travis Green a la Ben Hutton last season. Or he becomes a trade chip halfway the year.
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