Before signing with the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday morning, Micheal Ferland was already entrenched in Vancouver Canucks lore.
In fact, his smiling mug is one of the lasting, unfortunate images that come to mind when recalling the last time the Canucks made the playoffs.
That was in 2015, when Ferland, at the time a rookie winger for the Calgary Flames, absolutely terrorized the veteran Canucks, scoring four points and racking up 21 penalty minutes in six games.
He also got under the skin of former Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa, in particular.
“That ‘Ferklund,’ or whatever his name is, was running around trying to get something going,” said Bieksa at the time.
With the Canucks now fixated on making the postseason once again (general manager Jim Benning’s job may depend on it), everyone in Vancouver knows his name.
It’s a move that had been rumoured for months leading up to the free agency period and goes with pretty much everything Benning said about his priorities this offseason. That included getting bigger (like the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues) and adding forwards to the top six.
But the timing of the deal is important.
If Ferland had been signed close to or on July 1, when free agency opened, it’s a good bet that this deal wouldn’t be too good for the Canucks. That he and his agent held off for 10 days is a decent indication that the market wasn’t where they thought it might be.
In fact, there have been rumours that the Canucks were the only team to go beyond three years for the forward.
As it is, a four-year pact with a $3.5 million per season average is not bad.
Ferland has been consistent over the past two seasons, putting up 21 goals and 41 points in 77 games with the Calgary Flames (mostly in a third-line role) in 2017-18. After being traded in the 2018 offseason, Ferland scored 17 goals and 40 points in 71 games, though some of that campaign was spent on the Hurricanes’ top line with star Sebastian Aho.
Still, it shows that Ferland is consistent and should be expected to put up at least 40 points. He’ll also be handed a top-six role with the Canucks (probably with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson, at least to start), and some powerplay time.
He should be able to produce with that group. And he’ll also use his big frame to forecheck effectively and bring a physicality the Canucks have been missing for, hmm, about a decade.
It must be said that his underlying numbers aren’t stellar. He isn’t someone who drives possession for his teams. And it remains to be seen if he can play on both sides of the puck at a top-six level for an entire season.
But it’s also hard to not to get excited about the aspects he can bring to this forward group that’s starting to (finally) feel pretty complete. The top two lines, at least, look like they can be effective in the NHL, and Ferland will undoubtedly be a pain to play against.
The Canucks are essentially paying the league average for a player they expect to use in their top-six forward group. Getting that for that price is objectively good.
And while the term isn’t great, Ferland will only be 31 when the contract expires.
Yes, there’s no telling what the fallout will be from this signing (and there will most certainly be one), as the Canucks have too many wingers right now and not enough cap space to sign restricted free agent Brock Boeser.
If signing Ferland means that the Canucks have to part with, say, Jake Virtanen, in order to move the Loui Eriksson or Brandon Sutter deals, what will the reaction be?
Of course, it seems like the Canucks are more or less betting on Ferland over Virtanen here anyway. It’s hard to see the latter carving out a top six (or even a top nine?) spot in this crowded group.
In a vacuum, the Ferland signing is a good one. The average salary is exactly that, and the years shouldn’t be cumbersome. Benning improved his forward group and didn’t really overpay to do it.
Even the classic no-move clause that Benning just had to give out seems reasonable.
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