11 players who might’ve played their last game with the Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks were officially eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last night when their 2023-24 season came to an end.

The focus now turns to the future as the organization attempts to build on what was a hugely successful season.

The team has many free agents, and next year’s group could look significantly different from the one that just lost to the Edmonton Oilers.

Besides the free agents, there are others who failed to live up to expectations and could have played their final game in a Canucks sweater. Here is a full list of 11 players who may never suit up for the team again.

Nikita Zadorov

2023-24 stats: 54 GP, 5 G, 9 A, 14 PTS (with Canucks)
Contract: Two years, $3.75 million AAV (expired)

Nikita Zadorov was acquired midseason by the Canucks and made his biggest impact when the games mattered most. The massive, smooth-skating defenceman had eight points in 13 playoff games. He’s now going to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.

He scored some huge postseason goals and provided a nasty physical presence on the blue line. Zadorov’s strong play definitely raised his asking price, which could now be as high as $5 to 6 million per season.

Tyler Myers

2023-24 stats: 77 GP, 5 G, 24 A, 29 PTS
Contract: Five years, $6 million AAV (expired)

Tyler Myers is another defenceman who proved his worth in the postseason. The 6-foot-8 behemoth was a huge reason why the Canucks were able to slow down Connor McDavid in the second round.

The 34-year-old saved his best season with the Canucks for last and is now an unrestricted free agent. His size, skating ability, and the fact he’s a right-handed shot means he’ll have no shortage of suitors.

It’s well-known that Myers has a house in Kelowna and enjoys Vancouver. Could that familiarity help the Canucks get a discount?

Dakota Joshua

2023-24 stats: 63 GP, 18 G, 14 A, 32 PTS
Contract: Two years, $825,000 AAV (expired)

Dakota Joshua timed his breakout seasons perfectly. The rugged winger scored at a 20-goal pace while also finishing in the top 10 league-wide in hits. He kept his play up in the postseason and scored some huge goals.

Joshua brings a unique skill set to the table, with soft hands, the ability to kill penalties, a mean streak, and a goal-scoring touch all packaged into a 6-foot-3 frame. This means he’s sure to be a popular free agent and could cost as much as $4 million per season.

Filip Hronek

2023-24 stats: 81 GP, 5 G, 43 A, 48 PTS
Contract: Three years, $4.4 million AAV (expired/RFA)

It was a tale of two seasons for Filip Hronek. He started the year on fire and scored nearly a point per game. From there, he really struggled to put up the same numbers. Those failures continued into the playoffs, where he had just two points in 13 games.

Hronek is a restricted free agent, and thus, the Canucks have more options in terms of how they want to handle this situation. The right-handed defenceman is looking for around $8 million per year on a new contract per CHEK’s Rick Dhaliwal.

That’s a lot of money for a player who was just average for a significant part of the season. The Canucks could opt to flip Hronek and look for a cheaper option instead.

Elias Lindholm

2023-24 stats: 26 GP, 6 G, 6 A, 12 PTS (with Canucks)
Contract: Six years, $4.85 million (expired)

Elias Lindholm was the Canucks big fish trade acquisition this year. The early returns were up-and-down which had some people questioning the deal. Lindholm then turned it around for the playoffs, where he was one of the team’s best players.

A true two-way ace, Lindholm took on many heavy defensive assignments for the Canucks. He’s an excellent faceoff man and a superb penalty killer. As an unrestricted free agent, there are going to be lots of teams interested in offering a contract.

At 29 years old, this is Lindholm’s chance to cash in. He’s likely looking somewhere in the $6 to 7 million range on a longer-term deal. Do the Canucks value his versatility enough to offer him that money?

Ilya Mikheyev

2023-24 stats: 78 GP, 11 G, 20 A, 31 PTS
Contract: Four years, $4.75 million (two years left)

Ilya Mikheyev started this season returning from a serious knee injury. He actually played quite well upon his return, but as the season went on, his scoring touch dried up. He was consistently handed good opportunities yet couldn’t find the back of the net.

He had zero points in 11 playoff games and was made a healthy scratch for two contests. In the crucial Game 7 against the Oilers, he failed to get a shot off on an incredible chance.

Mikheyev still has two years left on his contract, but the Canucks would surely like to move on if possible. If there are no willing trade partners, the team might take matters into their own hands and start the buyout process.

Casey DeSmith

2023-24 stats: 12-9-6, 2.82 GAA, .896%
Contract: Two years, $1.8 million AAV (expired)

The emergence of Arturs Silovs in the playoffs makes Casey DeSmith redundant. DeSmith had a solid regular season for the Canucks and will surely find another NHL job. However, the Canucks will likely take the cap savings they can get by going with Silovs and wish good luck DeSmith on his way out.

Teddy Blueger

2023-24 stats: 68 GP, 6 G, 22 A, 28 PTS
Contract: One year, $1.9 million (expired)

Teddy Blueger is everything you want in a bottom-six centre. He can win faceoffs, kill penalties, play a shutdown role, and has a little playmaking ability. He fit in perfectly for the Canucks and helped them build a strong group down the middle of the ice.

This was a mini-breakout season for Blueger, who proved his value. He may be too much of a luxury for the Canucks to afford, as some other team will likely offer more than $2 million per season.

Blueger’s familiarity with the Canucks management and coaching staff could help them convince the player to stay, dependent on what he fetches on the open market.

Ian Cole

2023-24 stats: 78 GP, 2 G, 9 A, 11 PTS
Contract: One year, $3 million (expired)

Ian Cole performed well as a veteran depth defenceman for the Canucks this season. He’s a former Stanley Cup champion and a great voice in the dressing room. He chipped in a lot of quality minutes, although he also had his low moments.

The veteran’s foot speed was exposed in the second round against the Oilers. He had a tough time keeping up and looked outclassed. The 35-year-old is likely getting close to the end of his career but should be able to find another contract somewhere.

Sam Lafferty

2023-24 stats: 79 GP, 13 G, 11 A, 24 PTS
Contract: Two years, $1.15 million (expired)

Sam Lafferty is a big-bodied forward who, when playing at his best, brings a physical presence and scoring touch to any team’s bottom six. He started the year off well, but his goal numbers fell off as the season continued, ending with zero points in 11 playoff games.

Lafferty is not a bad option, but there are other players who will be higher priorities for the Canucks. He very well could be with another team next year, as he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Mark Friedman

2023-24 stats: 23 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 PTS
Contract: Two years, $775,000 (expired)

Mark Friedman was acquired in exchange for Jack Rathbone near the start of the season. He provided solid NHL depth and suited up when he had to. The 28-year-old is now an unrestricted free agent and will likely go wherever has the most opportunity, which might not be Vancouver.